+ Teachers: Interactive Modeling

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Margaret Berry Wilson, in an ASCD Express online piece, reminds teachers that it’s easy to assume that students know how to behave and how to do routine activities.

But — especially for the youngest students — these activities probably have not come up for discussion at home.  And while older students may have learned routines in earlier grades, they probably don’t know how things work in THIS year’s classroom.

Wilson says that in order to have a safe, secure and happy classroom, we need to deliberately teach children how classroom routines should actually look and sound.

One effective technique is called “interactive modeling.”  These are the steps you might use to teach student to line up safely — and what they might look and sound like.

  • Describe a positive behavior you will model.  “When I tell you to line up by the door, it’s important that you move directly and quietly to your place in the line.  Watch while I demonstrate.”
  • Model the behavior.  Walk quietly to the door without bumping into or touching things.  You don’t need to narrate as you model.
  • Ask students what they noticed.  “What did you notice about how I moved into line?”  Children name what they saw and heard.  (If necessary, prompt students with “What did you notice about my hands?”  or :What did I do once I got into the line-up spot?”
  • Ask student volunteers to model the same behavior.  “Who else can show us how to move directly and quietly into line?”
  • Ask students what they noticed.  “How did Quentin walk to his spot in line?”
  • Have the class practice.  “When I call you by name, walk directly and quietly to the door and line up, just as you saw us do.”
  • Provide feedback.  “You did it!  You all walked quietly and safely, and you kept your hands to yourself.  Good work!”

Keys to Successful Modeling

  1. Give clear, specific instructions.  Don’t say “Sit safely,” show exactly how you want them to sit.  Rather than saying “Use a quiet voices,” show what a quiet voice sounds like.
  2. Use a script.  You can write out what you will do and say (this also helps you talking to much!
  3. Follow through consistently.  If you’ve modeled the lining up quietly, don’t ignore it when noise levels rise the next time.  Remind them of the expectations.  Re-model if necessary.
  4. Keep expectations realistic.  When students have difficulty with a routine despite reminders and re-modeling, think whether the expectations are too complicated.  For example, “no talking in hallways” could be virtually impossible.  How about “Walk quietly?” (But do model what volume of speaking is acceptable.)
  5. Give plenty of opportunities for practice.  Make sure students have repeated opportunities to practice a new behavior.  Keep the practice fun and light.  You could have kids race the clock to see how quickly and quietly they can get in line.  

And let students know when you see them improving and doing well. 

Say, “That was a great job of lining up and keeping your voices to a whisper!”  This reinforces expected behaviors and also show student that you see and appreciate what they do.

sole source: Margaret Berry Wilson’s article in ASCD Express, Vol. 6, No 7.

Wilson is a Responsive Classroom professional development specialist with 15 years of teaching kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.  She is the author of “What Every 2nd Grade Teacher Needs to Know About Setting Up and Running a Classroom.”

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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