There are few things in life that baffle me more than the inability, or in many cases refusal of some people to follow directions. I made the comment to our secretary the other day that this class has been one of the best in my teaching career and that few of them will have any difficulty in life with reading or math. However, I have about half a dozen that are still making life harder for themselves by simply not doing what they are told.
Yesterday was a prime example. Our theme for the week is dinosaurs- always a favorite with children. So yesterday we had a “Stegosaurus task” for math. Their instructions were to take ten numbered spikes and put them in order on his back. The spikes were marked in increments of 10 and of course were in random order on their paper. We have counted “by 10” and done a similar task many, many times, so this one was just a fun way to review. I told them clearly and slowly “Make sure you cut out all ten spikes, put them in order on your desk, and double check them before you put any glue on your paper.” I asked if everyone understood, and then repeated. There is LOTS of repeating in kindergarten. LOL I do it so much that I find myself doing it at home sometimes! Just ask Gary and Robert.
How many children followed directions? Twelve. Three immediately cut out one spike, put glue on it, figured out where it went, stuck it on, repeated the process. Worked for one of them, confused the other two.
Similar thing happened when we wrote our dinosaur names. I let each of the children use a cute dinosaur desk tag and write their name with “osaurus” at the end. Example: Maryosaurus is my “dinosaur name”. Of course first we talked about the idea in circle. Then I wrote several examples on the board, using student names. Then I had them write their own dinosaur name in pencil on a piece of scratch paper and show it to me for approval before giving them a desk tag on which to write it with markers. Two of my children went through the whole process and still wrote their given name on their desk tag!!!
That is the story of my day….each and every day. Handwriting: “Write each word three times.” Four of my children wrote each word one time. Reading: Read these two books. Pick your favorite and answer the questions on the board. Just answer for one book. Three of my students answered for both books. Phonics: Look at the numbered word list, find a word in the box on the right that rhymes with it and write it down. Two of my children wrote down a rhyming word for each word in the box, while totally ignoring the numbered list.
So much time spent repeating directions, and then helping children who did not follow the directions or simply repeating the directions individually and asking them to do the task over. So much time wasted.
And I hear you thinking, “well some children just didn’t hear or see or understand or whatever.” Obviously it has been a while since you have been in a kindergarten classroom and you have never been in mine. I forgive you. A lesson in my room is like a performance: discussion, visuals, directions, demonstration, repeat. I write on the board. I show an example. I do the first step with them. I ask them to tell me what they are going to do. Sometimes I feel downright silly and think “is this really necessary?” And it always is!
And don’t think for a minute that the problem is my slowest or youngest or most challenged children. Not even close. I have repeat offenders who are my best and brightest! Just want to “do things their way”. Some of my students who have behavior problems in other areas follow classroom directions like soldiers. Some of my youngest, least experienced students are the most careful with their daily work. And most of my students follow directions every time, every day.
Why did I write all of this here, and not on my kindergarten blog? Because I think some of the problem stems from the way we are raising this generation. The longer I teach, the more I find children falling into three groups:
1. “Carried in a basket”- Yes, that term actually came from my grandmother. It was her way of describing children who were spoiled. But for me it simply means a child who has too few responsibilities. These children grow up having their hair combed, meat cut up, shoes tied, seat belt buckled, shirt buttoned, backpack carried, milk carton opened, and homework done by a parent until they are about ten. At another school we actually had to ask a parent to stop carrying his child into the first grade. I’ve seen kindergarten moms carry their child’s breakfast tray, open their milk, take the crust off their toast, and unfold their napkin. These children have difficulty following directions because they are never given any.
2. “Home Alone”- These children spend the majority of their time on their own- dressing themselves, getting their own food, playing in the neighborhood, watching television, falling asleep when they get tired. Some of them are obviously neglected; others might appear to the casual observer to be “spoiled”- they have televisions and DVD players and toys in their rooms. They have everything they might want or need, except adult supervision. One year I had a student in this group who packed his own lunch: cookies, candy, chips, and a soda! These children, while very independent, have trouble following directions because they have always been expected to just “figure it out”.
3. “Encouraged and Instructed” –This group, once representing the majority of my students, is sadly getting smaller and smaller. These children are nurtured and encouraged and supported by their parents when they need it. But they are also expected to be self-sufficient, responsible, and obedient. They are given age appropriate tasks to complete. They have a structured environment that includes regular meals and a consistent bedtime. They are given instructions and expected to follow them. When they make mistakes they are given the opportunity to correct them. These are the children who thrive in school and in life because their natural instinct is to follow directions. Oh, I hear you- “What about creativity and new ideas and originality?” The reality is that most of our daily life consists of following rules and regulations and schedules and directions. That structure is often what allows us to spend the rest of our time and energy on creativity. In my kindergarten classroom the children who have the most free time to enjoy their own pursuits- art, playdough, reading, toys- are the ones who quickly and correctly follow the directions to complete their daily work!
So…Mrs. Maurer will be quiet now and go off to school to give instructions that will be repeated and then ignored.
Have a great day!