Ms. Teaching and Mr. Learning are Holding Hands

Hi, as you may know, I was hired in Hamtramck, Michigan, as an English as a Second Language Teacher. I have about 85 “high level” English Language Learners on my caseload (from 4th to 8th grade). I travel every half hour to a different classroom. It’s an awesome job.

While reflecting on the New Year, I thought to state how I might “teach” if I was teaching one core subject over the long-term. Here it is:

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Part 1: Introducing a Chapter Topic: Classroom materials address standard educational content. On the first day of a new chapter, address all the vocabulary. When you talk about each vocabulary word, explain “the story” behind it and its relevance to the class topic. You may “add” vocabulary words when explaining “the story.” Take questions from students that are relevant.

  1. Write the vocabulary words on the board (students transfer)
  2. Write definitions on board and expand on concept as helpful
  3. For each word, write it in a “helpful sentence”
  4. Students talk with a partner, or table, about a new sentence, jot down.
  5. Call on 5 students to state their sentences, and provide new adjectives / grammar.

Example:  1. Environment = the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.

1A. = The spectacular science teacher demonstrated that plants need light to grow in their environment.

1B = [two students write] Birds need trees in their environment.

[teacher verbal response] Birds, in their natural environment, often live in trees, yet some birds live in people’s homes—without a tree!

Finally, STOP the exercise five minutes early and have students audibly test one another on spelling the vocabulary words correctly (partners). Students may use scrap paper to write the word out (visual learners will).

Part 2: Read the Chapter: Read the Chapter (by teacher or students). Stop class at teachable moments, relate the readings to the previous vocabulary discussions (Part 1) when helpful.

Part 3: Concept Reinforcement: Teacher shows videos or images about the class topic and debates the issues. Students might take notes in their vocabulary notepads, perhaps writing down three important facts from the video—using three vocabulary words. Learning is often about “making students think” in your “learning environment.” Instead of videos, you may provide a “handout” that reinforces the class topic. The “Jeopardy” game counts as a concept reinforcement exercise.

Part 4: Student Demonstration: Students engage in cooperative learning exercise. My simple formula is to divide students into groups of 4. Each student takes on a specific role (teacher assigned or student self-assigned). The roles are:

  1. Moderator: the moderator (on scrap paper), records the roles that each person is assigned to and writes down their “progress report” every five minutes. The job of the moderator is to act like a group leader and to quietly work with everyone to solve their task during the entire process.
  2. Artist: the artist is in charge or drawing the group’s topic as a visual presentation. This may include pictures, big words, timelines, charts, symbols, cartoons, etc. (back of scrap paper). The art may be passed around during the presentation (if small writing important) or simply held up by the artist.
  3. Writer: the writer (on back of scrap paper) will describe the concept / topic as it should be read to the President of the United States (better sound good!). Short three paragraph essay. Introduce the topic in the first paragraph with definitions. Provide examples of the concept / topic in the second paragraph. The final paragraph describes the concept as a whole with a real world application… “[the topic] is important to us today because…”
  4. Speaker: The speaker will work with the writer to make a successful product and, most importantly, the speaker will orally provide the report to the class.

At end of presentation, the moderator staples the project together and turns it in for the teacher to comment on or possibly to record as an homework grade. This allows each role to be graded individually, and it is generally a good idea to ask students to grade themselves (and to raise standards per new chapter).

The topics generated by the teacher for each group should be based on the theme of the chapter. Students may all be assigned the same topic, or the teacher may appoint each chapter section to each group.

The main reason I collect these assignments is to provide myself with an opportunity to discuss the class topic anew by openly commenting on the relevant presentations–as I hand them back to the Moderator–just before the Chapter assessment is given to the students (Part 5).

Part 5: Assessment: Provide the students with the standard test that is generated by the book, or with your own assessment following our core-curriculum standards. I generally provide students with good lighting, and sometimes with classical or ambient music.

Because the core objective for our students is “learning,” I am known to ask students to compare answers with a partner after 10-15 minutes of silent work time (when they are more than half-way done).

I state that students are responsible for their own grade and that they may change their answers. A few minutes later, I ask students to work with a different partner. This strategy allows students to capture their mistakes and to learn from them.

Finally, students review their test alone and turn it in alone.

For difficult tests, I often allow students to use their notebooks or to create a small notecard for use during the exam. In the real world, we have all the resources at out fingertips; thus, teaching and learning involve finding the correct information when necessary.

No one remembers everything.

Summary: Student learning is complex. Herein is a “Five Step Teaching and Learning Approach” that enables the teacher to engage in higher level thinking skills over a 5 to 15 day learning endeavor. The goal of the teacher is to facilitate knowledge through reading, writing, drawing, and speaking.

*** Thanks for reading!







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