12 Mar Slice of Life: Finding a Connection #SOL17
I was joining a first grade team for writer’s workshop the next day. They asked me to work on writing reviews with their students. I live a good distance from this school and this was my first time teaching this particular group of students. I wanted to find a topic to review that would connect with them.
I know how important it is to connect with your topic when writing a review. I wanted to engage these students in the lesson. The team identified that these writers need to work on using reasons and examples to support their opinion. They provided student writing samples to show me that students need to learn how to back up their idea with specific examples. I looked through some of the games, toys and DVDs I have at home. I did not know what these students liked and I wanted to use something most of the students were familiar with so they could try adding reasons and examples. It is difficult to provide reasons or examples if you are not familiar with something. I decided to pack a lot of things in hopes that something would work.
Later that night I was organizing for the next morning and googled my destination to determine my departure time. As soon as the map popped up I discovered the perfect topic for reviews:
This is a small town and these are two places all students know well. I even found some reviews online I could use as models.
It seems small but I felt so much better knowing I would connect with these students. I knew how to teach the content of this lesson – I have taught it countless times. The teachers provided me with assessment data to identify the specific needs of the students. I adjusted the anchor lesson to focus on their instructional needs. I had mentor texts from other students and a review of my own to share. Somehow, I still did not feel prepared.
There is more to teaching than identifying an objective using formative data and planning your instructional moves. These are important, but we also need engagement and connection. When I think about my learners beyond instructional needs, I believe the focus shifts from teaching the objective to teaching students an objective. I shift how I launch a lesson based on the students sitting in front of me. Lessons should be many moments in time. When we connect those moments with each other and with who the students are as people, we truly engage.
I am sure my toys, games and movies would have interested these students. They would have been excited and maybe even familiar with some. It just felt like the lesson was more about me than them. It makes me wonder about the amount of time we spend thinking about our instructional connection with our students. Do we hear our voice in the lesson? Do we hear their voice in the lesson? Does the lesson matter, truly matter, to you and your students? How can you make it matter?
I see a lot of attention in schools being focused on developing targeted objectives and I Can success criteria. While this may bring clarity to instruction, we can’t stop there. We also need to ensure engagement and purpose. I wonder if I Can relates to I Care or I Want or I Will. I know I learn more effectively when I purposefully connect with those around me. If nothing else, I know someone is thinking about me and that often makes all the difference. Can we be both standards based and human based? Can we be both rigorous and engaging? Can we remember we are teaching objectives and kids?