Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Start Somewhere

When trying something new there's always a risk. You wonder if it will turn out right or the students will get it.

Over the past two years teachers have been trying new things whether it is with new math strategies or close reading with text. One area we are focusing more on is speaking and listening.  Not just because of the new standards but because it is right for students.  Students need to engage and make sense of their learning.

When trying out new things, there's going to be times we're a little unsure and apprehensive but we have to be willing to take a chance and try. What's the worst that can happen?  It doesn't turn out how we expected? So what! The students will be ok and we get a chance to reflect, learn and grow...and try it again. 

As my district focuses on speaking and listening this year, it's leading us down a path where some haven't been before. We're shifting from seeing speaking as delivering a speech in front of the class to being able to engage in collaborative conversations with other students in the classroom to deepen learning and understanding. So many questions come to mind: what does this look like? How do I teach it? How do I assess it and give feedback? 

We may not have all the answers figured out just yet, but we don't have to wait for the answers to get started. We have to start somewhere. So where do you start?  Start with the standards. What do they say? What are students expected to do by the end of the year? Then work backwards. What do you have to teach and facilitate in the classroom? 

I am inspired by many teachers I've seen take the risk and start. They were a little unsure of how it would all turn out, but did it anyway. Whether it's starting with structured partner share or sentence starters for conversation, they're doing it. 

Recently I visited a first grade classroom and students were engaged in literature circles. I was amazed to see and hear the students sharing their ideas and going back to the text to support their ideas. Was there two way conversation going on? Not yet, but the teacher started somewhere. She taught the students the roles of lit circles and how to listen and focus on the speaker.  The teacher has the end in mind and knows where she wants the students to go from there. Was she a little nervous about how it would turn out? Absolutely! But that didn't stop her from starting.

What have you been wanting to start this year but have held back because of uncertainty? Stop waiting. Take the first step and start.