Tuesday, October 6, 2015

5 Teaching Habits That Are Hurting Your Students

You are an awesome teacher.  You care about your kids, and you work hard to help them grow.  But it's possible that one of these habits is keeping your students from fully thriving in the classroom:

1) The Sitting Decree:

Many of us have been taught that the only way to maintain order in the classroom is for children to stay seated.  If they are seated they cannot be disruptive or distracted.

In fact, movement within the classroom ENHANCES a child's learning experience.  "Movement is a powerful teaching tool, and when we as teachers thoughtfully incorporate physical elements into instruction, we elevate the learning experience," states Aleta Margolis in her Washington Post feature, Letting kids move in class isn’t a break from learning. It IS learning.  In her July 8 Washington Post article, Angela Hanscom states the rise of fidgeting in the classroom and attributes it to lack of appropriate movement opportunities throughout the day.  Teachers can use natural movement in the classroom in many ways:

  • Mike Anderson lists a few examples of transitional movement in his article Move Around the Room
  • Aleta Margolis suggests a number of great activities that combine several learning experiences at once and promote productive movement
  • We have a number of songs, games, and other resources that have movement built in to enhance the students' learning experiences. We also have popular Scoot games that the kiddos love and it gets them up and moving as they learn:)  
2) The Silence Rule:  

Naturally if children are talking, they can't possibly be working.  They lose focus, and worse, cause their friends to lose focus.  Aldous Huxley (1958) states quite the opposite: "Language permits its users to pay attention to things, persons and events, even when the things and persons are absent and the events are not taking place."  In their book, Content Area and Conversations, Fisher, Frey, and Rothenburg assert that conversation is how we learn and process.  It is important for children to converse about their thoughts in order to organize them.  This is especially true with auditory learners.  
Now some of you may be saying, "well I let my students talk in group discussions by calling on them."  That is a great start.  You can enrich your classroom even further by encouraging students to talk to you and to one another freely about the subject matter.  Here is an example of a conversation from Fisher, Frey, and Rothenburg's book.  Focus on the highlighted words:

Teacher: I was thinking about the life cycle of an insect. Do you remember the life cycle we studied? Malik?
Malik: Yes.
Teacher: What was the first stage in the life cycle? Jesse?
Jesse: They was born?
Teacher: Yes, things are born, but think about the life cycle of insects. Let's try to be more specific in our thinking. What is the first stage in the insect life cycle? Miriam?
Miriam: Eggs.
Teacher: Yes, insects start as eggs. Then they change and develop. They become larva after eggs, right? And then what? What happens to them after they are larva? Adrian?
Adrian: They are adults.
Teacher: They do eventually become adults, but there is a step missing. What is the step between larva and adults? What is that stage of the life cycle called? Joe?
Joe: Mature larva?
Teacher: Yes, there are two kinds of larva in the life cycle of some insects. But what I was thinking about was what happened to them after the larva before they become adults. Mariah?
Mariah: Nymph?
Teacher: Now we're talking about the three-stage cycle for some insects. Do the insects that change into nymphs come from larva? Let's look at our two posters again. Remember these? There is a three-stage process and a four-stage process. Let's study these again.

The highlighted words are the children's responses.  How much academic language was used?  What if you were to give the students a prompt with the same questions to answer in a group discussion?  How much more academic language would they use?  The more free the environment, the more the conversations will be allowed to develop.  You can monitor this by traveling around the room, listening, and interjecting where appropriate.  Which brings us to our next point...


  1. Oh so true to all of these! Our district has embraced personalized learning, which has helped students excel in many areas because they are learning in their own way. And some kids just can't sit, so I would let them stand. Every teacher needs to read this article!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  2. Thank you Andrea! We appreciate your comments! I love that your district has personalized learning:) I have several kiddos in my first grade class that have a real difficulty sitting, so we move a lot! We played Scoot today for missing numbers and they were so engaged! You can check the next post tomorrow on it. My kiddos loved moving around and now I have an assessment without them realizing it.:)

  3. that's true.. I have several kiddos in my first grade class that have a real difficulty sitting. thanks for the article

    1. You're welcome! I teach first grade as well so I always have my kiddos up and moving:)

  4. Wonderfully said and written! Having taught 1st grade, I agree…. and I enjoyed reading this article. Thank you.