Could it be a kickball game that’s missing in your instruction? It has high importance in elementary and no matter what or how hard you are trying to teach your students, if you don’t give students the experiences to apply skills, they’re meaningless.
Check out this great post about an “Aha” moment by fellow CTQ blogger Lana Gundy. (And her previous post on teacher internships here.)
This is my first year co-teaching almost the entire school day within an inclusive classroom (special education and regular education students combined) with minimal pull-outs (this is where special education students receive their individualized instruction in a small group). A large majority of the special education students I teach have been in a self-contained classroom in their previous years of education so I was expecting to have to change my teaching style to accommodate their unique needs. I also knew that I would have to adjust to co-teaching with another teacher in the same classroom most of the day. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to completely transform my teaching of social skills.
The biggest difference this year is that the students are really struggling to get along with their peers. After seeing a huge increase in tattling, name calling, and arguing, my co-teacher Mrs. Merriman and I started brainstorming ideas to deal with the social problems of our class. We tried several traditional methods of teaching social skills:
- reading books about getting along and acceptance
- discussions about how to be respectful and kind
- teachable moments about making better choices
- “what would you do?” scenarios
- modeling how to get along
- teaching key phrases to say when someone wasn’t being friendly
And still, there was not much improvement with this group’s ability to get along any better. Something was missing—and I didn’t realize what it was until this week during a kickball game at recess.
We’ve been teaching our class how to play kickball at recess. During the first week, it was still difficult for the students to play nicely together. So I started emphasizing that the game was just for fun and I focused on teaching them to play with good sportsmanship. We taught them to give each other compliments and high fives when someone made a good play. We also taught the students to give one another an extra try if there was a close call. We taught them everyone is allowed to play as well.
The other day, I saw my students do something I hadn’t seen them do all year. They were playing a game together without any negative social consequences. They were respectful, they showed good sportsmanship, and they worked as a team! They actually had fun together.
It was then when I realized what had been missing.
We had taught our students “all” there was to know about having good social skills but we forgot to have the students apply the knowledge to their own lives. And as silly as it may sound, kickball is pretty important in the lives of elementary school students.
This just goes to show that no matter what you are trying to teach your students or how hard you try, if you don’t give your students the experiences to apply those skills, they’re meaningless.
Lana Gundy teaches fourth grade in a primary school in Peoria, IL. She is a member of the Universal Leadership Team and is the Gifted Coordinator at her school. She is also a member of CTQ’s virtual community, which is aimed to cultivate accomplished, early-career teachers as leaders of practical, effective teaching policy innovations at the state and district levels.