Friday, May 1, 2009

Are Our Students' Day Too Structured?

I know that students need structure. My question is do they have too much structure? Their days are completely scheduled out. Unless they are fortunate enough to have a few minutes for recess, they are watched and expected to sit, be quiet, and work. I can say that as a teacher I could not work under these conditions. Why do we expect our students to?

When do your students have time relax a little? Do you rely on recess, art, or PE for your students to have "down time", or do you keep your classroom more relaxed where students can work comfortably?

14 comments:

My Teacher Hat said...

What a great reminder this is.

My favorite teaching days come when my students are working on student-guided projects, usually in groups. We all leave the classroom feeling more invigorated, instead of feeling sapped of energy. This is a good thing to keep in mind as I plan my week's lessons...

Wm Chamberlain said...

@My Teacher Hat I agree, the best times in my classroom are when my students are scattered, in various stages of working. Even when my students know that much of what they do in class is for their benefit and that the only grade they receive for it is through the assessment, they are much happier when I let them go. I wish I had learned this lesson years ago.

luvnteachin said...

Not to mention the fact that it makes school more fun! Fun = Better Quality and Better Output!

I always think it's funny to watch my colleagues at staff meetings who can't sit still, keep quiet, and focus on the presenter. And many times isn't that we expect our students to do all day, let alone for an hour.

Lisette Casey said...

Definitely my best "communication" time with my students is during down time. Lots of learning in those fleeting few minutes.

ateachingheart said...

Good points! Students need to "breathe in and out." Sometimes we forget that and just expect them to breathe in. (Take in info)for too long. They need a chance to express themselves throughout the day.

Dr. Eviatar said...

This is why I posted on the other blog about 5-10 minutes that I let them chill. Everybody needs downtime, especially HS students who don't get recess or even breaks during the morning and afternoon. It's really rough.

I got a dressing down during a student teacher evaluation about "unacceptable chaos" during those last 10 minutes, but the students certainly seemed happier when they left ;-).

Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

Very good points about allowing some time for less structure. Lots of research points to the idea that students need "consolidation time" between big lesson ideas, so it's a good idea to flexibly integrate and intersperse some lower structured moments. In my kindergarten class, after lunch, we have "read write draw in your fascination journal" time. Students can work alone or with others exploring a topic they are curious about. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Jarrod Lamshed said...

Down time is a must. I think that we sometimes forget that we are working with children. They need to be allowed to be CHILDREN, and not be expected to behave like career driven adults. Enjoying school is important for both student and teacher! Enjoy your class and let them enjoy being in it.

NZWaikato said...

I would love to have more down time but it does depend on the students - I have taught in many "inner city" classes where its not been a good idea, its a horrible thing to say. One of the aspects about blogging that I love so much is allowing students down time using a constructive interactive ICT medium.

Wm Chamberlain said...

I have "my time", when I expect my students to listen to me and/or be completely on task. When it isn't "my time" it is "your time" and I allow my students to go to the bathroom, talk quietly, etc. It is important to me that the students learn how to continue to work when they have some freedom.

Michael/@teachernz said...

I'm curious and this is a bit off topic, but apart from down time in class, what other breaks do your students get during the day?

We start at 8:55 have a 20 minute break between 10:40 and 11:00. We go for another 90 minutes and then have an hour break between 12:30 and 1:30. 90 minutes later the 3:00 bell goes and it's home time for the students. How is your time organized?

Wm Chamberlain said...

We start receiving students at 7:45 and school starts at 8:18. We have a 50 minute planning period once a day, but the students are in class. We have a 20 minute lunch and a 20 minute recess. Students have very little down time.

MrsW'sBlog said...

I definitely learn the most important things about my students during their down time. We are truly fortunate to have 30 minute recess, PE, and a "special" almost everyday (we are at school from 8-3:30). The schedule is intentional in having them move frequently and change their environment. Once I decided to make MY classroom OUR classroom...the less structured things have become and the more students are invested and learning.

MissF said...

I think there is a lot to be said about learning conversations. I will often just pose a question to my class and a learning conversation will start from there or when a student asks a question and we begin a mini inquiry into that question. The class / school environment needs to encourage learning styles and abilities and its not easy to please everyone however i do find a more relaxed/informal class a happy and surprisingly productive class. My students are able to go out for a quick run if they feel they need to burn off energy (reactivate their brain). One big idea that I have stressed this year is that "its ok to get it wrong" or "don't fear failure" as so many students are stressed out and worried (at 11-12 yrs of age)about trying to get things right all the time and forget the simple joy of saying "now i get it!!!", this has also made a positive impact on students ownership of their learning and they feel empowered to say "I don't know" because they understand that they will at some stage be able to say "I know". In saying all that, yes there are those times when things "just have to be done" but it should not rule or cancel out student inquiry or spontaneous conversations. I expect there to be a noise HUM in the class as i think this is how humans communicate / discuss / share/ question / and enjoy.