The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Go Back and Do It Again

There is a classroom management strategy that I have seen teachers use off and on over the years that came to the forefront of my mind last year after a workshop I attended for the new teachers in our district. It is called “Go Back and Do It Again” and it involves having students do exactly what it sounds like: going back to where they were and doing what they did again, but doing it the right way. I often use this when students are lining up to leave the room or when someone has come into the classroom in a way that is disruptive, such as talking, making loud noises, etc. I simply tell the student to go back and do it again the right way.

There are times when I find that I need to use this strategy on myself when it comes to teaching. Today was a prime example. The students have been using our United States history textbooks to learn background information about the thirteen colonies that eventually became the first thirteen states in our nation. We started with the New England Colonies, learning about the Puritans, the Mayflower, and Plymouth. Then they moved down to the Southern Colonies and learned about Georgia as a penal colony, and the cotton and tobacco farmers. We concluded with the middle colonies and their history, especially Jamestown and Williamsburg.

I wanted the students to review and share what they had learned, so I asked them to complete a simple graphic organiser to share who founded the colonies, when they were founded, and the principal reason for their settlement. Because I do not have quite a full class set of the textbooks, I allowed the students to work in pairs to complete the assignment.

Now, whenever the class is working in pairs or small groups, there is going to be a certain increase in the noise levels of the room. We try to keep the noise to about 80 dB (I track it with an app on my phone and let the students know when they get too loud), but there always conversations going on. As there should be. And I am okay with that.

I also know that the students will get sidetracked while working, as their minds take them on various tangents. I am okay with this, as well, because I find that tangential thoughts are when real learning often happens. Students read, hear, or see something and it gets their brains going in a way that hadn’t happened before and suddenly they are seeking out more information to learn on their own. This is awesome when it happens!

But sometimes the conversations get so far off-track that there is nothing to do but stop and try it again. This is what happened today. I realised that far too many of the pairs were just being silly without really working. When I asked a few groups about the questions they were trying to answer and I got nothing but blank stares, I knew it was time for a do over.

So we stopped, put the work away, and did something else. We will do this assignment again tomorrow, but in a different way. Instead of working with groups, I will find a way for the students to work independently. We will do some shared reading and then the students will read on their own. I know that they are capable of completing this assignment; I need them to know it, too.

Being able to go back and do something again the right way is such a great life skill to develop. Few things are set in stone as soon as they are done. There is almost always a way to make corrections. It is hard to admit when we are at fault, but hey, pobody’s nerfect, right? We’ll do it again tomorrow and we’ll do it the right way!

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One response

  1. Good one! Will keep it in mind next time a lesson does not work out as I planned. I tend to drop the strategy that didn’t work completely – but adjusting it and trying again makes sense too.

    I recently made some learners re-do work they had done untidily or half-heartedly in their books. I felt a little draconian saying “Redo this assignment!” But the particular learners did a much better job, took pride in their end result, and have been handing in neater, improved work, now that they know that I know what they are capable of.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

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