phone a friend

Last year when I was coaching, I learned a great technique from a veteran kindergarten teacher:  “Phone a Friend.”  I introduced it in my class yesterday, when we were having a quiet, slow day with 6 kids out sick.

“Today,” I said, “when we do the letter cards, I’m going to ask one person to tell me the name of the letter.  If I ask you, and you don’t know it, then say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘no se.’  Then I’ll say, ‘phone a friend,’ and anyone who does know the name of the letter can raise their hand, and you can pick one to tell you the answer.  Let’s try it.”

“Okay, Bunny, can you tell me what letter this is?” I asked, holding up the letter T.

“O!” she proclaimed excitedly.

“No, sweetie, this is not O.  Let’s phone a friend.  If you know the name of this letter, please raise your hand, and Bunny will pick one of you to say it.”

Several children raised their hands, but Bunny just looked at me.

“Bunny, can you see all those friends who raised their hands?  Please pick one.”

Bunny pointed at Fox.  “Do you want to call on Fox?  Please say her name.”

“Fox,” Bunny said quietly, and then Fox called out “T!” triumphantly.

“Thank you Fox, that is the letter T.  Okay, Bunny, what letter?”

“T” she answered.  Phew, one letter down, many more to go.

The next child I called on knew the letter, but the child after that didn’t.  I said “phone a friend,” and several children raised their hands.  She called on Bunny, who then just sat there.

“Bunny, do you know what this letter is?”  She shook her head.  “That’s okay, but if you don’t know the answer, then you don’t need to raise your hand.”  The next child called on was Deer, who was all excited.  She did the same thing, and said nothing.  “Deer, do you know what letter this is?”  She also shook her head to indicate “no.”

“Okay, guys, if you don’t know the name of the letter, then please don’t raise your hand.”

But it happened again, and again.

“Boys and girls, if the name of the letter isn’t right there in your brain, and it’s not right there in your mouth ready to come out, then please don’t raise your hand, because that means you don’t know the answer,” I said, and perhaps the strain of being patient showed a bit in the tone of my voice.

So never mind what the kids learned; what did I learn from this experience?  I learned that many of my kids don’t actually know the names of the letters we have been working on.  I learned that many of my kids don’t know when they don’t know something.  I learned that many of my kids think that they should raise their hands, but have no idea why — they don’t understand that raising your hands has an intention that goes with it — you raise your hand because you know something about what we are discussing, and you want to share your idea or answer.  And I learned once again that some of my kids don’t even really get what a question actually is.

7 thoughts on “phone a friend

  1. haha i don’t know how many times i ahve said… ‘a question is asking something you don’t know the answer to’ or ‘a question is when someone wants you to tell them something they need the answer to..’

  2. I used to use Phone a Friend” when I taught Resource several years ago. The kids loved it.

    Now I am teaching a PreK Blended class. I run into the same problem with everyone wanting to raise their hand but not knowing the answer. It drives me crazy. I am trying to teach them only to raise their hand when the KNOW the answer. But nothing. If you figure it out, let me know.

  3. I’m wondering if understanding what a question is, is developmental. I play a game that gets the same results but doesn’t require my students understanding what a question is.
    I lay out the alphabet – or color cards, or shapes or picture cards – on the floor. I begin with one child and say “please pick up….” If the child doesn’t know where it is, we ask the class for help. The child picks it up, gives it to me and then it is their turn to ask the next child to pick something up. I find out very quickly what my children know and don’t know because they will ask their peers to pick up the items they do know, and I can watch the rest of the class to find out who knows the answer.
    The game becomes a review for everyone and it is good oral language practice.

  4. oh boy, i can identify with this. my kids are all english language learners, and everytime i remind someone at circle to raise their hand if they want to say something, immediately all hands go up. whenever they hear the words “raise your hand,” no matter the context, the hands go up. and then the blank stares when i call on someone. i know it’s part of learning the language, but man. it’s frustrating.

  5. Pingback: i thought it would be easy… « Teaching to Dream

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