Thursday, June 28, 2007

Teaching the Academic Essentials - Part 2

Top 5 take-aways from today:

1. "Discussion improves comprehension, increases engagement and enhances memory when it is structured, purposeful, meaningful, and constrained by time. Even one minute of effective classroom discussion shows measureable benefits to student learning." This was a nice reinforcement of what a CSETL Fellow has been sharing in her work with academic discourse, as well as a reinforcement of my belief that learning is social. While much of my learning during this workshop has come from the presenter, I have learned a great deal from those folks sitting around me, in part because the presenter has worked discussion into our day on a regular basis. It is a refreshing change from rushing through material. If I feel that way - I can only imagine what it will do for kids.

2. "You have the men you have - and it's up to you to make them into the soldiers you want them to be." This quote (or something like it!) was attributed to George Washington but it makes a great deal of sense about education as well. Whenever I hear teachers complaining that students don't work hard enough or won't do this and can't do that, I get a little angry. We should be teaching with the belief that the students in our classroom can succeed - or we have failed. I have always said that parents send us everything they've got - they aren't hiding the good ones/the smart ones at home! It is our job to teach each and every child that we are gifted with.

3. Most teachers, particularly those at the secondary level, don't know what we do when we "read" - it just happens to us. We, as teachers, need to be more explicit and transparent with our students and bring our process into the class. We did a great activity in the session today after reading a "complex" piece to chart visually our reading process - what we did when we didn't understand things, how we made connections to comprehend. This reflection was very helpful to me in thinking about how I have taught reading in the past - but also how I might be able to do it with teaching writing as well. I need to ponder this a bit - but you can bet there will be more to come!!

4. There are many different kinds of text and we use different strategies when we read them. I have known this - as I believe that each content area has it's own literacy. We read different things in social studies class then in science, math, and ELA. I needed to teach my kids how to "read" political cartoons, maps, newspaper articles written in the 1800s. Charting out what I do for each of these different texts will help me when I work with teacher and primary sources.

5. I don't like Yeats. I'm kidding - sort of! We did a great activity at the end of the session using "The Second Coming." The discussion around the poem and the strategies that we used were invigorating and inspiring. If I could open a school with the people sitting in that room today - the kids would be engaged and all see success. I am still tortured by the poem and what it means and the fact that I didn't get it the first three times we read it (not sure I still get it but I've read enough Internet reviews to fake it!!) Jim Burke made a great analogy today when we compared learning/reading to weight lifting. When you lift weights - you want to lift a weight heavy enough to cause fatigue. That allows your muscles to grow. If we don't challenge kids with difficult text - and teach them to navigate problems - they won't grow as readers. I might not like Yeats but I loved the discussion today!!

Cross posted on Grand Rounds.

1 comment:

katied said...

I enjoyed reading your take-aways...I am a firm believer in the power of conversation even for our youngest learners. Thanks for your insight!