“Chouchou,” “consentido,” or “class pet” is an old and universal problem. Elisha Babad documented the subtitles of teachers’ behaviors for decades and found children as young as 6 perceive differential treatment.
Some principles and strategies that work to avoid this problem:
- Library time. Often teachers are perceived to give more time or more positive feedback to traditionally-successful readers. Plan time to chat one-on-one with lost kids milling around the library without a book, while your successful readers (“teacher’s pet” types) are reading independently.
- Change up your seating chart and make sure you give small reading groups equal time. The students sitting nearest you (feel they) get the most attention and often achieve more. Constantly move your back row to the front.
- Avoid class jobs or consider rotating jobs. All Kindergarteners know, being line-leader matters. Similarly, with Learning Experience Approach or co-created stories, one student gets to be the “story driver.” You can certainly seek ways to rotate or share these roles equally, but this often introduces the problem that some students are more vocal leaders, some are quiet. Also, how many Kindergarteners (or high schoolers) can wait six weeks until it’s their turn? I recommend avoiding class jobs or special leadership roles during whole-group time. A more natural, egalitarian leadership tends to evolve in student-led literary circles or small group time without direct teacher intervention.
- Periodic Assessments should notice all children, especially struggling learners. Each time you observe something noteworthy, consider jotting down your observation (successes or struggles) on a Post-it. Stick Post-its in each child’s records page, alphabetized in an class binder. Flip through your binder monthly to find students you notice less. Anecdotal records can be helpful with administrators and parent conferences and help you cut down on high-accountability testing.
Note: a huge thanks to Dr. Beniko Mason for this and many other practical lessons.