Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: I Just Guess…
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Slice of Life: I Just Guess…

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“So tell me, how is it going with your reading goals?”

“Not so good.”

“Hmmm. Why is that?”

“Well, I’m supposed to use my strategies when I come to a word I don’t know, but I don’t.”

“Okay. What do you do?”

“I just guess.”

 It took all my self-control not to burst out laughing.   This may not be the best answer from a reading perspective, but from an assessment perspective I love it! I love that this student knows his goal and how he is progressing towards his goal. I love that this student is in a classroom environment that makes him feel safe to share how his learning is going for him. I love that he opened the window for me to truly understand him as a reader.

So often I find myself teaching the same strategy lessons over and over again. This reader made me realize he doesn’t need those lessons.   He knows the strategies and he even can show me how to use them, but in the moment he chooses to guess.

“That is really interesting. Why do you think you do that?”

“Well, usually it works. If I guess it is usually right and it does not take as long as using the strategies.”

“Can you show me how you guess?”

 He shows me how he uses the context of the sentence and the story to think about what would make sense. He explains how the word just comes to him when he guesses in this way. What is interesting to me is that he is actually using the strategies in his goal. He just does not perceive himself using them because the process has become more automatic for him. It does not feel difficult enough to be a strategy so he assumes he is guessing.

This reader does not need another lesson to see me explicitly model a strategy. He needs me to notice and name what he is doing as a reader. He needs me to validate what he is doing and show him that he is not randomly guessing –he is actually strategically reading for meaning.

Student errors are our windows into what to teach next. Objectives are important, but we also need to observe and listen to how the process of learning is going. Our readers need to check in with us, ask questions and show us what is working for them. When we take the time to listen and observe, as well as teach, we can differentiate our instruction to meet then needs of the learner. We find that the more we include our readers in assessing the process of learning the more we understand how to scaffold their next steps instructionally.

Clare

17 Comments
  • Avatar
    Maria
    Posted at 11:08h, 28 October Reply

    Love these two lines: ” What is interesting to me is that he is actually using the strategies in his goal. He just does not perceive himself using them because the process has become more automatic for him.” What a great reminder as we ask our students to practice strategies. They may know context clues, but how do they apply it? Also understanding that their language might not be mine. I need to be more aware of this as I do my reading conferences which happen to be one of my favorite parts of the day.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:36h, 29 October Reply

      I love conferring to – it is wonderful to hear their thoughts and take the time to truly understand how learning is going for them.

      Thanks
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Fran
    Posted at 11:10h, 28 October Reply

    Wow! That last paragraph says so much!

    Student errors are our windows into what to teach next. Objectives are important, but we also need to observe and listen to how the process of learning is going. Our readers need to check in with us, ask questions and show us what is working for them. When we take the time to listen and observe, as well as teach, we can differentiate our instruction to meet then needs of the learner. We find that the more we include our readers in assessing the process of learning the more we understand how to scaffold their next steps instructionally.

    observe
    listen
    process
    check in
    show us what is working for them

    Thanks for so much thinking! <3

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:37h, 29 October Reply

      Thanks Fran — I like how you put it into steps. I will have to think more about those steps!
      Clare

  • Avatar
    elle1955
    Posted at 11:23h, 28 October Reply

    Really listening to kids is so important. You have done it well.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:37h, 29 October Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your response.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Sue Umpleby
    Posted at 11:41h, 28 October Reply

    I love the inecthatvyou felt like bursting out laughing. Sometimes we forget how fun it is to be with kids. smiling and laughing with kids and making our joy visible….that’s as powerful as any strategy we will ever teach, I think.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:38h, 29 October Reply

      If nothing else we need to keep laughing and connect with our students. Laughter is so motivating.
      Thanks
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Julieanne
    Posted at 12:54h, 28 October Reply

    Oh what a great post. I love your reaction to him and the fact that you asked him to explain how he did it. Just guessing sounds so wrong but for him it was so right. He took what he had been taught and made it work. Exactly what we want, kids customizing their own strategies. Beautiful listening work!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:39h, 29 October Reply

      Thanks — sometimes guessing is not such a bad thing… as long as it is probably true!
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Tara
    Posted at 16:36h, 28 October Reply

    I love these lines: Student errors are our windows into what to teach next. Objectives are important, but we also need to observe and listen to how the process of learning is going.
    Sometimes we are in such a rush to get to the teaching point (or what we see as the teaching point) that we fail to do just this!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:39h, 29 October Reply

      I hope we all get more comfortable with the idea of allowing errors, even our own, to be windows into what we need to learn next.
      Thanks
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 18:32h, 28 October Reply

    When we take the time to listen and observe, as well as teach–beautiful, Claire & Tammy. Attention must be paid!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:40h, 29 October Reply

      Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Mary Lee Hahn
    Posted at 23:17h, 28 October Reply

    “Student errors are our windows into what to teach next.” –> Truer words were never written!!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:41h, 29 October Reply

      Thanks Mary Lee! We really want to slow down, make connections, and help our students remember that learning is a messy process. Hope all is well with you.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Dana Murphy
    Posted at 01:55h, 29 October Reply

    This had me smiling to myself. It reminds me of my 5 year old when I ask here “How do you know that?” and she answers, “My brain just told me.” You’re right that the student you described is actually being very strategic, unbeknownst to him! Interesting. Good powers of observation and listening you have. 🙂

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