When students just sit there, saying “What do I do?”

Why students won’t dig in

Besides time constraints, one reason teachers hesitate to do explorations or problem-based learning is too many students won’t dig in.  The roadblock can be that the problem is waaaaaay over their heads.  But more likely, the students aren’t used to having to figure things out.  That’s a huge issue the Common Core was written to address.  But those standards are unlikely to make a difference if teachers cannot motivate their students to think.  Teachers are smart to be concerned about wasting time, so I’ve started a collection of quick and easy explorations that can be substituted for a direct instruction lesson here.  Try one, then contribute one of your own.

What do I do?

Most of my students have no prior experience with problem-based learning or learning by exploration, so I initially get the same response, “What do I do?”   While other students freeze or slide down in their seats, my chronic whiner suddenly becomes my favorite student when she loudly demands that I explain…and it’s almost always a she for some reason.  My students are seated in pairs for the sake of comfort and safe communication which includes whining. That’s when I scurry over to her desk and start reading the directions for her agonizingly slowly.  For the last five years I have always gotten the same response, “I can read!  No, I got this, I’m good!”  Suddenly all the students dive in and I spend the rest of the hour developing my ability to provide good hints (nice talk by Michael Pershan).



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