One thing we hear over and over again in special education is that for kids with special needs direct instruction works best. Direct instruction is where the teacher explicitly teaches and students watch as she takes them through a lesson. As opposed to exploratory learning, where a concept is introduced and the students do a lot of self-teaching, through group activities, trial and error, etc. I even had a special ed professor who said this latter type of teaching was the "hippie way." you may as well sit around smoking something and talking about your feelings with the students Ah, I loved that professor...

In my class you hear a lot of this:
"This is a seven, class. What is this?"

And the students give the choral response:
"A seven!"

My response:
"Yes, it is a seven. This is an eight. What is this?"

Their choral response:
"An eight!"

Etcetera, etcetera.

I was a skeptic at first, I will admit, but I have become a believer. I even have a sign up on my board that says RESPOND, and by the second day of school my special little kiddos can tell you what the word is and what it means. It is that important in my class. The only time my kids raise their hands is when they need to share a personal comment or ask a question. When it comes to giving answers we do it all together. And believe me, Miss Karen is a stickler, asking the question over and over until every student is answering with every other one.

How much stronger do you feel when you get to answer together with other people? When you say "amen" together? When you sing together? There is power in unifying our voices.

"This is called MORE POWER TO THE PEOPLE, class."


Kristina P. | September 13, 2011 at 10:56 PM


Joanie | September 14, 2011 at 2:02 AM

Amen, again! Today was my first class teaching English to Chinese teenagers, and they can be really loud when they respond together :) I loved it.

Unknown | September 14, 2011 at 6:47 AM

What a great concept -- my youngest has been doing an on-line preschool program and their is a TON of vocal repetition with the person doing the speaking (that didn't make sense, did it?) ... I wonder if this is why? Maybe I should sit down and do it with her to give that group feeling.

Welcome to the Garden of Egan | September 14, 2011 at 7:05 AM

I bet you are the best teacher ever!

Connie | September 14, 2011 at 7:34 AM

There's security in being told the correct answer and responding as a group. I would even participate in a class during that kind of environment.
Way to go. I should have gone to your classroom when I was at school last week. Next time.

Unknown | September 14, 2011 at 9:10 AM

OK, first, your blog just gets fancier and fancier. You're making the rest of us look like posers.

And I agree wholeheartedly with what you're saying here. I feel like there is so much time wasted in our schools expecting our kids to play 'hotter, colder' with basic concepts.

Choral response is good for the show-offs, good for the kids who simply get it, and good for those who are struggling but whose confidence is boosted by being 'right' with everyone else.

You are amazing. Love you!

Marianne | September 14, 2011 at 9:57 AM

Can I put my kids in your class?? I think they'd do better and they'd be happier. I have THREE unhappy students right now. Rough start to the school year, I'm tellin' ya.

Heaven help me...

wendy | September 14, 2011 at 4:11 PM true
We DO feel strenghtened as a UNIT of people, responding together
standing together.
yup...strength in that
good job Miss Karen
(I like hippie learning...tee,hee)

CB | September 14, 2011 at 4:33 PM

I can see how that makes sense and works especially with the Special Ed. kids.
I have to say that I laughed about the hippie style teaching - it is true!!!
I bet your class loves you!!

MaggieJo | September 14, 2011 at 5:49 PM

I love that your kids learn that way. As for me, I am a discovery learning learner and teacher. I just think it's sad that so often people say there is only one right way and everyone is the same.

MaggieJo | September 14, 2011 at 5:50 PM

guess I'm a modern day hippie :)

Mrs4444 | September 14, 2011 at 8:29 PM

I'm curious about the effectiveness of DI in middle school or high school, compared to grade school. I've used it with LD kids, but it's been years, since I no longer teach reading. Let me know if you know!

lesa | September 15, 2011 at 8:36 AM

I love your writing. You always make me think.

Heather@Women in the Scriptures | September 15, 2011 at 3:09 PM


I just wanted to say how much fun I had meeting you the other night at the blogger's dinner. You have such a great personality and really made the night fun. I hope that we have the chance to meet up again another time!

Grumpy Grateful Mom | September 15, 2011 at 10:02 PM

I hadn't thought about this before, but I like the idea! Thinking back, even with my kids, when they are responding together, they so seem to be more attentive. I will have to experiment. :)

Creepy Query Girl | September 16, 2011 at 6:43 AM

I teach english to french elementary leven students in france and I love that feeling where you just know every student has 'got' it.

jordan and maci | October 4, 2011 at 6:47 PM

love this! and it made me miss gibb:)

Shelane | May 14, 2013 at 9:46 PM

I forget how I found my way here, but I just had to stop mid-reading through the archives and tell you how much I love who you are, and I don't even really know you yet! I keep choking up as I read, and am ecstatic to think of my j in your class next year. You even roller derby! (It sounds like so much fun but I'm a big fat chicken) I'm sad I came too late in the game to hear you sing, but what I really want to say is, I'm so glad the world threw us together.