I’ve been thinking about many of the effective teaching methods I have used and they all have one thing in common. The activities themselves would look completely different with any other teacher leading the activity.
Last week I was doing “Big Paper” with my class. Big Paper is a simple enough activity. You get a big sheet of paper and let children write (or draw). Anyone working with young children knows that this simple activity becomes quite complex. Children talk to each other, copy each other, take on each others stories or imagery, etc.
The teacher’s job is to have conversations with the children about what they are drawing or writing. The teacher can ask questions, but it’s important to ask real questions. Too often teachers ask questions when they know the answer. We wouldn’t ask a grown up, “What color did you use?” We might ask “Why did you use blue?” In other words the teacher does what s/he always does, s/he shows interest and curiosity in the children.
There are plenty of literacy activities and curricula to be purchased, but they are only as effective as the teacher using them. If something says it is “teacher proof” it is probably worthless. Learning is a social interaction and it requires real relationships.