Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers
We are halfway through reading workshop, period two in our sixth grade day. Period one was writing workshop, but its work spilled over into the next period and we just kept going.
Kids are spread out all over every work space – desk tops, reading rug, floor and even out into the hallway. The place, quite frankly, looks a mess. Since all our laptops are busy being used elsewhere in our school, we are working on photo essays the old fashioned way – big sheets of easel note paper, magazines for pictures, markers, and scissors. In between stretches of purposeful work (gathering pictures, framing a story, reading for information to add to the story, sequencing the narrative, and putting it all together) there are short bursts of tomfoolery (wise cracks, someone practicing using someone else’s crutches). There is a steady hum of conversation punctuated by the occasional snort or laugh. We are working hard.
Earlier in the year, first and second marking period for instance, the scenario would have been very different. Group projects then were often agonizing efforts, and some of them were entirely fruitless. Turn and talks needed much prodding, and book club conversations needed careful supervisions. It was exhausting.
Watching my kids at work this morning, I thought about this Tweet from last week’s Good to Great chat:
In my Voxer conversations with teacher friends, we talk about this transfer all the time. The reading and writing part goes hand in hand with the thinking and living part. But, teaching the reading and writing and thinking, we always agree, is easier than the living. Teaching the living is messy, makes-you-want-to-pull-out-your-hair-work, because it is so unpredictable and progress is often unpredictable, with fits and starts and stops along the way.
And yet, the richness of our classroom lives depends upon this work. How carefully do our kids listen to each other? How deeply do they care about valuing each others’ ideas and making room in their thinking for their classmates’ thinking? How often do they give each other wait time? With what frequency and depth do they dip into their toolkits of strategies to help themselves, and each other, move through the difficult work of every day learning?
Cornelius’ Tweet led me to the work of Grant Wiggins, and a quote from an article he’d written many years ago, which I’d copied into my curriculum plan book:
Independent and self-regulated behavior is practiced all the time, not postponed until many discrete “sideline” activities are done over many lessons. You have to practice transfer to master it!
Have learners practice judgment, not just skill. Transfer is about judging which skill and knowledge to use when. Transfer is thus not about plugging in a “skill” but “judgment” – smart strategy – in the use of a repertoire of skills.
Grant Wiggins: What Is Transfer?
Practice and judgement. Perhaps this is what Cornelius was referring to in his Tweet. We must make every day opportunities for practice and judgement, even when it doesn’t go as planned, even when we think we’re wasting time…
…because, as I look out at my kids working together, I know it was all so worth it. Cornelius is right – our work is also about prepping our kids for life, and it is such important, worthwhile work.