Common “Cor” Standards—#10 of 10: Lift Every Voice

All the talk and writings and legislative proposals about the “Whole Child” and “No Child Left Behind” and the reauthorization consideration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Common Core State Standards and other federal and state mandates to improve teaching and learning are just so much rhetoric unless we actually have in our hearts the well-being of each and every student in equal measure to that of our own children and grandchildren. This requires that we know who is teaching each child at a personal level, which in turn requires our involvement as parents and grandparents and principals and superintendents on a direct, person-to-person level. No evaluation instrument, no matter how statistically reliable, can replace the “formative assessment” of a direct conversation with a teacher about an individual child.

In Time to Teach, Time to Learn: Changing the Pace of School, I put it this way, “Every student’s voice is as important as any other’s voice. My standard is that every voice is known and heard equally over the course of the year” (p. 291).

—————————————————————————————————————

This is my last blog post at www.yardsticks4-14.com. After nearly 300 entries, I have left behind a storehouse of opinion, resources, and references about children’s growth and development and the classroom climate and culture that best suits them at different ages. I hope that this information has been and will continue to be useful to parents and teachers alike.

I would like to especially thank Elizabeth Nash for her editorial assistance throughout the several years of this venture. I’m also grateful for the support of Mary Beth Forton, Jen Audley, and numerous others in the publications department of Northeast Foundation for Children.

I may be reached in the future at cwood180@comcast.net.

In the spirit of children, best wishes.

Chip Wood

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#8 and #9 of 10: Play Is at the Heart of Learning

Part of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

Children know the difference between a heavy heart and a happy one. They are usually happy when they are playing, and in such a state they are most open to learning. That is why play is universal.

Up until the 18th century, many people believed there were periods in history when children in Western countries were treated as if they were miniature adults. But that’s a belief with little support, except that provided by accounts and artistic depictions of aristocratic families. It is true though, that in the West, childhood was not written about as a distinct period of growth until around the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today, we seem to be in a period of confused understanding about childhood. On the one hand, parents are generally protective, loving, and devoted to their children; on the other, parents often have to place their children in the collective care of others from a very young age for long periods of time so they can go off to work to earn money to care for the children and themselves.

Parents also enroll their children in schools from a very early age to learn the skills they will need to become productive adults. Most societies in the world today value the place of education in a school setting as necessary and important for their children. (At the future’s edge, both home schooling and virtual education are growing influences.) But in today’s so-called advanced societies, children in schools are again being increasingly being treated as miniature adults, with little time provided for play, amusement, or just plain fooling around (what scientists call exploration and experimentation).

Some people think that this reversion to the earlier way of thinking about children is necessary if they are to succeed in the future adult competition between countries in the global marketplace. Competition is modeled and taught to children by families and schools that give primary attention and importance to winning in competitive sports at all levels and to winning academically through grades, test scores, and “racing to the top” as fast as possible.

# 8: Play is the messenger from the body and heart to the brain

Children are in motion from the time they are born. They quickly learn it is fun to move. It makes you feel good. It gets you places and it makes you laugh and others laugh. If you move too fast or get too silly you might fall down and hurt yourself. “Slow down,” Mom and teacher say. “Pay attention.” Spontaneous, outdoor play—running, jumping, screaming, climbing, make-believe, and pretending—was once thought to be the essential birthright of children both at home and in school. No more. Now it is a PE break to “get the wiggles out” and get back to the business of learning, seated at a desk or in front of a computer screen, just like the adults at work.

#9 Play is a positive and enjoyable structure providing cognitive clarity and solid executive functioning to the developing brain

Games in art and music combine physical and cognitive activity to enlighten the brain. Guessing games, puzzles, board games, mysteries, word games, experiments—all require a playful mind and deepen discovery and knowledge acquisition. But these days, there’s no time. Test prep, formative assessments, and achievement tests require teachers to turn children into data bites informing their ability to “raise scores,” just like the adults in professional sports and the stock market.

Children as miniature adults copying patterns in the modern world of grown-ups. Or children as new adventurers on the frontier of knowledge and discovery with guidance from adults who value the role of play and childhood in school and life. Which do you want for the children in your life?

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#6 and #7 of 10: Daily Practice and Reflection

Part of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

#6 Daily Practice

Repetition of foundational skills is highly regarded in the fields of art, music, physical education and sports, even video gaming. A vast array of studies report the difference in student performance on tasks and tests requiring memory recall when students spend time practicing their knowledge through recall activities (such as flashcard programs) as opposed to simple homework study review.

