Thursday, July 21, 2011

Total Participation Techniques


The sub-title of Pérsida and William Himmele’s new book is, “Making Every Student and Active Learner.” It’s a good title. The Himmele’s offer thirty-seven quick and easy strategies that get more children in the classroom thinking more often.

We all have been the kinds of classrooms that the author call, “stand and deliver.” The teacher is at the front expounding on the information of the day. Some students are engaged. Sitting in the front rows, they take notes, raise their hands, and offer answers. Perhaps one or two students are actively disengaged. They sit bored in the corners, drawing, texting, or planning their next defiant outburst.

Most students in the “stand and deliver” classroom are passively disengaged. They do not cause trouble. Their eyes follow the teacher. They nod their heads and mutter “yes” when the teacher asks the group, “Do you understand.” But do they? Do they really understand? Are they really learning?

Teachers in the “stand and deliver” classroom never bother to see if every student is learning. They call most often on those students whose hands are raised. Occasionally, they call on one of the actively disengaged children, hoping to embarrass them into getting with the program. Rarely, if ever, do they call on the passively disengaged students who quietly fly under the radar only to land a “D” or “F” on the quiz or test.

The Himmele’s techniques promise to not only allow our participating students even more opportunities to think and share their thoughts; they also have greater potential to rope actively disengaged students into the lesson. We all know that when students are engaged and active in their lessons, they are less likely to be bored and mischievous. Best of all, these techniques will engage the passive students and give teachers instant feedback from all their students about how well they understand the lesson.

The authors break their Total Participation Techniques (TPTs) into four categories:

“On-the-spot” TPT’s are ones that a teacher doesn’t need to plan into her lesson. They can be used at the drop of a hat to check if everyone is thinking. For example, instead of the teacher asking a question and calling on one of the three hands raised, she can have her student do a think-pair-share that gets everyone talking about the question with their partner.

“Hold-ups” are another series of techniques to get every child answering every question. If the teacher is asking a multiple choice question, every student can hold up either their “A,” “B,” “C,” or “D” card to show their answer. For more complex questions, children can write on their individual white boards and hold then up for the teacher to scan. I’ve wanted white boards for my students, but baulked at the price. The books tip about laminating light-colored construction paper is perhaps my personal favorite.

I love getting my kids moving in the classroom and talking with their peers. The books “TPTs Involving Movement” offer lots of ways to quickly pair students with just a little forethought and planning on the teachers part.

Finally, the authors offer a series of TPTs that involve students’ notes. This section is full of examples of graphic organizers that we can ask our students to try.

Of course, not all teachers will find all thirty-seven techniques useful for their classroom. Speaking for myself, I saw that I knew of most of the TPT’s the Himmele’s describe. I already use several of them in my classroom. While at first blush, I thought that this book would only be half-useful; that I would only enjoy the 15 TPT’s that I couldn’t recognize from the chapter headings. Instead, I found myself pushed to think about even my most tried and true techniques in now ways.

All in all, I feel that I’ve already gotten hundreds of dollars in value from this inexpensive book.

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