There is something about the end of the semester--particularly after you return from Thanksgiving--that has the tendency to feel stressful and harried (not like curly hairy...but crazy harried). When we come to the end of the semester it can be nice to think back on everything that we've covered and see student growth. The flip side of that coin happens when you think back on everything that you've covered, and maybe you feel some confusion.
- Do you feel like you've covered more than your students have retained?
- Do you know you've taught something, but you're not quite sure when and you can't really say how?
- Do you get frustrated when you clearly remember a lesson and your students don't?
As your semester winds down and you begin to reflect over a job well-done, perhaps its also time to consider a different approach if you find yourself frustrated about any of the questions above. One of the biggest challenges in offering skills-based instruction in ELA is narrowing your focus. It is difficult to narrow the scope of your lesson and to keep that sustained focus. When I work with teachers, I like to use the following model to develop targeted teaching that provides flexibility and opportunities for rigorous active learning. Think of your lesson in these three parts.
Chunk: Use recent data to choose a specific teach piece that you want to target and write a kid-friendly learning objective. Examples include:
- We will take a position and generate examples for support.
- We will list conflicts in ___ to determine possible themes.
- We will determine author's purpose in two similar articles.
Chew: This is the flexible portion of your lesson. I like to think of it as being very elastic in that your grouping format will change, your time frames will vary and your level of facilitation or direct instruction will fluctuate depending on the objective and the amount of scaffolding necessary. Find the best student-centered activity for the job. Think about using items from our Curly Classroom Mayday Menus that might help.
Check: Closure is crucial. And closure is a bit of a misnomer. I don't believe closure comes at the end of a lesson. Instead, it can come at the end of your teach piece before you allow students to grapple with the concept. Remember that you're not looking for mastery when you do your check for understanding. You're putting your finger on the pulse of the room. It informs what groups you target and where you spend your time as you facilitate.
These steps will not solve all of your problems. Students will still falter, but you will have a more clear idea of what you taught and when. And that makes for a happier teacher!