Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 3 Question 2 Chapter 6

In Chapter 6 “Lesson Design: Creating Lessons on Principles and Practices You Believe In”, Debbie Miller is an advocate for the releasing responsibility instructional model. This model is one that requires teachers to do their own thinking and not rely on teachers manuals to think for them.

Miller describes on p. 82 that when she was using teacher guides and textbooks they studied “everything and nothing flitting from one topic to another.” She says “with intended outcomes and gradually releasing responsibility to students flitting was no longer fitting.” I can remember many times teaching something because I was “supposed to” and asking myself why I was wasting precious time. She discusses the importance of thinking through the focus of the lesson, its importance to the learners, and making connections from the lesson to prior knowledge. We all recognize that when learning is relevant to the learner the potential for success increases.

As educators we understand the importance of students sharing in the responsibility of their own learning. Essential to that is fostering an atmosphere that encourages students to be responsible for their own learning which generates students that are more engaged and self-directed.

Share your personal strategy or strategies for encouraging students to accept responsibility for their learning.

The lesson design model involves putting the following in writing: What is the focus? What do you want students to learn? Why is it important? How will it help students? How do I use this myself? What connection can you help students make?

What value do you see in working through this process or a process similar to this? Do you think the value would be great enough to warrant the time?

9 comments:

  1. Share your personal strategy or strategies for encouraging students to accept responsibility for their learning.
    My personal strategy differs with different students. Some of my students need more support when they are learning to accept responsibility for their learning, while others only need a small amount of encouragement. For those who need encouragement, I sometimes pull them aside and talk to them about their amazing abilities (possibly sight an instance) and show them how THEY are learners. I may confer with them during the process of learning a new idea or concept to ensure that they are encouraged. Some of my students are learners! They love to learn new things, explore, and are confident in finding new information. When my students get discouraged or frustrated with learning new things, I talk to them about how we can use what we know and try to not be discouraged. I have seen many students rise and learn so much more because they had to overcome their frustration and figure it out.
    What value do you see in working through this process or a process similar to this? Do you think the value would be great enough to warrant the time?
    I think that there is value in working through the process that Debbie Miller presented. I think that it could get time consuming, but I feel like planning now is time consuming as I try to find different activities to engage the students in learning. I think that it warrants the time, but there isn’t much time to spend. I work hard to present and teach my students to the best of my ability. I think that it would be worth trying to see if I see a significant change in my students and myself. I think after a while, it would become second nature to go through this process when planning. I would like to see how a FULL day of learning would look on paper for Debbie Miller. What does a math lesson look like? Science? Similar/Different? It would be interesting to see a daily schedule, etc.

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  2. I first would like to address this comment: “I can remember many times teaching something because I was “supposed to” and asking myself why I was wasting precious time. She discusses the importance of thinking through the focus of the lesson, its importance to the learners, and making connections from the lesson to prior knowledge. We all recognize that when learning is relevant to the learner the potential for success increases.” I could not agree more. I do have a teacher’s guide music series (which has not been updated in quite some time), which I refer to at times for different songs/recordings, etc., but I have never aligned my curriculum with that of the teacher guides. Why? Because every child is different, and every class is different: their interests, what makes them tick, what gets their attention, and their learning styles. Not only that, but being tied to a curriculum/time schedule physically and mentally limits opportunities of “teachable moments” in any given class, and does not hold us accountable to reflect on whether or not the learning which is taking place is really relevant. I believe tying too closely to teacher guides/textbooks just makes it too easy to fall into that category of teaching something because I am “supposed” to.
    Share your personal strategy or strategies for encouraging students to accept responsibility for their learning.
    This, like most questions, applies differently to a music environment. Because a lot of what is accomplished in here is group oriented, it turns into a group responsibility. I constantly encourage students to LISTEN to each other when they perform, so they can stay together, blend together, work together and cooperate. I don’t often use an individual-based incentive system, except for in extreme cases (since I have over 700 students, this would be impossible), I instead use a class-by-class incentive system. This reinforces the group mentality and responsibility. When it is time to address individual learning, I give “solo” opportunities (singing, performing, etc.) in class and during programs, I give specific pointers to help them improve on particular standards, I look for opportunities to talk with them outside of class, and I provide many opportunities every music class for students to take responsibility to “run” a part of the music class. Most importantly, when a student asks a question that I know they can find the answer to, I DO NOT GIVE THEM THE ANSWER. Students too often just expect to be told what to do, and wait for answers to be given to them; they need to learn how to find the answers, and then ask more questions. Curiosity is a great door to responsibility.

