The Literacy Lowe-Down

A Newsletter for Watkins Teachers

January 2016

New Year's Resolutions

As we approach the new year, many of us are thinking about making resolutions. Whether you plan to make resolutions or not, we are all preparing for some big changes! Here is an interesting video about New Year's Resolutions, and what Dr. Mike Evans refers to as "changers."
New Year's Resolutions
As I watched the video, these things stood out to me as Attributes of Successful Changers:
  • Stop and Think
  • Be mindful
  • Support each other
  • Be a reflective learner
  • Set small goals
  • Learn from the past, but look forward to the future

While the video talked specifically about New Year's Resolutions, I think the same things are true about any change. Many of the words and phrases used are things we say a lot in the educational world, especially in this time of rapid change. As you think about changes you are making (or want to make) in your classroom, which of these attributes describe you? I would encourage you to keep these in mind in the coming year... I know I will!

Intentional Teaching

Linda Dorn defines intentional teaching as, "A conscious, deliberate act where the teacher attempts to influence the student's involvement in a specific task by arranging the environment so that the student's attention is directed to what is important, and by adjusting the degree of scaffolding to keep the student involved in learning from the activity."

Intentional Teaching means to:
  • Act with specific learning goals and outcomes in mind
  • Know when to use a particular strategy for scaffolding student success
  • Know how much help to give the student
  • Know when to let the student do the work
  • Assess for change over time and across different contexts

Intentional teaching is both an art and a science. We begin with specific learning outcomes in mind. Of course we look to the standards for these learning outcomes, but we must also carefully observe our students... What can they do? What do they need to be able to do? Where is their "cutting edge" of learning?

Then we carefully design lessons to move students toward independence with the skill. We model, and then provide guided practice, gradually reducing the amount of scaffolding and support. We are watching students along the way for signs that they are taking on the new learning. It's all about the cycle of planning, watching, and responding. If students are not performing a skill independently (even though we have "taught" the skill), it is often because we have not given the right amount of scaffolding. This is very consistent with the theory of the gradual release model!

As you begin the new year, I encourage you to reflect on the intentionality of your teaching using the bullet points above. At the end of a lesson, ask yourself: Am I teaching with intention, or am I just teaching???