Monday, October 3, 2011

How to Challenge All Learners - Running in the Rain

I have a new respect for the student athletes who choose to run cross country.  This past weekend I stood in the gusting wind and driving rain to cheer for runners from many area districts - including Bay.  More than 200 of them competed on a course consisting of rain slicked grass, shoe-eating muddle puddles and gravel.  I saw runners covered in mud - running with one shoe on and carrying the other. I saw a lot of determination. I heard a lot of encouraging words as teammates  supported each other along the course of the race.  I watched coaches yelling out times at intervals on the course to give runners feedback on their pace. They all finished the race, even those who in the end needed to walk to the finish. At the finish line, they high fived each other and talked about the giant puddles they had splashed across or the narrow woods where they couldn't pass. They shared their success. They all finished because they felt value in running the race. For most runners this is intrinsic. For some, the promise of trips to Dairy Queen at the end of the season might be enough to drive them through the season.

As teachers, I think we can learn from cross country runners.  Students need to be challenged in our classrooms.  They need to know that if they struggle with learning new materials, they will be better as learners in the end. We need to set up a learning course for them that provides these challenges at a level that is appropriate for the diverse learners we face each day.  Our classrooms need to be places where students are given the chance to support each other. As teachers, we need to let them know how they are doing along the way. We also need to make sure they have had the basic foundational work they need to meet the challenge of new material.   Clear Learning Targets are one way to do this.  I was sitting in on one of Darryl Innocenzi's Assessment for Learning sessions this past week.  One of the discussions focused on using I CAN statements as a way to help students focus on what they need to learn and what they already know.  In his example, a teacher provided the students in her class with a list of I Can statements for their next unit.  She had the students circle the I Can statements they felt they could already do.  She had them rewrite the remaining statements as I AM LEARNING TO statements. This gave her an idea of what scaffolding she might have to put in place to support some students- and what ladders she may have to build to allow other students to climb higher and stretch what they already know.  As we move through the next few weeks, focus on challenging all of the students in your classroom to stretch their learning.

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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the Five Hallmarks of Good Homework article that you have linked to your October 3rd post. In a recent staff meeting, we watched a video clip with Rick Wormeli discussing the practice of assigning homework to a class. He mentioned differentiating homework. The practice sounds intriguing, but I am wrestling with how to construct possibly three to four different homework assignments for my over 100 students. For those familiar with Everyday Mathematics, I can see assigning journal pages to some students, Study Links to others, maybe others can share a video with how to solve a problem from that day's lesson, or others can post to the class blog or even create review questions using Google Docs where they have to provide the correct answer in the Help section in Google Forms.

    To be able to do this effectively and efficiently, I would have to recruit the help of my colleagues to cut down on the volume of work that I would be taking on with this task. Also, heavy modeling would be needed for those students creating Google Forms and videos so that they don't stray too far from what is expected. If the goal of homework is to empower our students and build confidence, differentiating the tasks should become a norm rather than a once a month practice.

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