Be Intentional - Touchstones 9-12 / by Tyler Wood

Item 9 - I make the most of every minute

Between the announcements, students coming in late or still finding their seats, to attendance and passing out papers or transitions and opening books, everyday can be busy with time that isn't used for learning. Sometimes it seems that time slips away during a class. When you thought you had enough time for an assignment, the bell is already ringing. Time management is crucial as a teacher. Time is an unalterable factor in class. Even block schedules don't necessarily fix this problem. What can we do?

One thing is to be aware of time. Do a time audit in class and see what you are spending your time on and how you can change it. A good place to start is by beginning before you enter the room. Account for every minute of the class when planning (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Intentional: Item 9, para 18). Planning for every minute doesn't mean you must keep to that schedule and skip over a teachable moment that arises, it simply means you are prepared for teaching from bell to bell and you have thought about your time and using it wisely. 

As the Khan Academy video pointed out, flipping the classroom embeds learning outside the time alloted for teaching and can help ease the time constraints, as well. 

Another idea is to provide activity stations, so the materials stay in one place and the students move, minimizing time to get out materials or change materials. 

When we start considering time, we are already on the path to better time management. You can even let the kids help you by having them engage in time auditing and seeing how much time they are learning in a class to get them more responsible for their own time management. click the button below for more about why time matters in school.

Item 10 - I help students develop deep knowledge

One way of losing time is after the students have been taught. Forgetting what was taught means we have to spend extra time reviewing items students learned previously. "Studies have found that students often forget about half of what they "learned" when tested on the same content weeks, months, or even years later, Semb & Ellis, 1994 (as quoted by Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Intentional: Item 10, para 3). 

Using the Six Essential C's we can help students deepen the knowledge and make it last longer. As the childhood comeback states, "take a picture, it will last longer." Indeed it will, and we need to give our students a picture of the learning, not just abstract ideas floating around and hoping they will seed, like pollen on a windy spring day. 

 - Curiosity. Keep the kids interested. We learn a lot better when we are interested in the topic. Ask anyone about their favorite things and see that idea in action.

 - Connection. Synapse is how we maintain knowledge in our brains, so making as many connections from a piece of information and previously held knowledge strengthens that knowledge.

 - Coherence. We naturally want to organize things, so don't fight that, help students make those connections to larger themes. Help them organize the knowledge.

 - Concentration. Spending all day focused on one thing can become exhausting, to help with concentration try and let students have a brain break. A siesta for processing information and internalizing it, then they will be more apt to concentrate on the next thing.

 - Coaching. Every Olympic champion had a coach, why not your students? We want students to learn how to do things on their own, but they still need guidance. Coaching them helps make it not about them versus you, but you helping them accomplish something you will both be proud of. 

 - Context. This is a commonly understood idea, using the knowledge helps you solidify it in your brain. We used to have to think to ride a bike when we first started, but now we can do it without a second thought. That can be done with any knowledge. You are doing it right now while reading this. You used to have to think to read words and sentences, but now you can read this as smoothly as I might have said it to you without thinking too hard. 

Using Goodwin & Hubbell's C's will help you be intentional with every step of the classroom lesson.

Item 11 - I coach students to mastery

The difference between an elite athlete and a good athlete is what they work on to get better. Elite athletes' coaches get them to focus on their weaknesses, they "practice [those] aspects of their performance that have the most room for improvement," Ericsson, Roring, & Nandagopal, 2007 (as quoted by Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Intentional: Item 11, para 4). 

Use techniques that make all the students understand the content before moving on. For example, students can do matching activities where each student will have to learn about one aspect of a topic and explain it to the group, but all the members must know all the aspects at the end of the exercise. This will engage every student, not just one who takes over control of the group, to master the knowledge and be able to explain and reiterate the lesson. 

Use assessments (e.g. quizzes, writing, in-class questions, writing questions on dry-erase boards, or 'thumbs up if you get it') to see how the students are getting on with the knowledge and review those ideas that are missing their mark. Click on the button below for more information on how homework can be used in a classroom for practice to mastery.

Not every child learns the same way, so make sure to offer many ideas for retrieving the knowledge to encourage students to think critically and to make sure all the students are being engaged with each learning style. 

Item 12 - I help students do something with their knowledge

As mentioned before, learning is leading to an end goal, usually some sort of real-world application. If students aren't seeing that relevance, they might not remain focused, stay engaged, or remember the skills. 

Help the students use the skills taught in class in real-world settings so they can take the knowledge out of the classroom and use it on their own. That is the whole point. At some point we want the students to ride the bike without us holding the seat. Give them the opportunity to engage with the world. 

In order to really help a student extend their learning a teacher should really focus on teaching how to learn, rather than facts and figures. There are many ways to do that. One such way is projects. Even though the research seems seemingly unconvinced completely on the subject, I have found it to be a real help in engaging the students in learning outside the classroom and inducing them into finding their own methods of problem solving. As stated, 'the point here is that one way to avoid project assignments that are "doing for the sake of doing" is to know, from the beginning, what knowledge and skills you expect students to have and what you want them to do with that knowledge in the project assignment' (Goodwin & Hubbell, 'Be Intentional: Item 12, para 25). I find the best way to be intentional is to make the very process of research the intent, and the content the secondary knowledge. The kids don't notice the learning focus and it gives the teacher the freedom to adjust the content for any class, age, subject, etc... For example, I gave my kindergarteners an assignment to help the class build the solar system. I gave them each a piece (planets or other bodies) to find information on, then they taught the class about it in a show & tell. The project came out great, but what my intention was was to teach the kids how to use a resource to find information, decide what was important, then share what they learned, in a word - research. The content could have been anything, it just so happened to be the universe theme month and the kids loved that. I wanted to use the subject they liked best so they would be more interested in finding the information on their own.

Another way that has really helped me was mimicking. This is how I learned to in-line skate. When I was a skater, I would watch hours of video of professionals then try and copy what they did. I had an example of what I wanted to look like and that helped me. If the kids can 'mimic the...masters in order to develop their own talents' (Goodwin & Hubbell, 'Be Intentional: Item 12, para 23) that would help them develop like I did with skating. It also has the added benefit of giving them an example to guide their learning.

As is common in most classrooms, I also use discussion. One of my favorite classes in university was a philosophy of biology class, but I can't remember the professor's name. I just remember having really interesting discussions with the other students. It was a nice mix of biologists interested in the philosophy of their field and philosophers interested in the science of the ideas. In my classes, I encourage discussion for an extra reason because I teach second language speakers that need more practice with pronunciation and fluid speaking that most native speakers have less trouble with. It also helps them with the very point of the language, to communicate, which implies talking in a conversation.

One theory of how learning will benefit students for the future is Connectivism. Watch the video for more information on the subject.


References

Focus on Effectiveness. (2005). Homework and Practice . Retrieved from Northwest Regional  

     Educational Laboratory. Retrieved from http://www.netc.org/focus/strategies/home.php

 

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from 

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012

 

National Center for Time & Learning. (2014). Why Time Matters.

     Retrieved from http://timeandlearning.org/why-time-matters

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