I am nearly three years removed from the classroom to pursue my adventures in teacher leadership, but the greatest memories from my career are still in the classroom. I became a teacher to make teaching different. Not that all my education was a drag, but there were times where it didn’t meet my needs as a learner. So, does being different make a difference? In my “Being Different” blog posts I will share a few stories from my classroom where my teaching methods may have veered from the norm, and hopefully made a difference for my students.
The Day I Blindfolded My 9th Grade Biology Class
If you have ever had the honor to teach a 9th grade class, it is quite the experience. Freshman have this relentless energy, social buzz, and new high schooler shine that can be a blessing in disguise if you can harness all of that for good. Well at some point throughout the year I lost the reins and there was just a bit too much energy for me to handle. The main thing that I noticed is that students enjoyed looking at each other. Move students across the room, rearrange seating, change student groups, turn off the lights, station rotation, it didn’t matter at this point, if eye contact was made focus was gone. Easy solution, eliminate eye contact and students will remain focused. This is where the blindfolds came in.
My rationale for blindfolding my students did not simply come from my momentary struggle with classroom management, but also the rate of volunteer participation in class discussions. We have all been in the position where we ask a question and crickets chirp. Self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear of embarrassment, and social anxiety might play a part, but what if students couldn’t see each other, would that make a difference? Well in this case I think it actually did!
But how did this all shake down you might be wondering? It went a little something like this…
- “Hey students, we have a test today please put these blindfolds on so we can review.”
- Answer a bunch of strange question about what will and will not happen during this blindfolded time.
- Students put on blindfolds (I cut some dark fleece material into strips that could be tied on their heads that did a pretty decent job of blocking their vision.)
- After all of the blindfolds were on I began asking content questions or about key vocabulary terms. Here is an example.
- “Please raise your hand if you are NOT confident in explaining the term fitness in regards to natural selection.”
- Student who were not confident would raise their hand but I did not say anything or identify them. I simply said “Thank you, you can put your hands down now.” If no hands went up, then this was a formative assessment that the class felt confident with the content.
- Next, I would ask anyone who felt confident in explaining this concept to the class to please raise their hand. I would give a student a high five or tap on the should and allow them to explain the concept. Again no names were identified but a thank you followed.
- I continued step 4 until I had a chance for my students to lead the entire review.
- Remove blindfolds, give students a few minutes to readjust to the class and administer the exam.
Overall, I believe this was a great success. I recall one student, who often struggled, commenting that this was one of the best reviews she had this year. I do not have solid data, but I do recall the exam results being a bit better than those previous. I can say with high confidence that this experience certainly was different and did make a difference. There was an increase in student participation, student acknowledging their confusion in content, and many students volunteering answers that normally did not. However, for some reason I did not return to this method of review for the remainder of the year. I may have missed out on a great tool, or at least I could have gathered a little more data to see if there truly was a correlation between a blindfold review and student achievement.
Now I am not saying that every teacher who reads this should go out and blindfold their class, but do try something different. Continue to make your class interesting and find out what works for your students. Also, don’t be afraid to innovate. I know teachers are always in a race against the curriculum, and it is easy to fall back on what you have done in the past. However, every new year brings new classroom dynamics, new learner needs, and a clean slate to try something different. After all, the art of teaching falls on the teacher’s ability to connect the curriculum to the learners in their room. Perhaps a crazy idea, new approach, or just something a little different can make a huge different for your students.
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