1st and 2nd year teachers in the Salem-Keizer school district take part in the Mentor Program. One of our assignments this year was to participate in a book study, I chose Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning. In the upcoming series of posts I will reflect on my learning and share how it will impact my teaching, and more importantly, my students’ learning.
The classic teacher-student interaction goes something like this:
Teacher: “What is 4 plus 5?”
Teacher: “Correct, nice adding.”
The above example is known as IRE. Teacher Initiates, student Responds, and teacher Evaluates. With IRE, teachers are knowledge givers in a role of authority and students are students are knowledge receivers without any authority :(
I read this and thought, if IRE is the norm, how long before students begin to think to themselves, “Doesn’t wikipedia have the answer? Doesn’t it say the answer right there in your teacher book? Why do you always have to ask me when you already know?” As students become more aware (link to chapter 2), I fear this may begin to bite back (especially in middle school).
This chapters provides ways of questioning which throw IRE out the door and flip the interaction so students are the experienced thinkers who have something to say that is worth listening to. I suggest reading the book, because this is a great chapter, with many great suggestions. But I’ll share one example.
Teacher: “How did you know?”
This questions starts a narrative and emphasizes the production of knowledge instead of knowledge itself. It assumes the student is knowledgable, even if their answer wasn’t exactly correct. Production of knowledge is a bigger life skill than knowing things, so this helps prepare students to be productive citizens. This is also something I learned last year during GLAD training. It forces students to take their thinking/verbal skills to the next level, something that will benefit them for the rest of their life.