Saturday, June 30, 2007

Teaching the Academic Essentials - The Finale

I took a day off from blogging on the conference to let it all sink in. Honestly - the last day of the conference was the best for - with rapid fire connections happening all over the place.


1. When discussing the reading process, we often speak about before-during-after reading activities. But more importantly - as teachers we need to think about what we should be doing before we give the reading, while the reading is happening, and after the reading is completed. Seems like common-sense but the planning page provided here, along with the matrix discussed in a previous post, really tied things together for me. We discussed our purpose for having students read certain text, thinking about how we wanted them to interact with the text and how to monitor those strategies, and WHY we had them do particular things after the reading.

2. We need multiple entry points to reading. Again - common sense but the visual that was presented was pretty powerful!! (I'll see if I can scan my notes!) Kids have lots of barriers to reading: lack of background knowledge, social/emotional/cultural issues, vocabulary, poverty to name a few. We need to be purposeful in structuring our before-reading activities to help all students access the text.

3. Thinking in three complicates things. Never really thought about this before - but as we progressed through examples, it really started to make sense. For example, we could take the current war in Iraq. If we made a simple T-chart of the perspectives of those in the U.S. for and against the war, our students might do this easily. It also forces them into an "either or" position - where they have to decide which camp they fall into. That could be dangerous - and narrow. So - let's add the perspective of the Iraqi people. That could complicate matters. Now let's add the perspectives of the various Iraqi people - Sunni and Shia. Now - let's add the perspectives of Great Britain. See how things become much more complicated and will involve a higher level of thinking? The more layers we add - the more complex the thoughts.

Jim Burke also had an afternoon keynote - which will be podcast soon. Some highlights:

4. Learning should be an "invitation to struggle." In his work on academic essentials, Burke keeps coming up with words like "grapple" and "struggle" and "wrestle" - and those need not be bad things. Back to the weight-lifting analogy, education is something we are all trying to get better at - so wrestling with these things means we are growing.

5. First and foremost, Jim Burke is a teacher and one who obviously cares deeply about his students and their success. Over time, he and the class have developed a set of principles that are practiced in the classroom, and eventually in life. Telling a series of personal stories, Jim shared the following with us.

Put yourself out there!
Do what you think you can't.
Success is never an accident.
Everyone must find their "thing;" all education is SELF education.
You are worth the effort.
Invest in yourself.
If you cannot SEE it, you cannot BE it.

Cross-posted on Grand Rounds.

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