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Old 11-14-2012, 06:56 PM
2ndTimeAround 2ndTimeAround is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,119

I gave an assignment today that required higher-order thinking. The concepts were easy. The task required some thought.

The students were required to write sentences combining three of their vocabulary words. The words were laid out in a pattern so they could not choose which words to include in their sentences. But the words were all related.

For example, they might have been assigned "cat" "dog" and "house." A possible sentence could be "My cat is an outdoor pet but my dog lives in the house."

I gave plenty of examples, modeled it with one set of words for each group and made sure that students had access to definitions if needed.

Most of the students carried on like I had asked them to delve into theoretical physics. They whined, asking if they could just write definitions of the terms instead. Some asked from where in the book they could copy the sentences.

These students are so used to just copying answers and filling in worksheets. But I don't do those in my class. I would have thought by now they would know they have to think with me.

There was no doubt that for the majority of the students it was laziness that kept them from working. I just don't know how to combat this issue in the classroom. They eventually do *something* after prodding, but they've wasted so much time in the process that the assignment isn't nearly as meaningful. Most of these kids have no known motivators that I can see. A lot of them have parents that are just hoping for a passing grade. Some of the parents even expect their children to take the course a couple of times before they pass. The students whine about the work because they would rather pass the first time around and think that all they need to do for that is to fill in blanks on a study guide.

My other class is just the opposite. They are driven by competition and have parents that hold them accountable. When they did the assignment (which was modified to be a bit more difficult) they were competing with each other to create the most elaborate sentences.

One thing I did to with my lower-achieving students is group them by ability. I've seen a bunch of kids just give up when placed with a more studious partner so I tried to combat that with my grouping. I think it worked well, just not as good as I had hoped.

I want to stretch them more and show them that they can figure out things on their own. But I don't know where to go from here. Other than modeling and giving written examples, how do you teach your students to think on their own?
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Old 11-14-2012, 07:14 PM
Jeky Jeky is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 267
6th Grade Math/Science
I will give some thought to your main question, because it's one that I do think about a lot.

In the meantime, a quick side-note about mixed-ability grouping: I read in somer research somewhere, years back, that instead of grouping "highs and lows" together, it's better to pair "lows with middles", "middles with middles", and "middles with highs". That way the lower students don't give up so quickly, and the higher students don't get frustrated with them. They work better together when they have at least some common ground. Anyways, I have since used this idea when partnering my students and it works MUCH better! Just thought I would share
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Old 11-14-2012, 07:19 PM
2ndTimeAround 2ndTimeAround is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,119
I might try that type of grouping some time. What I did today was group low with low, high with high, hardworker with hardworker, etc.
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Old 11-14-2012, 07:25 PM
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mopar mopar is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 10,977
Kindergarten Teacher
You validate all their responses that are them thinking on their own (even ones that are very minor).

I've found that after you model and show examples, giving them a minute or two to process and think, then letting them share with a partner or even in the group gets most of the students moving in the right direction. Sometimes just the talk helps them problem solve.
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