The general public usually does not know what goes into the implementation of a home run winning lesson plan. It takes knowing your subject matter inside and out (a feat within itself), it takes knowing many various teaching strategies in order to link the right strategies with the content, and it takes an inate knowledge of the education needs for each and every student in your group. Finally, it takes knowing something about assessment strategies so that real data can be obtained to measure student progress.
However, none of my actions to plan appropriate lessons matter if my students are asleep. It can be very frustrating to be fully engrossed in teaching your plan, look out across the room, and see two or three nodding off. Yes, I’ve had my share of sleepy ones as well.
My first reaction has been one of anger. How dare they fall asleep during my lesson?!
Next I decided that perhaps it was me. Was I really that boring? I poured over my plans and looked for weak areas. Did I include enough activity for students in my plans or were they merely sitting in their seats watching me? What was the level of the “boring meter” regarding the content the lesson covered, and how could I eliminate the boring factor?
Even with all of my introspection I still had sleepy students. I’ve now come to the conclusion that it isn’t always me. There are outside environmental factors that determine how my students react in the classroom, and while I cannot control these factors I still have to address them in a manner designed to maximize the learning in my classes.
Outside environmental factors include:
*In most homes both parents work and have a set time to be at their jobs. It’s hard to get a family up and ready to go all at the same time and often what happens is some children manage to get their clothes on and fall back to sleep while their parents finish getting ready. There is no breakfast since a large majority of kids eat at school now. Once in the car many kids fall asleep again and often still asleep as they are hustled out of the car at school. They stumble into the building sometimes a good hour to 30 minutes before the school day actually begins. Even after eating a school breakfast many sit 15-20 minutes in the hallway before homeroom begins…..just long enough to nod off again.
*Some children, even the nine and ten year olds I have taught serve as caregivers for younger siblings in the afternoon and evenings. There is no time for homework or even fun sometimes because every minute is looking after little ones, preparing a meal, or cleaning the house.
*Many children are burdened with schedules that would make you and I cringe. Their afternoons are full of various lessons or practices. Sometimes ball practice of some sort last as late as 9 o’clock for some teams.
*More and more families are out and about during the evening. Go into any restaurant at 10 o’clock in my neighborhood and you see several children eating dinner with their parents.
*I often use writing assignments during Language Arts to gather more incite into the lives of my students, and what they write is very revealing. They are so honest….sometimes painfully honest. From a simple prompt such as “How I Spent My Afternoon…” I find out that many of my students are visiting the local Walmart at nine, ten, eleven and even after midnite. Some wind up with a parent who is working the late shift. One little boy plays video games every evening till midnight in his Dad’s office and then has an hour long drive home before bedtime. Another student wrote about sitting at the jail with her aunt waiting on the release of her mother. She had been picked up for drugs that morning.
*Many children don’t have a bedtime. If they do, it’s much too late. Students report they are up till all hours doing whatever they want to.
*Some children report they do have a bedtime, but once their parent goes to bed they get back up to watch the television in their room, play on their computer, read, eat, etc.
So I continue to have sleepy babies sitting in my room. One way I have attempted to improve this situation is through the use of lively music and dancing. When things seem to be getting bogged down and I notice a few are getting droopy-eyed we DANCE and DANCE, and DANCE!
Yep, we DANCE. We’ll take a break and I play some lively songs and in order to get everyone involved I’ll act as silly as I have to. They think I’m crazy the first few times, but when they see how much fun it can be they join in. No, there are no video tapes of me DANCING….thank the Lord, so don’t ask.
Once the break is over we are much more ready to tackle the content at hand and more learning can take place…….and there’s nothing like letting others see you in a silly dance move to build camaraderie among members of a group.
Some songs we have used are
Little Eva's Locomotion
Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry
Chubby Checker's Let's Twist Again
Twist and Shout with The Beatles
Shout with the Isley Brothers
Marcia Griffiths Electric Boogie (Slide)
Cha Cha Slide
Pink's Get the Party Started
And don’t discount Brain Gym for improving the alertness of droopy students.
Can you think of some other lively tunes we could use?