Saturday, November 15, 2008

Need More Head Nodders

I tried Google and Yahoo, but I could only find bobbleheads and gremlins. I got a purchase order, all ready to turn in for approval. Can anyone help here? Where did Kara come from?

It started when students came to the circle for the mini-lesson As I discussed the topic of the day, I looked across at Kara. As she started to get it, she began nodding her head. The better she understood, the more she nodded. When she was not getting it, she looked at me like I was way out there in outer space, staring in a way that said, "what is he talking about?"
Animations - smiley-04Kara didn't even know she did this until I told her. When I first started noticing it, I watched for a few days, just to be sure I was reading her right. After a week, I decided this was a fail-safe method of knowing when students in this class understood. As I finish the mini-lesson, all I have to do is look at Kara and I know if the day's lesson needs more explanation.

As a teacher this serves as a good reminder of just how important it is to focus on the students as I teach. The key to knowing what is working and what isn't, is in their reaction and their body language. Although all teachers know this, sometimes we tend to forget how we need to concentrate on the student the entire time we are teaching.

Here is the problem--Kara makes it too easy. I have immediate feedback on everything I say. I either get the stare, or else the head nod. I have decided I like this. So, where do I get a few more head nodders? I have two other classes. I want one in each of those classes, and one to spare, in case someone is absent. Anyone know where I can find a few more head nodders?

P.S. They are the kids that are always paying attention.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. McGuire,

I am so glad you posted about this! I have frequent disagreements with colleagues who think I expect too much from students because I actually expect them to pay attention when the teacher or someone else is talking! Head Bobbers help guide instruction in so many ways, but they are also learning how to be an active listener that will benefit them in so many aspects of their life!!

In many classes, students are allowed to put their heads on their desk, read a book, draw or do other assignments while the teacher is conducting a discussion or someone is presenting. Am I expecting too much to expect that children (as well as adults) would give respect to the speaker???

Don't get me wrong, I have some kids that need sensory stimulation and we have accommodations for them in place, I am just talking about regular folks - kids and adults - that don't realize that their actions while listening give the impression that they do not respect you.

Can't wait to hear your opinions on the subject and I know my students will too.

Take care,
The Head Monkey

Anonymous said...

KIPP explicitly teaches students to nod when they understand something. It's part of SLANT (sit up, listen, ask and answer questions, nod, track the speaker).

Mr. McGuire said...

Head Monkey,

Welcome back. I think you make a good point. We should always expect students to tune in as we teach. I try to never talk more than ten minutes, and usually keep it to five or less.

I think I will scccrrrreeeeaaaaaammmmm at anyone who doesn't nod their head tomorrow. I'll bet they will learn so much this week that I will be amazed.

I'll get back with you on that.

Mr. McGuire said...


I think I will teach an adapted version of this skill this week.

S = Sit up
L = Listen
A = Ask questions
N = Nod when you get it
T = Tell someone the main point

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your ideas. I have the 10 minute rule as well, and I also allow a RESET after 10 minutes where students stand up, stretch and then sit back down. If I forget, someone will ask for a reset and I always oblige.

I posted about this "head nodding" at Middle School Monkeys as well.


Anonymous said...

Mr. McGuire if someone in our class is absent and they usualy nod their head. I will fill in for them.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a really good idea to nod your head when you get something, so I nod my head so the teacher nows that I get what hes saying. So when I don't nod my head he knows that I don't get it and he can repeat it. That's why I think you should nod your head. Its a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes head nodding is good. But how do you know there not lying. If they are lying they will not get it then they will ask you. It is a good way to catch people not paying attention. So that way if they do not node they are not paying attention. So that's the good and bad about head nodding.

Anonymous said...

I think that we should have more head nodders. If we had more head nodders we would know if someone gets it. Whats the point of listening to someone read a book and you don't get it. Thats a wast of there time. I think people don't get things because there in their own little world. It's like WAKE UP PEOPLE!LISTEN to the BOOK. It's a good book.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you Mr.McGuire. I nod my head sometimes but, not all the time. It's not that I don't get what you are saying. Its just that I can't nod my head at every thing you say. I'm only HUMAN partly!

Anonymous said...

I nod all the time. Like if a teacher ask me if I want to read I usually nod my head. Nodding your head is a good way to talk to teachers. But sometimes you can nod your head to much. Then the teachers don't know if you are paying attention or not. I nod my head when i get something and shake my head when I don't.

Anonymous said...

I think that head nodding is a good way to see if people understand what you are talking about. But, I agree with Dylan, what if someone nods their head just so they can go back and sit in la la land. I nod my head every once in a while but, if I don't get it, you usually see me up at your desk asking "how do I do this." I think that the people that do nod their heads are usually the ones who get good grads on the assingment. After this post, people will nod their head even if they don't get it.