Noilly Prattle: Call Me Mr. B. – Five

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Call Me Mr. B. – Five

The game center

game center in rear of photo under the whiteboard
      I needed a self-contained system of rewards for acceptable and consequences for unacceptable behavior and I hit on the idea of setting up a game center and made a big production out of promoting it with the students. It also solved the problem of what to do with the differing rates of finishing a project that invariably came up within a class. I dreaded hearing “I'm finished” from the more, shall we say, less interested in how the thing was done than the speed with which it was accomplished, student. Looking at the result of the 20-minute (or less) rush job from I'd-rather-be-running-around-the-playground Hiroshi, I realized I needed an incentive for little Hiroshi to go back and sit down and reflect on the quality (or rather slapdashedness) of his work--something he'd rather be doing, but only if I approved of his work—extrinsic as opposed to intrinsic reward in psycho-jargon.

the teacher look
        I partitioned off a section of the large Art room, which had beautiful hardwood floors, with waist high portable metal bookshelves where the kids who finished their work satisfactorily before the others (and there are always those who finish before the others and need something to keep them occupied) could play with the various materials and games available there. There were Lego, wooden blocks like dominoes, picture puzzles, games, playing cards, etc. The kids were required to play cooperatively together with “inside voices” or, of course, lose the privilege and sit out the rest of the class twiddling their thumbs. In fact, I discovered that for some of the more kinetic learners, the game center kept them far more creatively involved in manipulating things such as Legos or blocks and building things than more paper and crayon or scissors projects. It was a self-reinforcing system with the rewards and consequences built right into the whole class routine. Of course, there were occasional “disagreements”, but they could usually be mediated by me (with “the teacher look”) at best or by separation of the combatants at worst. I rarely needed the intercession of a homeroom teacher and never that of one of our revolving door headmasters. The slower kids, those more “artistically” involved with their project or the ones maybe a bit too meticulous were able to pursue their work without the interference of the speed jockeys and the perpetual motion machines. There was a little something for everyone in the arrangement.

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