I get frustrated when I give directions for an activity and students immediately have questions about what to do. How can I help them become more confident and self-sufficient? —C., Michigan
Students have us trained! We offer directions or suggestions, and students know we’ll go over them again (and again). Some students panic right away if they are confused about something. Others are perfectionists, afraid to make a mistake, and want constant reinforcement (and some aren’t paying attention).
My students did a lot of projects and I would work with students individually. When other hands went up, I would acknowledge the questioner with a “wait-a-minute” gesture, indicating that I would be with him or her shortly. Once I reached the student, I often heard “Never mind; I figured it out.”
I was intrigued. Wait time was a staple in my classroom discussions, and I wondered if students benefitted from comparable “figure-it-out” time during investigations or activities.
In my action research, I asked the students about their original problem and how they solved it. Their strategies included I asked a friend, I re-read the directions, I thought about it, I tried something to see how it worked, I looked at the rubric. A high-five or thumbs-up from me reinforced these strategies, and we modeled them in class.
We rush to help students in our desire for them to be successful (and obviously we must respond immediately if a student is engaging in unsafe or disruptive behaviors). But sometimes, students just need time to figure out a solution themselves.