How The Red "MayDay Cup" Helps Students Learn Technology

from Educators' eZine

As most of us know, among the many challenges in using technology are: students with different skill levels, different learning styles, and large class sizes. My room has 26 desktop computers, visited by 100+ raging-with-hormones adolescents throughout a typical day. Add technology and it becomes chaotic. But when I gave students some control in my class I learned more than I had expected.

With the student/teacher ratio at 20 to 1, I spent a lot of time running around the class helping students get caught up. Most of my teaching is visual, done with a projector as I teach the whole class step by step. This style works well for most of the class, but what about students who aren't visual learners?

I tried different teaching strategies and attended multiple classroom management workshops before I came up with, "Ask Three Before Me." It focuses on students developing essential life skills like: leadership, communication, and self-confidence. Step one is to find a visual aid to help signify who is confused. I chose to use a red plastic cup, which is placed at each workstation. A student who is behind places this "mayday cup" on top of his/her monitor. When I see three or more cups on the monitors I stop teaching.

Step two is an announcement to the class that it's time to "Ask three before me." The more knowledgeable students search the room for red cups and then go to the rescue of their classmates. I observe the activity, reminding students to "show, not do" whenever I see a team helper trying to take over a mouse. If a question comes up that three students can't solve, I know that I've overlooked teaching something. I then immediately stop the whole class and explain, or re-explain, the concept. We spend five minutes, from start to finish, getting everyone caught up. I always thank the students for their help before moving on.

My favorite part of this program is watching the kids interacting with each other. I designed this program for everyone — not for a certain type of student. Some of my best helpers are students with IEPs — individual education plans or special modifications.

It's more work, a different classroom atmosphere, and of course a lot noisier but worth it in the end. I have seen student's confidence, ability, and self-image increase since beginning this program.

After three years of using "Ask three before me," I have adapted it for other teaching opportunities. Our technology team uses this philosophy and has students help teaching staff to use and understand technology better. When students are given more responsibility, they always meet or exceed my expectations. Isn't that why we became teachers in the first place?

Email:Kimberly A. Saucier