Darlington School: Don't Take the Pencil: The Importance of Letting Students Struggle
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Don’t Take the Pencil: The Importance of Letting Students Struggle

Molly Jordan | September 15, 2017 | 395 views

Struggle. Struggle is such a negative word, especially as a parent and teacher. Struggle is a word that we do not always want to hear.

Head of School Brent Bell posed the question to the faculty, “How do you let your students struggle?” I ignored it. Seriously ignored it. Yet the question was a constant until I was working with a group of students. It suddenly hit me that in second grade we struggle. A lot. 

What does a pencil have to do with struggling? In second grade, a tremendous amount. 

When second-graders are struggling, the first thing they want is for you, the grown up, to take their pencil and fix it. Yes, they want you to do their work. This is the easy way out, for you to solve the problem, for you to think for them.

But if you do not take their pencil, you cannot do their work.  

We do not erase, we do not write on their paper. We let them struggle.

Mrs. Peer and I do this by asking them to wait, and I do mean wait! Sometimes we wait three to five minutes before the student can ask a question, before they can ask for help, before they can ask a friend, all because we want them to struggle. Why? We want them to learn.    
In allowing wait time (not seconds but minutes), they become thinkers, doers, problem solvers.

By not taking the pencil to erase THEIR mistake, we begin to ask them questions that make them THINK.

We wait them out.

Through the continuous use of questions like who, what, and why, they struggle because they are thinking, they are problem solving and they are become thinkers and doers.

So the next time your child asks you for help with homework, will you take the pencil?