Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How About A Big, Warm Cup of "Nope"?

Sometimes, it turns out that I’m not as brilliant as I wish I was. (I know. Big shocker.) Sometimes, it takes me more than once to learn something.

I think I’m not the only one.

My daughter helped remind me of this. She’s in first grade now and she has terrible handwriting. It’s pretty illegible. Her teacher even commented on it last week. (Not that mine is ALL that much better...)

So what do I do? Well, I’m a teacher! And I try to be a good parent! I’d like to help her with this. Not knowing much about teaching first grade or about teaching handwriting, I go to the internet and find some worksheets.

Here’s how I envisioned helping my daughter work on her handwriting.
Step One: Give her the worksheet and time to work on it.
Step Two: Check on the worksheet.
Step Three: Handwriting improves due to practice. She is rewarded with a little extra TV time.

Uh, nope.

Here’s how it actually went down:
Step One: Give her worksheet
Step Two: Check on Worksheet. Handwriting is still illegible. But there’s more of the illegible writing there on the page now. More illegible writing.
Step Three: Handwriting doesn’t improve at all. She wants extra TV time anyway, since she put in her time and effort.

Out of frustration, I email her teacher,
“Dear Mrs. Teacher. We have been working on handwriting at home but it doesn't seem to be improving. Any suggestions?”

Her teacher emails me back, “It’s great that you’re helping! Here is the first grade handwriting curriculum that we use. Maybe that will help!”

Great! A better worksheet!

And then, I click on the email and open the attachment.

Uh oh. This is not going to go the way I had envisioned.

Image result for teaching real teaching is messyIt sure looks like ... REAL TEACHING

Because I can see that, instead of a worksheet where we just do MORE of the same not-helping activity, instead the curriculum is
  1. Gradual Release-based
  2. Requires teacher (or parent in this case) to do the gradual releasing.
  3. Way, way better than getting a worksheet off the internet.

So we tried it. We sat down and I showed her how to form each letter. I read the script (did you know that there is a particular way to describe the formation of each letter? Me neither!)  We talked  through where on the line each letter begins. I modeled how to form each letter. She wrote it in the air with her finger and then wrote each letter on the line while I talked her through the process. THEN, we went back and evaluated the all letter “e”s we had written and re-did a few that weren’t up to par.

It was hard work, for both of us.

But, slowly, sooooo slowly, it started to pay off. Her letters are better formed. They aren’t up “in the air” or all over the page. They rest on the line like they’re supposed to.

So here’s what I learned.

  1. Sometimes, a kid doesn’t need MORE of the SAME to get better. Sometimes, they need it re-taught, probably a little differently.
  2. Worksheets rarely help kids actually learn, as independent work.
  3. Gradual release really does work amazingly well for skills.

When was the last time you DIDN’T get something on the first try? (It’s ok. It doesn’t mean anything bad. Just that you’re human and not perfect.) Was it using “Unify”? Was it a new lesson plan template? A piece of technology? A dinner recipe? A type of exercise?  A home improvement task? (I know it takes me three tries and four trips to Home Depot every time I try a new home improvement task...)

Horatio Caine - How do you know what to reteach? Use formative assessmentHow do you decide when to reteach? Is it ... the result of (whipping off my sunglasses) FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT? (Bam! Flashbacks to September’s Formative Assessment Month! Eeeooowwww!!) How DO you reteach concepts and benchmarks where your kids struggled?

We’ll get more into the nitty gritty next week.

As always, I love to hear from you! Email me and talk about reteaching.

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