Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm always scouring blogs, articles, etc. for ideas of how to make life easier for my special education students in their regular ed classes. They struggle, oh how they struggle. Even when they are motivated and want to learn and excel, the content is often difficult for them to comprehend, the course moves at a pace too quickly for their processing speed, and they simply cannot keep up.

When I read Response: Celebrating our Students' Good Writing today, I was excited about the ideas tossed around by Mary Tedrow, one of my favorite writing teacher gurus.  Her WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW idea struck me as a YES WE CAN WRITE opportunity for my kids, as well as other struggling students.

Now to pitch it to their 'regular teachers' in a package they will buy.

The idea is painfully simple:
  • Lecture for a short time (Tedrow suggests 5-9 minutes. I would go with the number of minutes per grade level - 7 minutes for 7th graders, 8 for 8th, etc..Research shows that is a fair indication of how long students should be able to sustain attention without needing a transition.)
  • Now, students write what they just learned. (WOW! Instead of trying to write while someone is talking, you LISTEN?? What a powerful thought!)
  • After allowing time to write the new information, students share with partner. (I would love to see my kids partnered with strong students who would have great note-taking skills to share.)
  • Then, come together as a whole group to clear up misconceptions, and have one more reinforcement of ideas.
It sounds a bit time consuming, but imagine... in reality, you have taught, students have had independent processing time, collaboration time, and review time, all in one quick activity.

Would it work? I can see some potential drawbacks:

  • Some students  may not be able to remember what they heard, so they will be contributing little to their partner in the pair/share time. (hmmm.... I guess it will be a learning process, and hopefully, as time goes by, and the process becomes more automatic for them, they will be able to contribute at least something. Perhaps with an adult guiding the individual sharing time, allowing the struggling student to share first?)
  • Some students may think - well, I will just get the info from my partner and write it then. (To this, I would suggest close teacher monitoring during writing time could help this.)
It comes back to the theory of intentional teaching, teaching students to learn. We expect them to TAKE NOTES, but do we ever give them strategies for learning to take notes?

This activity serves a dual purpose. 1.Writing, writing, writing - writing what you know.. 2. Intentional teaching of note-taking strategies.

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