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  3. How do I make students responsible for learning? First, like Bethany I also write my own curriculum so I have the responsibility of making it interesting and meaningful for students in the different concepts and subject matter we focus on for each lesson. The students in a large part are responsible for guide the direction of the creative aspects. Students may work at their own pace with set deadlines, knowing that they may need to use of their time outside class to meet deadlines if they fall behind. I also play the “devil’s advocate” with my students. I do not believe I am helping them in any way if I solve creative problems for them, instead I will encourage through questioning, for students to come up with their own creative solutions. Occasionally students need to deal with the consequences of their choices in how they try to solve those problems. It makes me sad when students want to be told how to solve a problem instead of searching and experimenting to find the answer on their own.
    Working through the process – anytime you are allowing the students’ time to absorb and apply learning, it is time well spent. As far as the actual process, I do something similar to Debbie Miller, but not just like her. I get to the application part more quickly with the idea that students will still have problem solving to do before creating. Debbie Miller discusses “thinking out loud” several times. This is one thing I DEFINETLY do, partially because I believe I am to learn with my students, they give me new viewpoints and opinions and I enjoy sharing that experience with them.

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  4. To encourage my students to be responsible for their own learning, I try to talk with them one on one to see how they are doing. When it came time to test each of my kindergarteners for report cards, I used the opportunity to let them know how many more sight words they knew or how much further they counted than before. It was wonderful to see the excitement on their faces as they took in how much they were learning and growing. Instead of competing with one another, they would encourage each other and congratulate their peers for doing well.
    As far as using an instructional model similar to Debbie Miller's, I would love it! Unfortunately, I've never been in the position where I've been able to use that kind of instructional model. Even though I followed a specific curriculum, I like to believe that I've differentiated the material to be appropriate for each student. I was able to implement some of her ideas more when I used to do Writing Workshop with my students. I would have really liked to plan the entire day out using a model more like Debbie's instead of a stricter curriculum.

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  5. I am going to answer the second question first because I was evaluated twice this week. In BV, when we are on an evaluation year, we have to have a preconference and hand in an official lesson plan before each observation or set of observations. For whatever reason, I start doubting myself and consequently tend to think about the lessons I am going to be observed on much more deeply than I might normally do. This time I'm getting observed teaching math lessons. Since we use Everyday Math and the sequence of lessons is laid out, I admit that I worry more about making the lesson accessible to my students than questioning why we're teaching the lesson in the first place. Therefore, I do believe that the lesson design process would be valuable. Alexis mentioned seeing a full day's learning on paper. I agree that to try to go through this process for every lesson of every day would be time-consuming and probably unrealistic, at first. But, like any new idea that we implement, we usually have to start small and add on as we are able. So, maybe starting with just writing or just math until you get into a routine and then add another subject area that you want to make sure to look at more deeply. After a while, I agree, it should become easier and closer to being second nature.
    As for teaching students to accept responsibility, I tend to turn a lot of the students' questions back on them. If they ask a question, I ask them where they can find the answer or how we've found the answer in the past (along the same lines of thinking as Jessica and Bethany). I don't take "I don't know" or "I can't" as answers. If they tell me they don't get something, I ask questions to try to get them to pinpoint what it is that they are not understanding. Many of my students excel in thinking up excuses and passing responsibility onto others - "my mom wouldn't help me with my homework", "my dad didn't give me my medicine", "you didn't mark which problems I should do so I didn't do it". Therefore, we are constantly discussing how they can take more responsibility in their own learning and in their own success. I also share my students' IEP goals with them. How are they supposed to achieve their goals if they don't know what they're working towards? This makes them realize they have a part in their success, which unfortunately a lot of students don't seem to understand. They still think that grades are just given to them rather than earned.

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  6. Encouraging students to take responsibility is very difficult with kiddos who are struggling. I have found though that when I am honest with them and let them truly know how much I care, and am willing to help them they will give me more effort. Reading Recovery is a beautiful scenario to make this possible. My students really learn to trust me and understand that I will never ask them to do something that they "can't" do. Therefore they become willing to take responsibility and put forth their best effort in the safety of my room. I have found with older students like forth graders making goals and having very specific expectations helps them take on responsibility. I am always tracking fluency and that is easy to share with students. They are genuinely excited to see their growth. When working on written response I start the lesson with examples of previous student work both strong and not so strong. Together we look at them and determine why some are better than others and what the kids can do to make their responses most like the strong examples.