A Common “Cor” Standard for the classroom should be the provision of time for students to work in pairs or on the computer on a daily, routine basis. Such discipline, built into daily classroom life, provides a way for students to consolidate and gain confidence in their acquisition of tools of writing, computation, spelling, and vocabulary development. If instructional time is primarily devoted to new material without sufficient practice time, gaps in learning multiply quickly. This is a problem often hidden in plain sight of pacing charts that often do not account for adequate practice time.

 

#7 Daily Reflection

Students also need daily practice with the social and emotional skills that are necessary to process academic learning, which is why reflection needs to be built into the end of instructional periods as well as the end of the class day. The skills of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control (CARES) require conscious attention and feedback to students from teachers and an increasing level of self-awareness on the part of students gained through self-reflection and class reflection. (See these brief summaries of Dr. Stephen Elliot’s research on the Responsive Classroom approach—scroll down to numbers 3 and 4—and read about a tool that Dr. Elliot and Dr. Frank Gresham devised to measure children’s growth of these skills.)

Homework, if used well, can serve as another form of reflection on learning, but it is only useful and motivating for students when the reflection on work done at home is part of the instructional routine in the classroom.

 

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#5 of 10: Sustaining Oral Fluency

One of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

Children are at risk of unfulfilled memories. Memories are built from stories and life experiences recounted again and again. Today, in school, time for out-loud story-telling and “read-alouds” at any grade level is shrinking or disappearing. Fables and tall tales, for instance, are shrunk into basal readers and recounted as answers to comprehension questions that match standard expectations. How many teachers today actually have these stories in their own memories sufficiently to be able to tell them to their students without referring to a text?

Taking a full half hour after recess and lunch for a quiet period when the teacher would read out-loud from a beloved chapter book was once one of the most sacred times in the elementary classroom right up through sixth grade. Teachers protected this time because they knew how to teach from the text of such books as Charlotte’s Web  or A Wrinkle in Time  or Bridge to Terabithia about new vocabulary, scientific understanding, and emotional intelligence. These topics and ideas did not need to just be taught and siloed in science class or on weekly spelling tests or during a formal social-emotional learning program because they were being richly woven into children’s memories and imaginations through thoughtful discussions and wonderings.

Children’s memories are also stored in music, art, and kinesthetic experience, from dancing “play party” games to orienteering activities and from songs like “Over in the Meadow” or “Abiyoyo”  or “John Henry.” Finger-painting, pointillism, and origami also build memory into the nervous system.

In the rush to fill children’s memories with factoids to successfully recall and recount on standards-based achievement tests, we are forgetting to leave time for the heart of the matter.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#4 of 10: Practice Makes Per … sistence

One of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

No, no one is perfect, especially not in elementary and middle school. Learning counts on that fact. New learning requires risk-taking and mistake-making over and over again. This is the stuff of adventures and discoveries … in the pages of a book and in the lens of a magnifying glass.

Why do so many children learn how to fold an 8 ½” by 11” piece of paper over and over again until it takes flight? What do they learn through this repetitive behavior? Why do children draw and paint the same flower or face or kitten again and again, skip the same rope over and over, repeat the same rhymes, sing the same songs?

Such are the links in learning from one schema to another in the developing brain. Practice of any kind honors mistakes and growth and leads to a stronger mind and heart, willing to take on more challenges, to value achievement of all kinds, and learning the right amount of risk: One pull up at a time, the next move on the balance beam, the next page of writing, trying out a chapter book.

How will the child’s capacity to embrace the idea of practicing fit in an era of prescribed standards and external expectations? Will there be room for “habits of the heart” as well as of the head?

In a truly engaged classroom, practice work should be displayed—, not just the best work. Daily practice in writing and vocabulary development, math facts, drawing, and reading out loud create the foundation for learning more complex content and the capacity to represent what has been learned in meaningful ways.

As an adult learner, what daily practice enhances the work you do, adds joy and spaciousness to your life? Strengthens your persistence and makes you confident it’s OK not to be perfect? How can you pass on that knowledge to those you teach?

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#3 of 10: Helping students develop their own standards for work nurtures critical thinkers

One of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

This “Standard of the Heart” is about creating the conditions for students to become self-motivated rather than just relying on your external expectations for how many sentences to write, how many problems to complete. (For a sense of what children are capable of at various grade levels, look into the chapter for your grade/age level in Yardsticks.)

