Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fostering Independence in Grade One - A Few Examples

I teach grade one. I teach five and six year olds (who in the new year will start turning six and seven).  They are young children.  Many believe that they need to be hand held each step of the way.  But I disagree.  In my classroom I do my very best to teach independence instead of dependence.  It starts early and it continues all year long.

To begin with I set up routines that are easy to remember.  My students know what they have to do when they come into my classroom each morning.  They know what to do and they do it.  They also know where our classroom supplies are so if they need a new pencil, or a pair of scissors they know where to go without my help.  Having simple routines set up allows my students to be responsible for themselves.  These simple routines help foster independence.

During writing my students are also independent.  I teach whole class, small group, and one on one  writing lessons, but they are independent writers.  What I mean by that is I do not tell them what to write, nor do I spell for them.  From time to time I will give them suggestions of things they could write about but I never tell them what to write.  I am trying to foster authentic independent writers, and so I want the writing that they do to come from them.  In the past I have found when I tell my students what to write, they constantly ask me what they should write.  If I tell them how to spell their words (before they have tired it first on their own) they constantly ask me to spell for them.  This ends up creating students who can't write (or spell) without me telling them what to do.  This year I've broken that dependence by encouraging my students to write what is important to them.

My students are also independent with their problem solving.  That doesn't mean that I won't get involved when I'm needed but most of the time I'm not needed.  My students use their words, and more specifically their "I messages".  I teach them how to use their voice when they don't like what is happening around them.  I teach them how to listen to one another.   I also teach then to use their voice when they like what's happening around them.  My students make mistakes, and hurt one another's feelings just like any other five and six year olds would, but most of them have the tools to fix up the situation when misunderstanding happen.  They problem solve with clear communication, which I believe fosters their independence.  Most of time my five and six year old students can independently solve their problems on their own.

These are just a few examples of how I foster independence with my students. I'd love to hear how you help foster independence with your students?

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