    The lesson design model that Debbie uses is fairly involved, but quite valuable. I don't follow this model, but I do something kind of similar. When planning I really try to focus on what does this student or group "KNOW" Then I think about what do they "NOW NEED TO KNOW". I think it is important to do this because so often we do get bogged down with everything that they need to know that we tend to bounce around without thinking about what they need "right now". I don't typically write this thinking down though, and I really think that is something I need to try and do to make it more permanent in my mind.

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  7. On page 82, Miller states, "Children and I flitted from one topic to another - it was like we studied everything and nothing." I feel like this all the time. I know we're told that mastery is more important than hitting everything. It's so hard to ignore the test that is looming over us and to not worry about making sure we cover everything. Maybe with using the process of lesson design, I won't feel like I'm "flitting" from one place to another!
    Personal strategy for encouraging responsibility - In my classroom, when we're trying to figure something out, I often help the students to come to their own conclusions about how to find the answer. I ask lots of questions like, "What do you think we should do?" or "How do you think we can find the answer?" I think this helps them to take responsibility for their learning. I am going to think more about Miller's lesson design when planning lessons to be able to get the students to ask more thoughtful questions and to show them the relevance of what we're doing in the classroom, though.
    Is this process valuable - I do see extreme value in the process of thinking through lessons this way. The lesson design process through the gradual realease model is a great way to make sure that you're getting everything you can out of a specific lesson. I know that I would not be able to put it all in writing though. Spending that much extra time on lesson planning makes my head hurt. However, I do think it's necessary to think through the steps.

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  8. The lesson design model involves putting the following in writing: What is the focus? What do you want students to learn? Why is it important? How will it help students? How do I use this myself? What connection can you help students make?

    I use some of parts of this lesson design model when I am planning reading. I always have a focus. I usually have an idea of what I want my students to learn. But, sometimes I plan a lesson that is too much too soon and I may need to break it down more. Other times what I want the student to get from a lesson is not what they get from it. They have a different understanding. But, their understanding is still beneficial and meaningful. I know in my head how to the lesson will help this kids, many times I forget to verbalize this to my students. To make the lesson more meaningful, I need to verbalize the importance of the lesson first. But, sometimes I want my students to tell me why what we are learning in meaningful. I like to think to myself how will this help the students. This is my first year teaching second grade, so sometimes I do not know how this will hep the students until after the lesson. I think a lot of my planning falls into my reflection. Then, I build on that.

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  9. I try to work with my kids all the time on their responsibilities as learners and on their problem solving skills. Some definitely grasp it faster than others, but I don’t know that I have a specific strategy for this. Some of my kids came to me this past fall trying to ask me about everything under the sun, from “I don’t have a pencil. What do I do?” to “What’s this word?” to… you name it! I’ve worked continuously on getting them to recognize and gain confidence in their own intelligence and also on helping them gain confidence in their independent thinking and work skills.

    And I'm with Bethany on the idea of not giving them the answers that I know they can find or they can work with a classmate to find. I try to save my perspective or ideas on things until after I've gotten information from the kids first.

    Lesson Design: I think there is a lot of value in the process. I think it definitely would take some time, especially the first few times through, but I think after a while, it would start moving more quickly and smoothly. I think it would be beneficial to the reflection process, too. Of course you’ll think about the actual lesson, but I think if you have these forms, you can use them in your reflection and make notes of changes directly on them for follow-up lessons and/or for future use. Then, in subsequent years of teaching, you could refer back to this information either to help guide you through it again, like in the instance Beth Ann was talking about, if you jumped too far ahead and need to step back a bit at first. Or they could remind you of strategies you’ve used and may have forgotten or would like to try again.

    After reading Chapter 7, where Miller says, “I usually began the week with one, but subsequent lessons unfolded naturally based on what I’d learned from students,” the lesson design seems less overwhelming. I think it would still take some time getting started, but it makes more sense to me to use it as the jumping-off point for a strategy/concept, then using what you learn from your kids and from your reflections to construct follow-up lessons.

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