Sunday, October 9, 2016

Teaching Assistants in the Classroom

Do you ever feel like you have given 50 examples and students still don't understand?  Well, I really don't ever give 50 examples.  I actually tell my students "statistics show" that after three examples, they should pretty much understand all or most of the steps.  At least, that is what one of my college professors said.

Anywho! I know it can seem a bit discouraging when you have given your students examples, notes, hands on activities, etc. and yet, some still do not understand. The reality of it is that you can try and give them examples until you are blue in the face and guess what? Some of them will say they STILL don't get it!  That's why I delegate some of my students as teaching assistants.

Now, I just don't give this job to anyone! They have to earn it by proving that they have mastered the skill.

This is how I do it in my classroom.

First, I introduce the lesson. You know, the usual. I explain what the skill is, tell them if they have prior knowledge or if it's brand new to their grade level, provide a real life example of when and where they might use it, etc.

Then, I provide notes, examples, and a step by step explanation.  After the third example, I have students (shoulder partners) take turns explaining how to solve one problem each to one another. Partner A explains their assigned problem to Partner B, who listens and only helps when needed. They they switch roles, and Partner B explains a different problem.

After each partner has solved and explained a problem each, we regroup as a class and talk about it.  I then allow them to try a couple on their own as I walk around, monitor and answer any questions they might still have.  At this time, I am also checking answers of students that have completed the problems.

Finally, I give them an independent assignment. During this assignment, I might be monitoring or working with a student that needs one-on-one help. As students complete their work, they turn it in, I check it and if they showed all of their work and answered correctly, I "hire" them as teaching assistants. My students love it and they get to wear one of the "Ask Me!" badges that I created. I then announce to the class the name or names of the students that are my teaching assistants.

I also assign the job of teaching assistants during other activities that take place in the classroom. This is really handy during a large class.

I don't really know how I should take it when I see so many hands go up after I have announced a teaching assistant's name. Yet, I know how some students prefer to ask one of their peers for help. It's a win win situation!  My teaching assistant understands the skill/concept so well that they can teach someone else, other students (shy or otherwise) get to hear it from someone different that might help them understand better and I get to help other students while this is going on!

It really works well in my class. It also gives my teaching assistants a sense of pride and respect, knowing that other students trust them enough to ask for their help.

Here are some of my teacher assistants helping out during a Loop Game.

Here is a close up view.  If students didn't hear me announce the teaching assistants name(s), they know to just look for a student wearing an "Ask Me!" Badge.

Every time I go to a conference or training, I save the plastic badge holders.  I printed out the "Ask Me!" label, cut it out and slipped it into the badge holder. So all I paid for were the glitter stickers! Not bad, huh?  :D

I hang them underneath my clocks by my desk for easy access. If I forget, my students see them and remind me. Imagine that! Seventh graders reminding me about the "Ask Me!" badge because they want to wear it when they help their peers!  I love it!

You can get a free download of a similar "Ask Me!" badge

One last thing!  I always make it a point to have my students thank the teaching assistants if they have helped them in any way. It becomes more meaningful. At least I think it does.  :D

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