Q&A #759

Getting children to take risks

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Nov 09, 1998 at 16:56:27
Subject: Re: Getting children to take risks

Hi, Jodi,

You have asked a very good question. I am teaching at Indiana University in
South Bend and I have the same problem getting students to share their ideas.

One of the tenets that you must keep in mind is "all ideas are valuable."
Students have to know that you value what they say. You develop a risk-
taking atmosphere by not immediately judging whether or not the answer is
correct when it is first given. If you find that you have to make a remark,
say something like:  "Good idea" or "Interesting answer"  Try to get several
responses and then start asking  "Why or how did you arrive at this answer?"

Frequently, the answer to the question that the teacher or text asked is
not correct; however, the answer is correct for a different interpretation of
the same question. Wrong answers to the correct question are often
opportunities to point out commonly taken routes by students in solving a

A way to develop risk taking is for a group of students to work together
on the same problem.  Randomly asking a group for the answer takes the burden
of ownership away from a single student and puts it with many students.

A way to garner divergent thinking is to ask that a problem be solved
differently the second time.  If you have solved something by algebra at
first, try to do it by graphing, or building a chart or by "whatever."
Reward creativity because this is part of risk taking.

You can ask students to guess what they think the answer to something
might be without solving a problem.  If the answer is numerical, ask kids to
raise their hands if they think it is bigger than N  or  less than N.  They
see that others think the way that they do, they are not alone.

Are you a risk taker?  Do you guess and test?  Do you not let being wrong
bother you?  Are you modeling yourself what you wish the students to do?  Do
you reason out loud so that they see how you think?  Do you ask them to
comment on your thinking?

As a teacher, I am sure that I have cut off students because I have not
given them sufficient time to think about things.  Give them time, reward
creativity, be a risk taker yourself and give value to everyone's ideas.

 - Marielouise, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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