The older students get, the easier it is for us to fall prey to assumptions about how to teach them.
- They’re in ninth grade — so surely I need not teach them to take notes, right?
- They’re in seventh grade — so surely I need not teach them how to greet a peer during Think-Pair-Share, right?
- They’re Juniors — so surely I need not teach them how to study for assessments, right?
These assumptions yield bad fruit:
- Students who have been taught to do the thing may still not have mastered it; working at it from a place of sub-mastery, they’ll likely do it ineffectively.
- Students who have been taught to do the thing and have mastered it may not yet have habituated doing it well each time; this can lead them to slip back into older, less effective habits and, over time, unlearn that which they had previously mastered.
- Students who have not been taught to do the thing will sense that folks around them know something that they don’t, and they’ll start to wonder if they really Belong.
So basically, everything that you expect a student to do needs to be taught to all of the students.
As quickly as you can.
As often as you must.
And all while keeping your eye on the point of these things: helping students to master the disciplines of school.
Because via that path to mastery, all kinds of pleasant side effects result: growth in character, growth in confidence, growth in joy, growth in the ability to think or relate.
In my class right now, we’re focused on the basics:
- How to complete a short-answer question warm-up
- How to take notes for learning
- How to build a mental map of the world
- How to adjust your reading strategy when a passage contains lots of words you don’t know
And as I teach these things, we're also making our way through our first unit. Teaching students how to learn isn't done instead of curriculum; it's done right amidst it.