Building independence

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This year, I was ‘promoted’ from a Year 2 class to a Year 4 class. I was excited at the higher level of independence I was going to see, the students’ ability to manage their own learning, more personal organisation and responsibility and an increased knowledge of how to listen and follow instructions.

I soon found out that I was living in a fantasy world. Maybe my class had too many exercise books, so it was difficult for them to figure out which book they needed to pull out. Maybe I hadn’t been explicit enough in my instructions. Maybe the task was simply too difficult. Maybe their previous teachers had let them use whatever book and whatever pencils they wanted and didn’t care. Maybe I was too pedantic and too much of a perfectionist.

Or maybe I just wanted my students to succeed. I had high expectations of them. I have high expectations of myself. So it was frustrating for me to learn that I wasn’t being explicit enough. Until my teacher aide said to me, “Fiona, you give some of the clearest instructions I have ever heard.”

I then realised that it wasn’t my fault. I have come to believe (and I am prepared to be wrong) that it is how the students are brought up. If they don’t turn the television down, mum will do it for them. If they don’t make their bed or pick up their dirty clothes, someone else will do it. The rubbish bin will always be out out, regardless of whose job it is. Where they relying on technology to tell them, for a bell to ring, for a whistle to sound? I was sick of being that person to constantly re-explain tasks, just because my students have rarely had to do it for themselves.

For one student in particular, his poor listening skills and inability to following instructions was beginning to wear very thin with me! I decided to invest in some posters that I found on a blog by First Grade Glitter and Giggles.. I edited them to make them more personalised and used language commonly used in my classroom.

I realise that this was reducing the amount of verbal instructions, but it began to make my students more independent. They had to use their eyes, their common sense and their independence. There were absolutely no excuses for not being able to understand the requirements of a task.

Teachers are too busy to constantly re-explain the simple elements of a task. Our time is too precious.

Have you come across any other terrific time-saving classroom displays?

One response »

  1. Hi Fiona,
    I would love to see some of these posters on display in your classroom when you get a chance.
    I know exactly how you feel – being a 5/6 teacher has great possibilities because of the expected independence and knowledge. I, too, find myself repeating my instructions, saying them 10 different ways and STILL receiving tasks to correct in the wrong book or no document submitted because the kids don’t actually know the difference between ‘Save’ and ‘Save As’ and lose all of their updated work. It’s something that I’ve particularly struggled with this year – it seems to be getting progressively worse each year.
    And don’t get me started on the stupid, time-wasting questions I hear each and every day. I’ve also blogged about it here: http://hellokaddy.global2.vic.edu.au/2013/09/23/hopelessness/
    A couple of educators left some helpful comments to prevent time wasted on meaningless questions and lack of independence so check them out too.
    Please let me know how these visual prompts work out for you. I will have to try them out in my room too!
    Katelyn 🙂

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