Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Lesson from Dora the Explorer

Image taken from Nickelodeon

It appears that when colleges panic or run out of ideas of how to teach, they take their cue straight from Dora the Explorer when it comes to teaching people how to teach.  I reached this conclusion at about 5:30 AM this morning as my daughter insisted on watching another episode.  You see, bear with me here, but Dora asks her audience for participation - my daughter does not participate, so silence fills the void.  Dora then asks for affirmation in her answer, still silence, sometimes "right" squeaks from my two-year old.  Classic call and response.  Isn't this the same approach we are first taught in college when we learn how to be effective teachers; ask a  question, then reaffirm the answer?  So what's the problem, after all, Dora is successful?  Well, when you ask a very simple question, you receive simple answers.  And sure many colleges flaunt Blooms Taxonomy and points to it for inspiration, but day-to-day how many of us really reach deeper level thinking?

Instead we ask the simple questions, not quite yes or no, but close, and then when we perhaps do receive an answer we reaffirm by restating, and then we feel great.  Look at how much they are learning!  Now Dora can be excused in this matter, after all her target audience is 2 to 3 year olds who are just learning the language.  We cannot.  We are meant to ask questions that do not always appear straightforward; clear yes, but not always with an easy answer.  One of my biggest challenges has been to kick myself out of easy question land and and instead answer most questions with another question.  Dora never does that, she waits patiently the appropriate wait time (2 seconds roughly) and then squeaks "right?"  My daughter patiently waits for the action to continue, she is trained to know that at some point Dora will speak again.  Our students know that we too will fill the silence, if they stay quiet or passive long enough, we will take over and give them all of the answers.

If we do not heighten our questioning skills in the classroom, we create an audience of learners.  One child may be brave enough to answer our question, yet the others remain passive, knowing that either way, the answer will be given to them.  What if we didn't provide the answer?  What if we stopped talking?  Instead offering up deeper-level questions and when we don't have any, turn the table.  Which questions do the students have?  Could we move our classrooms away from call-and-response, reaffirmation, or even just mere audience participation?  Could we make our students engage by simply changing our own engagement?

Who knew, Dora had such deep lessons embedded. 


Tom Altepeter said...

Swiper, no swiping ... only engaging.

Justin Stortz said...

Do you have some type of spy camera installed in my classroom? I have been so guilty of this lately.

The sad thing is, this is huge. I mean, deep, thoughtful questioning is a big deal & it's tragically overlooked sometimes. I'm glad you shared this.

By the way, Dora is on at my house as I type this. I need to go join my 2 yr. old & brush up for class tomorrow. :D

- @newfirewithin

mylifeinschool said...

So true!

I too am guilty of this as well.

I love your idea of answering a question with a question. Too often we as educators will ask questions and through our actions spoon feed the answer. We need to get our students thinking and move beyond Bloom's.

BTW: I love Dora!

@Tom--> love it!!

Anonymous said...

My daughter loves watching Dora The Explorer on Nickelodeon. She can keep up with Dora when she runs errands with me since we have TV everywhere. As a DISH employee I can tell you that DISH allows you to stream live TV content onto my iPhone or laptop wherever I am. Go to www.dishnetwork.com.

Sydney said...

Love this post! My daughter loved Dora, so I had to click through to read more.

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