Mittwoch, 25. Dezember 2013

Morning problems - writing practice

One of my all-time favorite teaching tools, was used by one of my teaching role models. I got to experience him work in class last year in Sweden. Not only did I get to experience some very cool methods, I also got to use one of them during my time substituting for him. The only thing bothering me a little bit, is that I’m never going to be able to use it in this form, because this particular setup, only works as a classroom teacher on a primary level. The way (lower) secondary schools work, is that a teacher works in a couple of different classes, rather than being in one class all the time (or every morning for that matter).

It might be used in various other forms, or called different names, but I have never heard of it before. The so-called Morning Problems. 

Before I get into explaining it, there are is one specific thing you need to know about the school (system) in order to understand how this is done. The key factor: the actual lesson in the morning started at 8.40, but the kids usually arrived at school and therefore entered the classroom at around 8.15 or 8.20.

So in the mornings, before the first lesson, their schedule always had “Morning Problem” written on it. It was a very simple way to get them acclimated in the morning and get them ready to think. He put up some kind of issue to solve on the whiteboard. These problems were mostly Mathematical riddles. Since his background was more on the Maths-side, he built up a sort of 'library' of these riddles. Some of them very solely logical problems, some were strictly mathematical, but always with some fun wrinkle, either in the instruction or in the solution.
The kids had no issues starting to work on it, as soon as they came to school. I even remember some of them just walking through the door, looking up at the board and just checking out the riddle, before they even got to their spot and just stood in the door for a little while already thinking about it.
It brought something challenging and fun. Not only did you get an extra ‘credit’ for finishing it, but you could also relax and do something else before the lesson starts, some 3rd graders wanted to read their books, some wanted to draw and some even wanted to play some chess or other board games.

The main thing about this for me was that specifically every monday morning, the task was as simple as: write something short about your weekend, three things you liked and three things you didn't like. I feel like this form of writing practice, can be really valuable for any class. Not only did they get to write something short and reflect, they didn’t even mind writing, first thing in the morning.

I believe there are many methods, where the kids don’t even notice it to be ‘real’ school work, although they bring an unbelievable benefit. Not only are Mathematical riddles awesome and fun, but incorporating writing and spelling riddles every now and then, is also of great use and improves various skills. I really hope I get the chance to work out something similar to this. I have to hope for the system to be on my side though.

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