View Full Version : Why teachers shouldn't keep kids busy every second

01-31-2011, 10:58 AM
This from the Washington Post (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/the-thinking-gap-and-why-teach.html) by Diana Senechal:
Doug Lemov’s "Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College (http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Like-Champion-Techniques-Students/dp/0470550473)" (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010) has been widely praised for its specific, no-nonsense breakdown of teaching techniques. Yet the book suffers from its unquestioning acceptance of the “thinking gap”—its unspoken assumption that children in urban schools cannot and should not sit still and think.

Lemov seems to believe that students must be kept busy at every moment and must know the exact purpose of each activity. This premise limits the kinds of teaching that can take place and the topics that can be taught. If students cannot tolerate any stillness or doubt, if they are unable to occupy themselves with their own thoughts, then they will not be able to pursue advanced or even intermediate topics in the humanities and sciences.

Lemov’ (http://www.uncommonschools.org/usi/aboutUs/staff.html)s suggested techniques cluster around the assumption that children must be kept busy and purposeful.

For instance, Lemov heartily recommends the well-known “Do Now” technique (No. 29 in the book): a warm-up activity that students perform immediately upon taking their seats. The “Do Now” is supposed to lead into the lesson; it means “that students are hard at work even before you have fully entered the room.” Many schools require teachers to begin lessons with a “Do Now” as a matter of course. In some cases it makes sense; a well-crafted question can help students start thinking about the lesson.

But what would be wrong with expecting students, upon entering the room, to take their seats, look over their reading or homework, and think? Why could they not use those few minutes to gather their ideas, refresh their memory, write down a few questions or observations, or even let their thoughts roam freely?

If students expect to be told what to do at each moment, they will not learn how to handle moments when they don’t know exactly what to do. Moreover, those who do know how to sit and think will not have the opportunity to do so.

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