Thursday, February 22, 2018

Authentic Learning Doesn't Have to Wait!

In Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin I was struck by a section in her book in which she talks about students having to wait until they master basic skills before engaging in authentic learning. So often I feel like students are held back because they have not mastered a skill that they could authentically practice if we as teachers sometimes got out of their way.

       We shouldn't make lerners wait until they master the basics to engage in authentic learning-I couldn't agree more!

She goes on to say what often is seen in schools:

   *Kids are held back from reading books they are interested in because the book isn't at "their level".

Our school uses the Accelerated Reading program to level and assess our students reading. I often heard kids say they were not allowed to read books they wanted, because it was too difficult for them based on the AR level and what I saw was disengaged reading that the students dreaded. One of my favorite times of the day is silent reading. My goal is to teach kids how to find appropriate books that they love and are able to determine on their own if it is a "good fit". I look around the room and see students engaged in reading and able to discuss a book they are interested in. It is so quiet and most are genuinely disappointed when we need to move on to something else.

    *Students are forced to practice their letters over and over before they can create their own stories. 

I have some pretty creative students who love to write! They may not be the best at grammar and sometimes there stories are a little scattered, but because they are writing and writing a lot those skills will come with authentic work that they are excited about doing. I feel like I would be extinguishing their flame of writing if I got in their way. I can guide them along the way instead of waiting until they have mastered specific skills.

    *In math, learners work on basic facts and rote computation before they can try and love complex problems.

My grade partner and I just had a conversation about this the other day. He came to me and asked what I thought about kids using their multiplication tables when they struggled with solving multi digit multiplication problems. My response was it depends... are you wanting them to demonstrate their math facts or multi step problem solving? We talked about it and agreed that although the math facts are important and need to be practiced that they would be able to use the table to help them so they could practice the process without getting lost in the math facts they were struggling with. As they were working through the multi step problem they were also practicing the facts they needed as well.

Getting out of the way of my students was a huge shift and not always easy. I at one time was so focused on basic skills that some of my students were not having the opportunity to participate in authentic learning. Yes, the basic skills are important, but I love that I can provide opportunities for my students to practice those skills along the way instead of stopping until they have them to move on. It is more meaningful and retainable if they actually use the skills rather than just regurgitate them.

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