So today’s post is about the importance of getting to know your students, and teaching them appropriate content for their prior learning. Seems obvious, right? Well, during my final prac placement, I was teaching a class of students with behaviour difficulties, as well as various learning difficulties. So we modified the curriculum, and tried to scaffold the tasks so the students were supported in their learning. And one of the activities we had them complete was a find-a-word.
On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward task. However, once the behavioural issues had been managed, it was clear that a few of the students were struggling with the very concept of doing a find-a-word. For experienced teachers this would probably not be a shock, but for me, to find high school students who were struggling to find the words for themselves was a little concerning. They seemed to have little resilience – relying on their classmates and the teachers to guide them through without even having made an attempt before asking for help.
One student in particular was having trouble settling. Until now, I had assumed he struggled with behavioural issues like many of the others, as he certainly displayed disruptive behaviours on the surface. However as I started to assist him with the find-a-word I realised he had no strategies for doing one. He had never encountered strategies such as looking for the first letter of the word, or even the first two letters of a word. But that was to be expected, since he had only been in Australia for a year, and as far as I know its not every day you do find-a-words in high school, let alone teach specific strategies for doing one.
What did I learn from this experience? Never assume your students have the skills to complete a task you set for them, and always have a backup plan in case you need to teach them these skills before you go ahead with the activity.
What would I do differently next time? Try to expect the unexpected better. Try to engage the students in the task earlier by more scaffolding and teaching of the explicit skills they need to complete it to try and prevent behaviour problems stemming from frustration.
What did I do well? I got to spend time with more of the students while I was helping them, and as a result, got to know them better.
Teaching literacy in music? All part of a day’s work.