Making Teaching (and Running) Stick
I have always loved running. I was an avid runner for many years. That changed after I had my second son. I struggled to find time with a 3 year old and a newborn. That is why this fall I have been trying to find a lasting running routine. I recently downloaded an app on my phone that has trainers who walk you through ways to get faster and stronger. In each session there is demonstration, gentle coaching, and words of motivation. With the help of these different training sessions I have found myself more determined to make my running something that happens regularly. This app has quickly become the glue that holds my running life together.
As I reflected on how running again became part of my life, I thought about the strategies that have become my “running glue.” And in reflecting, I realized these might be a way for my readers and writers to better hold onto the strategies I teach them. In thinking longer about this I was reminded of the book Making Your Teaching Stick by Shanna Schwartz. Shanna discusses the need for stickiness in our teaching to allow students to better hold onto what they have learned. She argues that students need to be actively involved and have lots of repetition in order to gain a better understanding of what we are teaching.
This led me to think more about my minilessons. Specifically, I zoomed in on the actual teaching I was doing. I started to think about how explicit I was actually being when I taught a concept or skill. I asked myself, “Am I challenging my students to also be active?” I began to change my instruction from “Watch me as I….” to “Watch me as I... and think about….” I pushed myself to clearly show and name each thing I was doing. “Did you see how I first……and then I….?” When it was time for students to try out a strategy in the active engagement, I planned for students to try out the strategy multiple times in multiple ways. I started to have them try out a strategy on a shared text, and then turn and talk to a partner. I gave them opportunities to try out the same strategy in their own text and again turn and talk. While this was happening I was not just coaching into a partnership. I was sharing my coaching with the whole class before giving students the opportunity to try out the strategy for a second time. I was creating more glue.
Another way I consider having more stickiness in my teaching is during independent work time. I need to give students the support they require so that the strategies I teach become part of their reading and writing lives. This summer I attended a reading institute at Teachers College with Allyse Bader. We thought about tools we could give students to support them with their independent work. Knowing each year I have a range of learners in my class, I imagined tools to support many different students. Here’s my list of what I might put in their reading and writing folders:
Copies of shared reading texts
Copies of guided reading books
Favorite picture books read alouds
Copies of anchor charts
Portable word wall
Copied portions of mentor texts
Copies of teacher demonstration texts
Copies of any shared writing the whole class has created
Copies of anchor charts
My next focus was on individual tools that I could give students in conferences and small groups. I began making mini versions of class charts to give students a visual reminder of the strategy I taught.
I also want my students to have a resource to access after our conferences or small groups end. I made tools I could leave with them. I started giving students post-its. Sometimes the post-it may be the strategy we worked on with specific steps. Other times the post-it may be a goal the student and I have discussed.
With all of this I have seen that the more I support students, with tools or extended practice for different strategies, the more I see my teaching stick. I now know that if I want to see strategies extend past the unit in which we may be working, I need to spend time reflecting on my practice, and thinking of ways to continue to make my teaching stick.
If I can do it in my running, I can do it in my teaching.