Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Saturday, August 3, 2013

We Need to Talk...

This week I spent three days....well, actually two and a a really expensive conference. It was fabulous, even though I have a problem with the how much they charged.

One of the biggest take-aways I had from this conference is that I need to be more specific in knowing and having my students know what the targeted learning goal is for whatever we're working on together in class. For several years now, my kiddos have written down their learning goals and we've worked toward mastery on them. Often, though, it would be written down and then not looked at or talked about for several days or even (embarrassingly) longer. We would be working on the learning target, but that goal wasn't probably always in the forefront of my kids' minds. I don't know, maybe it stuck there because we were working on it, but it would be much more effective for them to ALWAYS have that learning target in their brains so they achieve total, deep, and complete mastery of that targeted learning goal.

For example, I know my fourth graders must master two-digit by two-digit multiplication. This is a skill we laser-focused on and twice a week had kids in small groups according to mastery (or non-mastery) for intervention and enrichment. I sincerely believe this fall when they begin multiplication in fifth grade, the fifth grade math teacher will NOT send up a moan because half the kids don't get it. Hopefully, instead he'll high-five the kids (and their fourth grade teachers!) because they have complete mastery and deep understanding of this essential skill.

However, that one learning target is just one of how many?? There's my dilemma. We are seeing and hearing that we need to focus on deep learning, not on "inch deep and mile wide" learning. Pick the important things and ensure every kid understands them deeply. That is the objective.

So what is important and essential in learning? The "I Can" statements from the common core include every one of the standards. That, obviously, is NOT going to get at the imperative learning. There are twenty-two standards in reading alone! If we were to "focus" on each of those, the kids would have to gain mastery of each one in a little over a week. Keeping track of them would be a nightmare. That doesn't even touch on the standards in writing! Plus that, I want my kids to love reading and writing. I don't want them to be bogged down with tracking twenty-two plus learning targets. So which of those standards are ones they HAVE to know and which ones are NICE to know?

(Caveat: I've read the standards and I teach them. I intentionally blend more than one together to get a bigger bang for the buck. However, that's not the point I'm struggling with.)

What I'm having a hard time nailing down is how I get my kiddos to understand,

"This is what I need to know and this is how I can show I know it." 

It's that meta-cognition of the targeted learning.

I work in building with 100% dedicated professionals. I'm VERY fortunate. Our principal is extremely supportive and motivational, and he's also a lifelong learner. I am also very fortunate to know through twitter, Nerdy Book Club, and other professional connections some really smart teachers. So I would like to get some dialogue going through twitter, or whatever means we can. Here is the question I'd love to see us all wrestle with and dialogue about:

In your grade level, which of the standards do you deem as the top two, three, or four, non-negotiables for our kids to learn at their grade level?

Our goal is to ensure that every student learns at high levels. Our assumption has to be that the teacher(s) from the previous grade level was operating under that same goal.

Could we talk about this? Please send feedback here and/or on twitter! @suz_gibbs #edessentials

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