Week 38: Things to Think About for Next Year

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For my last blog entry this school year, I thought it might be helpful if I highlight lessons learned to think about and remember for the next school year. While summer is suppose to be a time for teachers to relax and slow down, I know we can’t help but reflect and think about things to consider for the coming year.  I hope this short list will be helpful:

1.Begin with the end in mind.

This is also one of the seven habits of highly effective people according to Steven Covey. The implication for teachers would be to look at the Common Core and unpack what students are expected to be able to do. What does it look like?  What does it sound like?  When you know exactly what you are looking and listening for, you can intentionally address and adjust to what students need as instruction is happening. Here’s an example of what I mean.  You want to teach students what is active listening and how to respectfully have a discussion.

Student: Hey you stole my idea. I was going to say that.

Teacher: I can tell you are actively listening because you heard your classmate say the same thing you were thinking.  When you hear someone else say your idea, you can say, “ I agree” instead of saying he/she stole your idea. It’s a respectful way to let us know you were thinking the same thing.”

Capitalizing on teachable moments allows the teacher to assist performance as instruction is happening. Giving a specific praise lets students know what is the desired behavior.  It also provides an opportunity to model behavior for imitation.  Students learn what the standards they are trying to meet might sound like.  If you would like to know more about the means of assisting performance, I recommend reading Chapter 3 of Rousing Minds to Life by Tharpe & Gallimore.

2.Listen.

Given the example above shows how important it is to listen to what students are saying and doing something about what we hear in the moment to assist students towards independence. To assess what students also hold in their oral language and assess their thinking, I have had to really work on my listening skills and provide multiple opportunities for students to talk.  Strategically planning stopping points for me to stop talking and assess what students have heard and think so far became what my grade level colleagues and I have called Chunk and Check.  Listening to students’ output tells me if my instruction is effective or not. If not, I have to think. What can I do in the moment?  What could I do later in the day?  What might I do tomorrow?

3.Use the language you want to hear students speaking.

This goes back to the first thing on the list.  If you know what you want to    hear, then model, model, model.  When you think of level of assistance, this is the highest form.  For instance, when I don’t really understand what a student is saying, I model how to ask for clarification. Here’s an example. “Can you please clarify gangnam style?” As a side note, early in the year, if I think students may not know a word I’m using, like clarify, I would follow up with the definition, a synonym, or an example.  Often times, I will ask if anyone knows the word and would like to explain or define it for the class.  This is another opportunity for students to do the talking and more formative assessment for me to hear what is transferring into their oral language.

4.Analyze the process when the product is not what you hope to see.

Take the time to break down the steps when the product you see is not what you expect. Debriefing after a group has collaborated on an assignment will help identify where students need additional support.  When students are involved in identifying the problems and finding solutions, I think they begin to really learn about cause and effect in a meaningful way and natural consequences of their actions rather than the concept of reward or punishment when there are behavior issues.  When students know the process, they can independently produce the products.

5.Setting the purpose

Whether you are establishing discussion agreements and setting up the norms or giving a writing assignment, I think when students know the purpose, behavioral management becomes a means to teach social skills and academic communication skills.   I think at the end of the day, effective communication, in oral or written form, is the goal.  If everyone can learn how to get along, learn from each other, and work productively side by side to achieve a common goal then I think developing oral language makes the time well spent.

I certainly hope reading the entries in this blog has been worthwhile as it has been for me writing them week to week.  If there’s something anyone would like me to elaborate on or you have any questions or wonderings, please don’t hesitate to post your comment. Speaking of comments, I would also like to know what was helpful.  Here’s to a wonderful summer and best wishes for the coming school year! Carpe diem!

Comments

Florine Johnson's picture

I am a Teacher and the points you have explained in your blog will be very helpful for me to develop strong bonding with my students next year and to teach them well so thanks for posting this points that will be helpful for all teachers to do good work for their students.

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