Archive for the ‘No Opt Out’ Category

Empty Hands

We have all seen it in our classrooms. Those pesky kids who show up without any materials. No book, no pencil, no paper, and certainly no homework. So what do you do with those empty hands?

Empty Handed

My first year on the job this really got to me. As a classic overachiever, lover of school, I was not able to understand what was going on in their head! Did they think they wouldn’t need anything? At some point however, I acceptable the fact that these empty-handed students just hadn’t been thinking…and that it would be okay, as long as there was someone else around to think of what to do with them.

No Pencil: I lend you one, so you lend me something in return. I take shoes, money, keys, jewelry. Repeat it like a mantra. Shoes, money, keys, jewelry. These are things your student will not want to leave without, so they will remember to swap back with you at the end of the hour. I do not take jackets, hats, binders, or other textbooks. They will leave without these. If they do leave their money, then buy yourself a candy bar and enjoy!

No Paper: “Sure, here is a sheet of paper. Now, do I need to call your mom and let her know that you need paper or can you?” (They can.) “Also, you never get something free in life. To earn that paper, you can pick up 3 pieces of paper/ trash off my floor before you leave today.” Maybe it sounds grouchy, but I stress that idea of not getting something for nothing a lot in my class. Entitlement is an awful personality trait.

No Book: Go get it from your locker, and take a tardy. This is something you as the teacher can’t instantly solve. They need it, but there are consequences for being unprepared. In my school district, two tardies equal one absence. This helps out the 6-12 teachers, but I’m not as familiar with elementary schools. So readers, if you are the student’s only teacher, what other solutions can you offer?

The pencil idea I learned from other, wiser co-workers and the solution for paper I created myself. Once again, pick and chose what you like and what will work for you. Ultimately, whatever you do in your classroom has to make you happy and hopefully avoids creating any resentful feelings to those who come with empty hands.

No Opt Out

No Opt Out is a technique focused on making sure any student who is unable to answer a question or does not attempt to answer a question still ends up participating.

Visualize your classroom. Things are going reasonably well. Then you ask Hannah what a noun is. She looks at you confused. Her expression seems to convey “Who me?” She looks away passively and says, “I dunno.” You probably waffle between two actions here- force the question again, give it a try! Or you move on to another student and ask the same question again. This is a key moment– students will realize that saying “I dunno.” is the get out of jail free card for classroom discussion. The teacher cannot make you participate. No teacher likes to be Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that is where No Opt Out comes into play.

Ben Stein

bored student

In a No Opt Out Situation…

Teacher- Hannah, what is a noun?

Hannah- I dunno.

Teacher- (turning to another student) Roger, what is a noun?

Roger- a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Teacher- Right. Hannah, what is a noun?

Hannah- a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Notice that the question comes back to Hannah in the end. This is good for students who don’t know the answer, but are trying, perhaps just giving the wrong answer. The teacher is able to get the student to participate, but without the guesswork of, “Is she being defiant? Does she really not know? Am I embarrassing her if I press the question?”

Let’s talk worst case scenarios. Say Roger is no help. He doesn’t answer your question either. Don’t waste a second. Ask the class for a classroom chorale answer or answer it yourself. Then turn back to Hannah or Roger, ask them again. You have just given them the answer so there is very little gray room to sit silently.

As you can see with my fictional models, Hannah and Roger, No Opt Out is simple and empowering. The student ultimately participates, the class learns that no one is off the hook, and the end result always is a student answering a question correctly (which can be a confidence booster!).

Participation

No Opt Out is a technique which can be found in Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. For more formats of this technique, read his book! He is the man with the plan, I am simply a follower.

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