Hey guys! Tara here from Looney's Literacy just popping in to share how my summer school program is going so far! We're working hard and having a blast!
I used to stress over my lesson plans to the point of almost having a script that I could read from directly. I thought I had to have every moment planned and ready to go before my students walked in the door. I laugh at myself now because even back then I never followed the "script" I had planned.
I'm sure it's no different in the classroom but with my experience in an intervention setting I learned very quickly that flexibility is key to a successful classroom. For many years I thought I was being flexible and allowing my students to guide the lessons. I was able to go with the flow and could analyze thought patterns on the go. I was mastering pulling materials and teaching "in the moment." But there was still that part of me that was working harder then the kids. I was looking at teaching backwards. I was guiding the thinking and only using "closed questions," or questions that imply that there is a predetermined "correct" answer. It was driving me nuts because my kids weren't thinking critically and I couldn't understand why.
So I started studying Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. (It's a must read if your ready for your students to start working harder then you). I'm not going to bore you with the logistics of my planning (You can find that post here later ;)) But I do want to share with you how this study has transformed my intervention program.
Ask Essential Questions
Just like I've always done, I began planning for my summer intervention program by collecting year end data, analyzing each student's scores and determining appropriate standards. With this info in mind I decided to practice what I had been studying about asking essential questions. Essential questions are open ended questions that cause conversations, encourage critical thinking and problem solving.
I began by asking myself what was my goal for my students at the end of this three week program. I decided I wanted them to understand why we read and write, why it's important to understand words and how they work and how we can become better readers and writers.
I created notebooks for them so that they could brainstorm and have graphic organizers to take notes during discussion.
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And most importantly, I created questions that would have them thinking critically while addressing my goals for them!
The first day was hard! I figured out how often they rely on me to ask literal questions so I that I'd guide them to the "correct" answer. I got a lot of "I'm confused" and "This makes my head hurt." I knew immediately I was doing the right thing by answering them with "I don't know." or "What do you think?"
Have Students Guide Their Lessons
This was tricky for me. Like I mentioned previously, I want to have everything planned. Now don't get me wrong. It is our job to build the structure of our lessons. But that's not what makes a house a home. The floor plan, the walls, the nooks & crannies; that is what makes a home. So build your structure and let your students add the finishing touches. They take ownership and they gain critical thinking and problem solving skills. It's a win-win!
My goal for one of my older students this week was to understand the main character and his role in the theme of the story we read. His interpretation of the theme was very literal as was his description of the character. So I asked him to decide how he could think more deeply about the main character and the theme.
This goes hand in hand with students guiding their lessons. This is the step needed before they decide how they need to proceed to reach their goal. Student self-reflection can and should be a formative tool used to aid in offering effective feedback that will promote deeper thinking and problem solving skills.
This can easily be done before a lesson or as an "exit ticket." I've given prompts to guide students in a particular direction and I've left it wide open to the students perspective of how they are doing, what they did well and what they need to work on. Both ways serve their own purpose and both can be beneficial.
On that note, I'm going to sign off. I hope this finds you in a place that you might find some tips to help you in your classroom.