How to Teach Using Sneaky Methods That Work
I learned early on in my teaching career that the best way to get students to learn was to sneak teach.
Over the years I developed several methods that worked every time to make kids think they were having fun when they were actually learning things.
Some of what I will share here may seem unorthodox, but it worked so well for students in grades six through twelve that they never forgot their lessons.
How to Use Teaching Bucks
One of my most successful ploys was to use SR Bucks to entice my students to behave, do their work and learn what they needed to know.
To do this I created something called an SR Buck. It was a design the size of a dollar bill that was blank on one side and made to look like money on the other.
At first I simply used black print on white paper, but soon learned that students were “counterfeiting” the bucks, so I had to start using dark colored paper that would be easy to spot of duplicated.
I explained to students that I would be keeping a record of their attendance, behavior, cooperation, work quality and similar items. Each week I would pay them with one SR Buck for showing up every day to class, being prepared, doing their homework on time, doing quality work, being helpful in the classroom and so forth.
Friday was pay day. I told the students that at the end of each semester I was going to hold an auction where they could use their money to purchase gifts for themselves, family members or friends.
I gave them money for the above named items, but I also made them give money back to me if they violated any of the above guidelines or misbehaved in any way.
- I had to be careful about where I stored the SR Bucks because I actually caught students trying to steal them!
- I also told the kids to take care because if their money got lost or stolen, I would not replace it.
Each time they received a buck, they were to write their name on the blank side. This way nobody could use their hard earned money!
How Classroom Bucks Work
Before long, I had students begging to clean blackboards, straighten desks and pass out class materials.
More importantly, they began to be more serious about their work because an A on any paper would earn them a buck!
I did a lot of group teaching, too, so any student who became a group leader and did a good job of helping the group complete a project and behave while doing it would get an extra SR Buck on payday. If a group did it’s job, every member also got paid.
In the meantime, I was soliciting other teachers for donations of things kids would want to have. I also went to places like Walmart to get donations.
About a month before the end of a semester, I would set up a table where I displayed the items that would be available for auction.
This kept the students focused even more on their tasks.
When auction day arrived, I got a real auctioneer to come in and donate his time to run things.
The kids would be all excited and would come in with SR Bucks hanging out of their pockets or bulging in their purses, back packs and wallets.
Sometimes they would “pool” their money if there was an item they really wanted to have.
- The first auction was always held just before Christmas so that they could “buy” gifts for loved ones.
- The second was held the day prior to the last day of school.
I always made sure that every student left the auction with something because I knew that all of them had tried to do their best.
It was fun for everybody, but also taught valuable lessons to the kids. They learned about saving and spending, sharing, working together, the importance of doing a good job and even how to have a new kind of fun.
Even after all of these years I suspect that many of them still talk about SB Bucks and maybe have a few of them stashed away in their scrap books!
Sneak Teaching Reading
Most people agree that good reading skills are the foundation for any form of learning.
However, there always are students who will say they hate to read.
When I was teaching that meant not that they hated to read, but rather that they hated to read things that did not interest them or possibly that their reading skills weren’t good.
For this reason, I created lesson plans that taught them a love of reading that they might not otherwise have had.
In Class Lending Libraries
To encourage these types of students, I kept a lending library in my classroom.
I got donations from other teachers, but also included comic books in the mix. Low or lazy readers were permitted to use these comic books for classwork assignments if they chose to do so.
I required all students to read at least one book every two weeks and then present a brief book report that would not reveal the end of the story but rather entice other students to read the book.
I also told them that if they really liked one of my books, they could trade me for one that they had at home that would be suitable for classroom use.
They could not read or trade books that had been made into movies, and all students had to produce a note from a parent stating that they had seen their child reading that book at home.
This activity encouraged reading, even among those who claimed they didn’t like to read. In fact, most of them ended up reading the books the other kids talked about in their book reports because they wanted to know the ending!
Encouraging Library Cards
A very important tool is the library card.
Many students have never been to a public library and don't really know how to use a library card or that you can even borrow books.
For this reason I do a lesson that explains these things and as an assignment as all students to go to a library, get a card and borrow a book.
If they are too young to drive, I tell them to ask an older sibling or a parent to transport them.
Once they learn that they can borrow books that are available in places other than their school, at least some of them will start reading more.
Other Reading Activities
- Sometimes I would read to them to get them started on a classroom reading assignment to get them started, and then they’d have to read the rest and be ready to take a test.
- Other times I’d have them dress up like their favorite author and present an autobiography that highlighted a well known book about which they would also include a book report.
- Another sneaky learning activity was to take the front page of a newspaper and cut the headlines away from the articles. I would then divide the students into teams and give them the scraps of headlines and articles. They had to match them up, and the team that won the race all got SR Bucks!
- I also liked having the entire class read the same book and then showing them the movie that was made from it.This activity was a real treat for the kids. Sometimes I even made popcorn for them to eat while they watched! What they didn’t realize is that I was reinforcing their reading skills with a fun activity that brought the characters in their books to life!
One of the best ways to involve students in learning is to create projects that they can produce in groups.
The most successful sneak teaching project I ever did was with a class of very bright seventh graders.
One day I took them outside and told them to find something on the school grounds that they could use as a tool or helper of some kinds.
Then they each had to bring their item to class and explain what it was and how it could be used.
Following this, we had a discussion about where the things we use every day come from.
- The funniest comment came when I asked them where milk came from. The answer? The grocery store!
- They were shocked to learn that hamburger is made from cows and that fruits and vegetables are grown from seeds.
Following this discussion, I explained the project they were to do for the rest of the year.
I chose a leader for each group and gave that child the assignment. They were then to “interview” students to see if the skills they possessed would help with the project.
Each group was “placed” in a different environment, and each was given items that would help them to survive. All had to create a livable community with what was given them as well as what was available where they were located.
For example, one group was placed in Alaska and was given two chickens, two cows, appropriate tools, seeds and similar items.
From this they were to use what was available to provide food, water and shelter.
For each group I threw in a bad event…a snake bite, an animal that got away or an injury to one of their “builders”.
At the end of the project, they had to produce a jointly prepared booklet that detailed all of their decisions and that they presented to the rest of the class.
They were unbelievably creative and well done.
The rest of the school year every student showed for class every day , there were no discipline problems and the students worked really well together.
It was such a good project that it became the talk of the school!
Thus it was that by allowing students to help each other to learn how to think, plan, analyze and produce that the flowered, learned and grew.
Sneak Teaching Really Works
As you can see from what I’ve written here, my sneak teaching methods really paid off.
Organizing them was the hardest part, because in most instances, the students actually ended up teaching themselves simply by sharing information and learning from one another with a bit of nudging from their teacher.
You can use these types of methods with any subject because the point is to make learning fun rather than drudgery and create a classroom that is interactive as opposed to using lecture, practice, homework methods.
Try a few of these sneaky teaching methods with your students if you can. You may find that doing so will make a positive change in your classroom.
Do you think sneak teaching is a good way to get kids interested in learning?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle