After adjusting to students that were a little more dependent, I realized it wasn’t so much the dependency that was – forgive me here – driving me nuts, but that some students acted like they wanted me to spoon feed them everything. Perhaps I’m one of those mean teachers- but I just don’t “play that way.” I expect my students to think. When I go home at night, I want to feel good knowing that my students were the ones who worked hard and are tired – not me. And let’s be honest, if they aren’t willing to “think more for themselves” and put in the effort needed, they aren’t going to be successful.
I’m sure in your classroom, you are already teaching some strategies in math and reading, but have you ever considered teaching independence strategies? Teach students what steps to take when they get stuck on a problem. Teach them different things they can try. For instance, in math, I’m going to teach my students to look back at their notes at the part similar to what they are working on. Then I’ll have them ask themselves “what did she do here?” This doesn’t always come naturally to students. They often copy down notes and never look at them again. They don’t know they should reference them. It’s the same with Anchor Charts. You may even want to make a check list handy for students for just this purpose.
Spoon Feed Delay
If you run to children as soon as there is a question or problem, they begin to rely on you. Instead, delay. Take your time getting to them. Casually mention to the student, “I’ll be right there. Why don’t you try a few different options before I get there.” I require my students to try at least 2 different ways first. I tell them, “when I get there I want you to show me what two ways you tried first.” This requires them to think. It also helps me see their thinking process and what went wrong. If I get to a student who hasn’t tried two different ways, I’ll say every time, “I’ll come back to you when you have tried two different options.” (I explain to parents ahead of time at the beginning of the year how I do this and try to encourage them at home to do the same.) Further, you may want to check back frequently with the student to verify that the student has a repertoire of strategies and isn’t just sitting there.
These are just a few ideas I had. I know I have high expectations of my students – and they rise to it! Sometimes I can be “mean” but I have to remember, it’s for the good of my students – both short term and long term.
What ways do you promote independent thinkers in your classroom and prevent them being spoon fed?
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