When students start asking, “How long does this have to be?” they will keep asking right through high school and college. For a wonderful resource on the role of teacher scaffolding to create intrinsic motivation, read Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education (2nd Edition) by Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong. This is one of the better sources for understanding how to get students to reach up rather than settle for “that’s all she said we had to do.” Another is No More “I’m Done!”: Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson. Both of these books contain pedagogy that extends well beyond the primary grades and will give teachers of upper grades plenty of ideas to extrapolate from.

Many teachers create rubrics to help students know what is expected for work completion with examples of meager, ok, pretty good, and excellent work or lists of what would be contained in work turned in at various levels. I think such rubrics work well for high achievers but actually help unmotivated students settle for less, because they do not yet aspire for themselves. I have known very bright students who will say, “If I get an ok, I’m not going to flunk.”

Some children do need “contracts” to “kick start” learning motivation. Such children may be “reluctant” learners or special education students. If you struggle to keep up with such contracts, see Ruth Charney’s Chapter 15 in Teaching Children to Care: Classroom Management for Ethical and Academic Growth, K–8.

In the end, critical thinking requires heartfelt motivation that comes from the choices and mistakes students make and our capacity as teachers to help them learn from those choices and mistakes. That both takes courage and builds courage.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#2 of 10: Teacher Knowledge Facilitates Student Knowledge

One of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

“Teacher Knowledge Facilitates Student Knowledge”  seems like such an obvious overarching Common Core Standard. How does it relate to the Common “Cor” Standards I am introducing that inform the heart of teaching?

Teacher knowledge facilitates student knowledge when the teacher values every question any student asks. Valuing every question goes way beyond the overused, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.” To value a question is to pause when it is asked and hold it in your heart for a split-second or two, rather than giving in to the temptation to ask a leading question. What could this question mean to this student? Where is it coming from? What is a good, honest, open question I could ask in return?

Teacher knowledge facilitates student knowledge when the teacher doesn’t answer every question herself. Would this be a good time to ask the class to pair up and discuss this child’s question and then facilitate a discussion about what the class comes up with?

Or maybe other students can handle this one: “That sounds like a great CQ (Conference Question). Your group might be able to really help you with that one. Bring that up as soon as you are in your group, OK?”

Teacher knowledge facilitates student knowledge when the teacher is prepared with adequate resources from which students can derive their own answers. Perhaps I have some ideas I’d like to give to the student privately rather than answer her right in front of everybody. “I have some ideas about how to explore that question. See me once everybody is working independently.”

What if I call a 5-minute research break, pass out index cards, and see what students can find by way of answers to the question in their literature anthologies, their dictionaries, on-line or elsewhere? What will our discussion be like after such a break?

Teacher knowledge facilitates student knowledge and is a combination of content knowledge and pedagogy. Pedagogy is artful knowledge applied with heart-full awareness. Mixed with rich content,the results are powerful.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.

Common “Cor” Standards—#1 of 10: Learning Is Inside the Student, Not the Teacher

One of a series on the real “cor,” or heart,  of all good teaching.

Every student we teach is a learner. As teachers, we plan lessons and rubrics, convey concepts and content, assess what students know and understand at the beginning of a unit or lesson, along the way, and at the end. Our goal is to engage every student and be sure they can all demonstrate their learning.

We already have learned the basic content of what we are teaching. This gives us a particular vantage point from which to learn more about each of our students as we facilitate their learning. What we learn about each student and the class as a whole then allows us to adjust how we teach and how much more we need to teach a particular standard or set of standards to some students or the class as a whole. Out of such teaching, of course, ultimately comes deeper learning for the teacher, too. It’s what keeps us coming back for more because such teaching feeds our sense of autonomy and our professional capacity to teach creatively and dynamically.

In a breathtaking video that is an extraordinary example of Common “Cor” Standard #1, master teacher Sarah Brown Wessling, notes “I’m not the ultimate evaluator here. I’m really their coach.”

Please take the time to watch this amazing clip from Sarah’s high school English Lit Classroom. Note the Common Core linkages on the right side of the screen and sit back to see what Sarah calls “the Core at its best.” Then apply what you’ve learned to the next unit or lesson you’re planning, at whatever level you’re teaching. You have seen with your own eyes that learning is, indeed, inside the student.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION!


Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!

—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry

—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.