Doing Reading and Writing
Teacher’s College at Columbia has espoused the Learning is Doing tenet since its inception almost 30 years ago. But- when most of us are faced with up to 36 learners (or more) in a group, setting the stage for learners to practice reading and writing, or listening and speaking independently is a daunting management task. And this goes for facilitating a group of learners practicing anything.
Full Picture Planning with clear learning outcomes is a must. The real killer is finding, creating, setting up, and managing many activities for learners to practice the target skill. So, think like a sports coach or a band director.
Teacher as Coach
Last week in an Institute on Small Group Instruction and Conferring at TCRW, Cornelius Minor used the sports coach metaphor to emphasize how students must do the skill begin taught or required for at least 60% of most class periods. Coaches require players to run, pass, shoot, and block in specific ways at practice because players never learn to play just by listening and reading about techniques.
We teachers need to be coaches for reading and writing, along with listening and speaking. Learners need to be set up to do what they are practicing. Lots of planning and setting up appropriate practice tasks is vital: Readers read, writers write, second language learners speak, and second language learners listen.
But- all learners need to be given specific techniques and tasks to rehearse the target skill repetitively. No soccer player improves if the coach only shouts, “Play!” (Thank you Cornelius) Teachers of all sorts are faced with the work of breaking down skill techniques and creating tasks that are engaging and effective for learners. Not easy.
So, what do your learners need to practice for 60% of a class period? This is the Target Skill. Examples: Reading for details of the setting, Writing a thesis statement with a claim supported by evidence-categories, speaking about a thematic vocabulary set in a 2nd language, solving a type of equation.
What are some activities that rehearse the target skill? Examples. Readers create a map of a specific setting, then they write about it, Writers use thesis trees about their books, language learners work in partners on specific speaking tasks, math students practice equations with partners.
What are the techniques you will teach to learners? You are the expert! And- you can provide groups of learners with your tips on videos or in slideshows they can view independently. This allows you to circulate constantly to teach small groups and individuals.
The idea is for learners to Do the skills while you constantly circulate and conference with small groups and individuals. Check out Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop on Small Groups. Check out Cornelius Minor too.