If You Aren’t Frustrated, You Aren’t Learning: Flipping the “I Do, We Do, You Do” Strategy

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Since my very first day of teaching, I’ve always preferred to focus on the hope of what students can do as opposed to the fear of what they cannot. Of course, there are limits to what any human realistically can or cannot do, but I’m increasingly frustrated by the all-too-often teacher reply of, “But my students can’t do that” when discussing changes in curriculum or creation of common assessments. However, until about seven years ago, one of my most consistent approaches to teaching was inherently grounded in a version of this very sentiment I loathed — it was just slightly softened to become, “But my students can’t do that… without my help.”

It was with this unconscious mindset that I so often employed the “I Do, We Do, You Do” strategy, providing students with a safe pathway for growth and learning through imitation. I would supportively guide students through my own thinking before letting them work with a partner or in a group to further their understanding, before finally allowing them to try the skill on their own.

And then I read it…

“Mr. Bronke’s class is great. As long as you follow all the examples he gives, it is a really easy class.”

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I still remember the very moment that these two simple sentences permanently pierced my teaching soul. I’d volunteered to let a previous district in which I taught test out a possible student survey, and this was some of the feedback I received.

Now in the grand scheme of feedback students can and do give, this really wasn’t a bad thing; in fact, it was a compliment on many levels — the student liked my class and found he could be successful in it. Some might say, “Isn’t that the goal of teaching?” However, I’ve never wanted student learning to be “easy” in my class.

I spent that summer reflecting upon my approach to instruction, thinking of ways to make my class more of a challenge, and that’s when it hit me,

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“I need to make learning messier, less controlled, and more student-centered; in short, I need to get out of the way.”

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The Adolescent Brain: A Big Gulp Of Executive Function

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I wrote the book Attack of the Teenage Brain! Understanding and Supporting the Weird and Wonderful Adolescent Learner, because of an advocacy bias: as a neuroscientist, I felt educators should have detailed knowledge about a cognitive gadget called executive function (EF). The reason? The Attack of the Teenage Brain Book Coverpower it holds over the academic lives of teenagers. It’s like cognitive Red Bull. What EF is, and how to boost it, is the fleshing-out of this bias and the subject of this blog post.

What Is Executive Function?

Executive function is defined in different ways by different researchers. It goes by many names, from attention-shifting to self-control. Most researchers agree on two defining components to the gadget: cognitive control, which really does involve attentional states, and emotional regulation, which include behaviors like impulse control.

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What does Executive Function Have To Do With Educating Teenagers?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that EF plays an outsize role in their academic performance. It’s also outsized in shaping socializing behavior — and EF dysfunction may mediate many adolescent psychopathologies. That’s the reason for my advocacy. Here’s how researcher Roy Baumeister describes the impact of EF (which he calls self-control) on student performance:

“When researchers compared students’ grades with nearly three dozen personality traits, self-control turned out to be the only trait that predicted a college student’s grade-point average better than chance. Self-control also proved to be a better predictor of college grades than the student’s IQ or SAT score.”

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That’s quite a thing to say. Given its academic effervescence, a logical question bubbles up: What activities improve Executive Function?
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Glowing and Growing Through Self-Assessment

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Forward

by Teaching Channel’s Vice President of Engagement, Paul Teske

Paul TeskeThis summer, I was humbled and energized by the diversity, compassion, and wisdom of the educators that we convened as part of the Fab Five ELL Squad and California District EL Network. The goal in our gathering was to deepen our understanding of how best to serve bi- and multi-literate students. With the generous support of the Helmsley and Stuart Foundations, we came together to share our challenges and collective wisdom.

With the support of Sarah Ottow from Confianza, each member of the ELL Squad had a project with distinct goals for better understanding their puzzles of practice. Our Fab Five ELL Squad will be sharing their useful work in the upcoming months.

Damaris Gutierrez is first up in our Fab Five ELL series of blog posts. Damaris is from Northside ISD in San Antonio, Texas, where she served as the teacher of elementary refugee students in a sheltered instruction environment. In her project, she focused on reading instruction, culturally responsive teaching, and assessment.

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As a newcomer ESL teacher to refugee students in an elementary setting, my classroom was self-contained and I taught language through content in a sheltered instruction environment.

The thought of teaching self-reflection terrified me.

I just didn’t know how to do this with my students.

But self-reflection and assessment is a requirement of the SIOP Model I use with my English Language Learners (ELLs). I remember reading this requirement and thinking — how? How can I get my beginner ELLs, who have limited or no prior schooling experience, to reflect on their language development and content knowledge in English?

Throughout the process of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I’ve had to assess my own teaching practices, plan to improve my instruction and act on those plans, view my own teaching, and reflect on my teacher actions and student learning. But teaching my students to self-assess their own learning really challenged my ideas about what they were capable of doing.

