Slice of Life Tuesday: Prepping our kids for life

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:

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 8.39.32 AM

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.


15 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Prepping our kids for life

  1. I love this post Tara! I’m struggling with this idea this school year. Having a hard time getting my 3rd graders to listen to me and each other, to think before speaking and acting, to be kind. I try to weave these ideas in all we do. It’s not going all that well…

    • It’s such a hard time for the younger grades, I think. And we go until the end of June often, so I can imagine that you feel as though the road ahead is long and that things seem awry. But, we don’t always see the fruits of the work we’ve done in these last weeks of school – so much is going on! I feel this, too. But sometimes, as in the moments I wrote about today, you see little slivers of all the work you’ve done, you see that you have moved your kids forward. And that’s all we can do, really, notice those moments and celebrate them…because kids are kids, and it won’t last 🙂 It takes time to grow kids, doesn’t it…but you started them on their way.

  2. All that challenging work of building community does pay off. What a view of your class you share! Wish all kids had the opportunity to experience living.

  3. Definitely important work! I especially like how precisely you described the current classroom activity compared to beginning of the year. Sounds like under your guidance, they have come far and ARE ready for life. Congrats.

  4. This spoke to me, “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…” Practice and judgement. I think it was Trevor on G2Great who spoke about decision making. The decision has to be theirs for transfer to occur. Ownership in the decision creates lifelong learners. Thanks for this post. I always enjoy watching you think.

  5. Reflections like this “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,” are why I love to read your posts. You share the realities of day-to-day work and those times to celebrate along the way. Today was one of those times.

  6. “You have to practice transfer to master it!”
    “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…”

    These two lines say so much! Not only about students but for ourselves as adult. Practice transfer – I think of all the skills I am working on and know that transfer is what I am seeking. Then I know I have really learned or owned the skill I was learning. A great post! Thanks –

  7. This is a fabulous quote from one of my favs….. It really is about how we practice and learn so that we can transfer and grow. This is the point of the year when we see the evidence of what we do

  8. Looking back, the teachers I remember most (and most fondly) are the ones who had the ability to make reading and writing about real living. That connection made me feel like I mattered, and that my life choices mattered. That’s not a small work. It is a great work that you describe so well. Thank you.

  9. “Worthwhile work,” indeed. I can hear the beautiful hum of your students working. Transfer will never happen if we don’t have the courage to step back and let kids engage in the messiness of real work. Thank you for sharing moment of learning, Tara!

  10. Well done, and on today, Teacher’s Day, Tara. I like this a lot, and these words “even when we think we’re wasting time…” The process works even messy & exhausting, and that is one thing that students learn about living, not just school, that it is messy & (often) exhausting.

  11. Good thoughts. Grant Wiggins says some good stuff. You made me pause to think about “mastery.” …When they do it without you asking them to. When they remember without prompting. When it shows up as they draft. When everything about it seems natural. When it has become their living, who they are … and judgment is such an important component to being successful.

  12. Fabulous post…as usual! I can’t wait to share this with some 7th grade teachers I know who are new to the Workshop model. They will love to hear about the light at the end of the tunnel, as the students grow throughout the year. Practice and judgment! Love it!

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