How to Teach the Standards Without Standardizing Your Practice

When I was in the classroom, I always felt it was unfair that my students did not get to showcase their empathy, social and emotional growth, and ‘real-world’ problem solving skills on their reading assessments.  I was always bothered that I was the only one that got to witness some of the most genius reflections, questions, and teamwork that occurred throughout the school year; moments that made me so proud to be their teacher that I would just sit back and watch.

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As an instructional coach, I have worked very hard to make sure every teacher notices the growth in their students and encourage them to celebrate how far they were able to take their students- no matter the end result.

Unfortunately, teachers have to defend their practice/craft, get pushed into a completely different direction than what they truly feel is best for their students, and then get judged for student performance on 1 assessment. No teacher wants to ‘teach to the test’ but when students are successful on this standardized assessment, teachers and students are applauded and given a pat on the back for a job well done.

We want to teach students to become readers, writers, and mathematicians.  We want to teach our students to become THINKERS; unfortunately, that is not assessed.   We don’t see students as a test score- please don’t look at us as test scores-  It is important that, as teachers, we do not get pulled into the demoralization that our society likes to generalize as ‘Today’s Teaching”.

We are in charge of the social comprehension, the culturally responsiveness, and the application of the standards, so that this generation of students can be better than the last.  Here are 4 easy ways to push your students beyond those standards.

  1. Teach Students to Survey, Question, and review the text- Once students learn to question the text, they begin to become active partners in the reading.  The engagement and recall of the information is at a much higher level. This will allow for comprehension and shaping new meanings.  Two strategies that help students become readers…
    1. PQRST
    1. SQ3R
  2. Teach Students Strategy Transfer- No one student is alike, and thank goodness, and with that no one student learns exactly the same.  It is vital that students are given a ‘toolkit’ of strategies to pull from.  For example, when teaching theme, it is important to showcase a few strategies and allow each student toimg_0068 attempt and experiment with each one until they find the strategy that helps them.  If they are comfortable with a strategy, they will use it (it will transfer into their everyday reading th3dyelrzcmetacognition).
    1. Jennifer Serravallo and Penny Kittle are both authors that have helped this practice become concrete for the classroom teacher.
  3. Give students Choice and Voice– I know this is not a new concept, but it is one that will never be less important.  When we sit with our students to set goals or to conference about strategies it is important that their voice is heard, that the conversation is driven by them.  We can provide choice simply by allowing them to choose their book, their goal, or their place to read.  There are so many classrooms out there that are pushing the flexible seating, the project-based learning. STEM classrooms have popped up everywhere, and the workshop model has become the practice of choice.
    1. Explicitly teach Social and Emotional Comprehension– in the last few years, students have become very standardized and have lost the ability to self-regulate and problem solve in social situations.  Social stories, growth mindset conversations and learning conditions where kids can ask those tough questions should be apart of every classroom environment. Instead of waiting for students to be in the middle of a difficult social situation or an emotional melt-down, why not give them to tools to maneuver through when they have the capacity to do so; when their brain is not in fight or flight. A few books have started the conversation…
    1. The Growth Mindset Coach by Annie Brock
    1. Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed
    1. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond

Education is too important to standardize. A student’s future is too important to place inside of a generalized box to demoralize the job that we do as educators.  Just a few teaching practices can help make sure that we are teaching BEYOND the standards.

 

 

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