Wow, it’s been two weeks since I’ve published a post here. So sorry for the silence guys! We have been in the process of switching locations from one WWOOF farm to another and we planned a learning itinerary along the way, all of which took up more time then I had anticipated. (For more info on what I’ve been up to, check out my other blog – RVing with the Raki’s.)
However, while we were driving I did have a little time for reading. I decided to read To Kill a Mockingbird, which I had never read and which is on my son’s list of books to complete a Self-Selected Novel Study on next school year. In the beginning of the book, the main character enters first grade already able to read and write, but is told by her teacher that she needs to forget everything she already knows because she was taught “wrong”. This teacher has a new methodology that will work for everybody and she is going to re-teach her “correctly”. The educator in my bristled so much while reading this. (Isn’t it funny how we never turn off that teacher lens?) There is no right or wrong way to learn how to do something! However, this runs very parallel to so many new programs around, including the Common Core. Devoting ourselves to only one program or way of learning tells students and parents that our way is the only way to learn something and they should just forget the ways they already knew.
In reality, anyone who has been in the classroom or who has worked with kids in any capacity knows and understands that each kid is unique. The strategy that helps one student understand might not be the right strategy for his neighbor. I have seen this over and over in my classroom and it is part of the reason that I have almost 600 resources in my store. Each time I saw something different that my kids needed, I created it and then I was able to give groups of students a choice between different but related resources and strategies.
For example, when I was teaching word families to first graders, our most important skill was to be able to read word family words. So I gave my students three word family centers to choose from.
Some of my first graders also came to me reading. They started the year with more challenging word families, things with complex blends and long vowels. They were never told to forget what they already knew, we simply expanded on their base.
Reading comprehension is a major goal for older students. When I taught third grade, we worked on reading comprehension in lots of different ways, with assigned reading, self selected reading, group reading projects. My students had lots of different types of opportunities to reflect on their reading through:
There is also no reason to re-teach students something that they already know. I’ve seen this happen a lot in Math. I’ve heard “Yes, your mom showed you how to borrow, but I don’t want you to do that yet. Next month, I’m going to re-teach you the correct way to do that.” This type of a statement breeds resentment and conflict between parents and teachers. Instead, how much easier would life be if we said “That’s so great that you already have a strategy for solving this problem! You are welcome to use that strategy if it makes sense to you. Today we’re going to learn a different way to solve that same type of problem. See if you can conquer both strategies, so that you will have extra tools in your Math tool belt, but if you don’t you can continue solving problems using your strategy.” There are so many different ways in every subject to do the exact same thing. Our children only benefit from knowing multiple strategies. However, they also need to be aware that it is a GOOD thing and that comes back to teacher attitude and perceptions. If we tell them it’s awesome to have multiple ways, they’ll believe that. If we tell them that their way is wrong and our way is right, they’ll believe that too and fight what already makes sense to them. When I taught in Morocco, many of my students came to me already knowing how to do long division, but their long division didn’t look the same as my way of doing long division. Instead of fighting the process, they taught me how they did long division and I made these posters so that all of my students could learn all the different ways to do extended operations.