Self-reflection would first challenge me to think beyond my current expectations and then inspire me to explore new teaching practices. Read more

Tch Tips: Engaging Students in Socratic Seminars

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Ready to teach like Socrates? We’ve got the videos to show you just how to do it!

In its simplest form, a Socratic Seminar is a structured conversation that students facilitate through open-ended questioning, listening carefully to one another, sharing their thoughts, and making meaning together. Traditionally, the seminar focuses on a text or set of texts, but there are many variations. The main idea is that the teacher is off-stage, and it’s the student inquiry that leads the show.

Whether you’re just starting out with these seminars or a full-fledged expert, there’s always something to be learned by watching how others do it. Some of our most popular Teaching Channel videos are of Socratic Seminars for that very reason! Here are four tips you can learn from watching these videos.

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Tackling Misconceptions: Small-Group Number Talks

Getting Better Together

A day in my classroom is filled with inquiry, deep questioning, hands-on learning, and student-driven discussions. Yet, for all aspects of my teaching that I’m proud of, I’m also continuously reflecting on my instructional practices that need improvement.

This past year, I’ve lived the mission of Getting Better Together by sharing my experiences with others and allowing their advice/feedback to guide my instruction. From engagement in book studies, to Twitter chats, to receiving video feedback, I’ve been amazed at the growth of my online professional learning community and consequently, my growth as an educator.

My growth continues, alongside you, the Teaching Channel community, in three new videos. You’ll see me try out instructional strategies that are aimed at reaching all learners and differentiating the learning experience in the classroom. And you’ll also see me work to elevate every student’s voice through designed tasks and groupings. (Read my accompanying blog post, Three Ways I’ve Become A Better Listener.)

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Math Journals as Formative Assessment

Getting Better Together

I’m a huge fan of writing in math class! While I was teaching, I had my 5th graders write in their math journals every single day. Whether they used the journals before the lesson to write down estimations, during class to show their reasoning through a problem, or at the end of class for an exit prompt, the journals were always a safe and not-graded place for students to jot down their thoughts. No matter the prompt, I always learned so much about what they understood by reading their entries each day.

This year, as a math specialist, I get to see student writing in math classes across many grade levels, and it’s so incredibly interesting. I’m able to see where it all begins, in kindergarten, before students are even writing explanations in words, to 5th grade, where the writing becomes very articulate. In each lesson I plan with teachers, we incorporate a writing aspect that we use for reflection after the lesson. The students’ written pieces, in addition to our classroom observations, help to ground our reflective conversation after the lesson.

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Grant Project Reunion: What Students Say Four Years Later

Youth Mic: Listening to Student Voices

Editor’s Note: This blog marks the beginning of a new series at Teaching Channel, Youth Mic. Hear from the real experts: our learners.

I’m sure it’s happened to you, too. You’re at the grocery store or putting gas in your car or stopping to grab coffee from the local barista, and you hear it. Actually, before you hear it, you sense it. A glance, then someone looking more intently, double-checking to see if the recognition is right. Then a smile. And a question.

“Ms. Wessling, is that you? I don’t know if you remember me, but…” Then I break into a smile. “Of course I remember you, Sam. You sat in that desk by the window and you hated Holden Caulfield, and you wrote that amazing poem about your name.” And we talk and catch up and smile and nod and remember and plan and exchange sincerities and feel buoyant with reconnection.

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Lodestar: A School Built Around Agency

Making in Schools

This is the fourth in a six-part series titled Making in Schools.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, roughly 125 years ago, American schools have looked roughly the same. At its heart, our system has been driven by two organizing principles:

  1. Students should be organized into classes by age and subject.
  2. Content should be delivered in a standardized order and at a standardized pace.

While this system may have been functional in preparing students to work in steel factories or cotton mills, ensuring that each graduate of the system had similar skills/knowledge and were used to working according to a standardized, regimented schedule, it’s not holding up to the demands of today.

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Three Strategies to Support Gifted Students

Teaching gifted students has been an amazing adventure. When I first began my quest as a teacher of gifted learners, I had no idea the learning that I was about to embark upon. It didn’t take long for my students to debunk the myths that sometimes go along with the idea of teaching the gifted population, and it took an even shorter amount of time for me to change my ideas about teaching gifted learners.

I teach gifted learners in an urban population. Our program is called CLUE, which stands for Creative Learning in a Unique Environment. We are a pull-out program that focuses on the processes of thinking, and not just the products of knowledge. Getting my students to a point where they understood that the process was just as important as the product was not an easy one. At first, students were reluctant to discover, because some were not used to making mistakes and many were fearful of the possible repercussions. It took a brainwashing of sorts, and an attitude change on my part, for me to help my students take a different approach to learning. This feat did not occur overnight and definitely continues to be a work in progress.

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