How To Easily Challenge Students To Think Deeply

How To Easily Challenge Students To Think Deeply by A Word On Third

You're right in the middle of your science lesson, and you've asked the best question! You know this will really make kids think! You look around the room and only see 2 hands. In fact, it's the same 2 hands you always see. "I wonder how many people might participate!" you say in an excited tone, hoping to get more kids engaged. Two more hands go up, and you immediately call on one student. She starts to answer your question and then says that she forgot what she was going to say. You give up and call on one of the first 2 students who raised his/her hand. 

Has this ever happened to you? I'm guessing YES if you're being honest! This happens to ALL of us, myself included! My first few years of teaching felt like this relatively often, if I'm being honest. I'm going to share my favorite secrets to help you get kids engaged and thinking deeply. There are a few small, practical changes we can make that have the power to create an insane difference when it coems to student engagement. Maybe some of these come naturally to you, but I bet you will pick up at least one idea!

How To Easily Challenge Students To Think Deeply by A Word On Third

1. Use wait time.
I've heard some startling statistics that I don't quite remember, but they left a lasting impact on me. In my days at Responsive Classroom training, I heard that teachers wait an average of 3 seconds between asking a question and calling on a student for an answer. WHAT!? That's not enough time for me to hear a question about something new I'm learning, process it, and then answer it. Is it enough for you? I'm guessing probably not!

WAIT TIME MUST BE USED TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! Wait time has become my best friend, and when I am conscious of using it, I notice a dramatic increase in participation and student confidence. WAIT. LONGER.

Here's how to do it. In my classroom, we talk a LOT about how we all think at different speeds, and we don't want to share answers before everyone has had time to think. I like to tell my kids about how I used to believe I was stupid in math class when I was in elementary school until I had a teacher who taught me that thinking slowly didn't mean that. That teacher taught me that I cared about the details and that I liked to think things through and think deeply before sharing. I also share with my kids that thinking quickly doesn't always mean you are thinking deeply--you may be rushing to share the bare minimum! Have a discussion with your students about this.

After we have a conversation about this, I tell kids that we will wait so everyone has time to process our discussion and come up with an idea. That means my "quick" thinkers should also spend some time thinking deeply. This benefits everyone. 

If waiting is hard for you, that's OK. Start out by counting to 10 in your head. It will really make a huge difference! Wait time might be during a whole-class discussion or before kids work in partnerships. Wait time is preparation so students can think through their idea and feel confident in sharing it.

2. Use signals to remind students to think before sharing.
A colleague of mine has been teaching in my room and shared an amazing trick for getting kids to all think of an idea.  When you ask your class a question, have them do something to signal they are ready to answer. In my class, we wait for everyone to have their hands on their knees. Then I call on anyone. This might mean I wait for 30 to 60 seconds so everyone can think, but now everyone is engaged. Then we talk about ideas!

How To Easily Challenge Students To Think Deeply by A Word On Third

Another tip that I love is from my buddy Amy Harris, who I mentioned in my last post here. I use a sign (made of 2 index cards and a popsicle stick) for my visual learners. One side has the words "Stop & Think" and another has the words, "Raise Your Hand." This is great to remind students of my expectations that everyone should think first. It's also great because it helps my students with ADD and my impulsive students. It's so helpful to hear and SEE the expectation to think before blurting. It really sets them up for success! If it's hard for you to remember to use a sign like this, I suggest keeping it by your main area where you teach mini-lessons and asking your kids to remind you to use it. My kids will remind me to "use my sign" when I forget. It's nice for the kids to see I'm working to be a better teacher and for them to help me with my goals. If our reading and writing partners do this, why can't my students do this for me too? Win-win!

3. Use language wisely.

How To Easily Challenge Students To Think Deeply by A Word On Third

This is sometimes a really sneaky trick. I love to use the words, "I wonder," in my classroom. When I wonder things out loud but I don't as a question, I find that kids are super eager to think about what I'm wondering. Those two little words have magical powers, I tell you. MAGICAL POWERS!!!! I especially like to do this during my think-alouds in a mini-lesson. If I don't always call on students when I wonder aloud, I can see them bursting at the seems to share. Just don't abuse this too much... you don't want kids to feel like they don't get to share. There's a good balance here.

How To Easily Challenge Students To Think Deeply by A Word On Third

4. Stop strategically.
This one always gets me. A colleague also shared this trick with me, and I. LOVE. IT. I try to schedule my interactive read alouds right before lunch or the end of the day. I alway stop at a strategic place. A cliff-hanger. A place where som
ething insane happens! And then, tragically, I run out of time. "Sorry, Readers!" I'll say. "It looks like we have run out of time. We'll have to finish our book tomorrow!"

Inevitably, I hear a bunch of wining and "AWWWW MANNNN!!!"s at this point. I've even gotten a "MISS SAVAGE!! YOU ALWAYS DO THIS TO US!" Why do I like to do this? Is it to torture my students? No!! It keeps the kids engaged. Nothing feels more satisfying than to drop off my kids at lunch and hear them debating about their ideas about the book we're reading. It feels so awesome to see kids walking to their bus and discussing the plot or characters we're reading about.

Can you find a place to stop during read alouds? If there's a particularly interesting but long science experiment, can you stop at a strategic place and resume again the next day so kids are PUMPED to start again? You might even make sure kids stop during a turn-and-talk when they still have more to say. Then their brains are always moving! If your lesson drags on too slowly, engagement will too.

Those are my 4 favorite secrets for keeping kids engaged! Which one are you going to try? Do you have a trick you love to use but don't see in this post? Share below! And make sure you subscribe to my blog to get the latest tips delivered right to your inbox. Type your email on the right sidebar up on the top where it says, "Don't miss a post!"

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