Published August 27, 2008
My wife and I attended the State Fair and watched the steeple jumps. The announcer stated that a jump with a single bar is harder for the horse than one with a double bar. When the horse sees the second bar, he/she knows the extent of the jump. With a single bar, the horse is unsure of what is next.
Do we give our students double bar learning where they know the extent of their learning? Do we give them double bar learning where they know the depth of their learning. Do we do a teacher think-aloud to reveal the cognitive heights that they need to attain? Do we give them exemplars so that they clearly see the jump ahead?
Do you give your students one bar or two bar education?
Published August 21, 2008
I’m rewriting some handouts and I find that rewriting usually means add much more structure. What I thought was brillantly clear remains very muddy to the students as they begin to do their new pattern of writing. As I go over an instructional handout with the students, I mark in the margins where they “got” it and where they seem to falter or get confused. If they cannot move forward easily, then I have not explained it very well in the handout. When I see their final essay with this new pattern, I can tell whether the handout did guide them in becoming a better writing.
I now have broken the body of each pattern of writing into very large graphic organizer. I give them plenty of room to write their topic sentence for each paragraph, the various categories of evidence and the details of each category. I even number each detail so that they know how many are expected. If a pattern such as contrast requires a special format, I show that visually. I always include a paragraph exemplary.
I have now required a completed graphic organizer before I will correct an essay.
One of my students who did well in her writing revealed her secret, “I reread the handout, look at the example, and then use it as the model for my writing.” One of my students who did not do as well revealed her approach, “I pick a topic and then just write.”
What structure do you add to help students be more successful?
Published August 20, 2008
I purchased an electric mower. It works very well. It is much quieter and lighter than my previous gas mower. The only trick is I have to always mow away from the cord. I cannot retrace my steps.
Once I got into the zen of mowing, I began to wonder how often my students retrace their steps in my class. Does each class move them forward? Do they truly learn a new skill goal so that they can move on to a more advanced skill or goal? Do they continually grow not just in having more facts but in thinking about how to put those facts together? Do they become more critical in their thinking about the subject?
To be more concrete, in my writing course, do students master a skill such as using a topic sentence so that they can move forward or do they always make the same learning gap over and over again? I can structure my class so that they do not retrace their steps but they always move forward. I can provide feedback and exemplars that will move them forward. I can have brief direct instruction and mini-assessments to verify that they are not going backward but are moving forward in their learning.
How do you prevent your students from retracing their steps?
Published August 19, 2008
As I was watching the Olympics, I was torn between watching Phelps and May-Walsh. Phelps won a medal for each swim race he was in. May-Walsh had to play many different teams to advance in beach volleyball; no medals were awarded until the final match. Do we help our students to have short wins (the mini-goals within each standard) or do we wait until the end of the year for the long win? Do we structure our mini-goal assessments so that students can see how much they have learned (advanced)? Do our students feel like champions after each mini-goal? Do we celebrate their short wins? Do we have the students keep a list of all of their short wins so that they can see their progress on their learning journey? Let’s have our students win many Gold medals for their excellent standards-based learning!