Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Slow Down for Practice

I've been thinking a lot lately about the pace at which I teach, especially when it comes to writing time.

The list of skills and strategies students must learn is a mile long.

Every day, I teach a mini lesson. We practice it. We talk about it.

The next day, we repeat.

I hope (wish, pray) that my students will learn the daily concept and apply it to their writing, magically transforming themselves into expert writers by the year's end.

But the truth is that in 5th grade, I still have students who cannot identify a fragment from a complete sentence, tell the difference between dialog and description, and can write five pages without a paragraph's indent in sight.

Why don't they get this? I frustratingly wonder to myself.

Maybe....it has something to do with pace.

Yes, mini lessons are important, but so is practice time. Students need time to practice and play with the new concept, to take ownership of it. If we are constantly rushing to the next lesson without allowing time for this to happen, it's no wonder that some kids can't write a coherent paragraph when they get to high school.

I'm going to try to be more aware of how much practice time I offer my students before moving on to the next skill.  My hope (wish, prayer) is that with more time, my students will internalize more writing moves that will help them grow into strong lifelong writers.

16 comments:

  1. "Why don't they get this?" -- yep, I can hear that in my head at times, too. It might be pacing. It might be developmental, too. It might be that some things that we teach don't quite click yet. It could be all sorts of things. That doesn't mean we, as you do here, don't wonder, what else can I do?
    :)
    Kevin

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  2. This is such good thinking here and that's why you are an awesome teacher! Balancing minilessons and practice is tough. You are listening to them! You'll find your way. I have faith!

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  3. Thank you for writing this! I am glad to know that I am not alone feeling like this!

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  4. It is something to know, Jennifer, and then make changes as you see fit to make it different. That "complete" sentence challenge came up with my middle school students, too. Sometimes I thought it was hurry, because when I investigated individuals, they could choose the correct, and complete, sentences. I'm glad you're wondering and imagine you will make changes when needed.

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  5. This is so true and something I feel like we can relate to at any grade level! We are constantly directed to add more and more to our curriculum. I believe that exposure is great, but at what point do we need to take a step back and allow more time for our students? I think you nailed it right on the head when you mentioned development though. Would the time really be beneficial or is exposure and move on more developmentally appropriate? Questions I'm sure we all ponder!

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  6. I find myself asking a lot of these same questions, especially about pacing. I think teachers often feel pressure to maintain a certain pace so that they can finish what they're expected to. I try to remind myself that depth of knowledge is more important than breadth of knowledge. I would rather have my students possess a deeper understanding of the most important skills than a superficial understanding of more skills. Although it's not built into our curriculum, I find myself taking the time to review previously learned skills throughout the year. This spiraling of skills is a great way to reteach skills that students may not have fully mastered and to give students more opportunities to practice. I find that it helps students to make connections among various skills as well.

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  7. Jennifer, that is a good plan. Isn't the old adage: practice makes perfect? While we don't expect perfection, we do hope for progress toward being a better writer. Have fun figuring this out with your class.

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  8. You are on the right track by questioning what you see in your class. I know you will ponder this and be aware of what makes a difference.

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  9. The Houghton Mifflin reading curriculum we follow has week long units. We are suppose to cram in the story, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar lessons all in one week and hope our students have learned everything they were suppose to! There is also a writing component in this curriculum which I refuse to follow because writing lessons require more than a week cram session. I think pace is very important but every student is so different. I have students who understand everything I teach the first time and are ready to work independently and move on to the next lesson. Other students could spend days or weeks working on the same skill until they have mastered it. How are we suppose to keep the pace of our curriculum moving when we know we are leaving students behind? Will there need to be a change in education in order for it to be more individualized and meet the needs of all students?

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  10. This is a conundrum the teachers I work with face, too. I often tell them that sometimes we need to slow down to speed up. As you say, kids need time to practice and consolidate new skills. Your students are lucky to have such a wise teacher!

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  11. Wise reminder that, besides curricular goals, pace can and should be within the locus of control for us learners. One size doesn't fit all, and likely neither does one speed. Thanks for thinking in writing, Jennifer.

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  12. So Wise! I agree pacing is an important part of teaching. You do an amazing job in your classroom with addressing students needs. Glad to have you at Star !https://principalspoints.wordpress.com

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  13. Yes, Yes, Yes!!! Student practice is key. When we look at the gradual release of responsibility model it shows that this needs to have the most time dedicated to it. All learners much have time to learn how to strategically and flexible use the the knowledge and skills we are teaching. Thanks for the reminder.
    Clare

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  14. Great practitioners reflect on their practice and that is exactly what I think you are doing. I often ask myself the same questions and believe that it often comes back to a discussion that seems to continue resurfacing.....readiness.Practice makes perfect :)

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  15. This is clearly an issue at every grade level...and maybe every age. Of the many author visits that we have had over the years, every author has talked about HOW MUCH TIME it takes to get a book published. And once it's accepted, then the EDITOR comes in to make changes. Maybe every one of us needs a personal editor!

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  16. i feel like this is a question i ask myself quite a lot. maybe its the amount of time.

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