KEEPER OF THE DAY: A SIMPLE TECHNIQUE THAT HELPS CHILDREN RETHINK, REFLECT AND RETELL
JUNE 10, 2019 / by Cheryl Turner
Aren't we all familiar with that blank stare your kid gives you before shrugging and saying... "Um.. I don't know." Well these kids are getting off the school bus, with ACTUAL memories of what they learned in school today. Miraculous isn't it?
As a classroom teacher, I was always looking for ways to keep students engaged while managing their behavior right to the end of the day. I continuously tried to deepen children’s thinking and reinforce learning. Even as a beginning teacher, I prided myself on my abilities in this area. Then I became a parent. It was quite humbling. Parenting gave me a completely new lense to look through as I reflected on my own practice. As parents, how many times have you asked your child, “What did you learn at school today?” How often did you get the shoulder shrug, the ever popular “I dunno…”, or the even more discouraging blank stare, followed by “Nothing.” I started practicing ways to press a little harder on my own son when he was in Kindergarten. Mrs. W. was an absolutely fabulous teacher who seemed born to teach kindergarten. But even given the great experiences I instinctively knew my son was having in her classroom, at most he’d comment on lunch, recess or how fun it was riding the school bus. After one of our daily interrogations, with an exasperated look and a heavy sigh, my son said “Mom… Why do you always ask me that?” It made me think hard about my own students and whether their parents were getting the same flat responses at home. I hated to admit that the answer was probably yes. My mission was to bridge that gap and here’s one of the ways I did it. It was called Keeper of the Day.
Dismissal time was challenging, as walkers, bus riders and car riders sat with jackets buttoned and backpacks strapped on, waiting their turn to leave after each announcement blared from the loudspeaker. Keeper of The Day (KOTD from here onwards) was implemented during this potentially chaotic time. Before leaving, each child had to share with me (one-on-one) one thing about today that they remembered. It could be something fun, difficult or an accomplishment they were proud of. A keeper might be something enjoyed or disliked, a skill you want to improve or are ready teach to someone else. In the spirit of always modeling what I wanted children to do, every day before dismissal, I would share my KOTD with the whole class. Once kids became practiced at it, this one classroom ritual accomplished a lot:
It reactivated thinking about today’s learning
It primed each child’s brain with an answer to the inevitable question… “What’d you do at school today?”
It was an opportunity for a quick, but powerful one-on-one interaction with every child at the day’s end. Over time, it helped build community and strengthen connections and relationships vital to a positive classroom climate.
KOTD quickly became an established ritual in our classroom. It provided feedback to me about ways that children were processing their day. It was each student’s ticket to leave and even if I had to do some prompting, no one was let off the hook. Throughout the day, children anticipated things they might later share as their KOTD. Sometimes during worktime, I’d overhear a proud pronouncement that something might be the “keeper” today. I familiarized parents with KOTD. It worked its way into our informal conversations, enabling parents to comment specifically about classroom projects or study themes. KOTD became a tool that helped children to think about what they thought about today, strengthening that important cognitive skill known as metacognition. Most importantly, KOTD became an invaluable tool for parents to have a glimpse into their child’s school day. Instead of “What did you learn today?”, parents could now ask, “What was your KEEPER today” and I think they got way better results than I remembered getting back when my son was in kindergarten. Proactive parents even used the strategy at home or on weekends, understanding the role that these kinds of activities play in extending expressive language skills.
As teachers, we’re always learning. KOTD is a small technique that reinforces a big idea: Thoughtful questions beget thoughtful answers. So if you’re looking for a simple strategy for deepening learning and extending thinking with your students, try routinely asking them a single question at the day’s end: What’s your Keeper of the Day?