Saturday, 15 October 2016

Repeat After Me: A strategy to save your sanity!

Ok, I know we've all been in this situation: 

Children are gathered on the carpet, where it appears that they have been listening carefully to the instructions for the next task that you've spent time clearly explaining.  Before sending them off to get started, you check to make sure there are no questions or clarification needed.  Everyone nods that they are all set - instructions remembered, eager to get going!  As the kidlets move to their desk or work space you (prematurely) congratulate yourself on your clear and concise directions!  And then it begins... "What do I do first?" "Do we draw or cut after we write our name?" "Am I supposed to use crayons or pencils?" "I can't remember what to do after I colour my picture!"  You then spend the rest of the lesson explaining everything again, to each child individually, mentally pouring yourself the glass of wine you'll need when you get home.

A few years ago this was me - all the time! - until I stumbled across a simple strategy that literally saved my sanity.  I'm going to share it with you today, along with a free resource that you can use along with it. :)

When I said this strategy was simple, I really meant it!  It simply uses repetition, connected with a verbal and physical response, to help little learners remember instructions.    

The first step is to explain the task as you usually would - perhaps you have a craft example already made that you refer to while giving instructions, maybe you demonstrate on the whiteboard how to complete a worksheet, or you might move around the workspace pointing out resources that your kidlets will need.  Once you're done with this process, it's time to use 'Repeat After Me'!

Let's imagine I've just explained a craftivity in detail to my class, perhaps these 2D shape icecreams:

I then say "repeat after me" (which my kidlets are familiar with!) and go through the steps one by one one using my fingers to number them, with children repeating my phrases and holding up their own fingers.  For this craft it would go something like this:
(1 finger) "Name the back of the cone in pencil." 
(2 fingers) "Cut out the coloured shapes."
(3 fingers) "Glue the pieces together."
(4 fingers) "Glue on the shape names"
Then we repeat the steps again - this time with less words:
(1 finger) "Name"
(2 fingers) "Cut"
(3 fingers) "Glue"
(4 fingers) "Glue"
Using this strategy I don't ever ask if there's any questions - I send my kidlets away to get started straight away, with the instructions still fresh in their minds! :)

During the repetitions I'll also point to the visual instruction cards that I use  - they have the same numbers and one word direction that we're saying and also a simple picture.  I just stick them to the board and point as I speak.  Even if kidlets forget the next step, or whether they colour with crayon or pencil, the numbered steps remind them and the graphic specifies the material they need.  I've prettied these up a bit for you and uploaded them to my store where you can download them for free - just click the pic below! (Spelling for colour & color included.)

Although using 'Repeat After Me' works really well for more complex activities like crafts, I use it for most tasks.  It might seem obvious that kidlets need to name their worksheet before they start, or to write before they colour their picture... but the fact is that for little learners at the beginning of their school life, it's not! To help them achieve success by completing a task as instructed, I use this strategy to help them establish good independent work habits.  Of course, there will always be a few students in your class who will still forget or become confused completing multi-step tasks, but this strategy should help most. :)

Click this image to grab your freebie (and leave some feedback if you can!):

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