Teaching, modeling, and coaching student “learning how to learn” behaviors is always a good beginning of the year focus. Currently, some classes are starting virtually and some are split between in-school and virtual. With nearly everyone needing to accelerate learning, its critical. Steve provides coaching questions to use to guide teachers in this exploration.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:14 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:42 Encouraging teachers to begin the year with a focus on student learning production behaviors. My favorite example of this comes from visiting a kindergarten classroom early in the year. The teacher had students seated in pairs around the room, on the floor using a worksheet and rolling a die.
Steve: 01:03 The worksheet had the numbers one to six across the bottom of the page and above each number, there was a sight word and the pair of students was to roll the die and whatever number came up, they had to read that sight word and then color in the square above the sight word and take turns, going back and forth. As I observed the pairs, I saw a few examples of students reading the sight words, they were mostly just rolling the die and coloring in the block of the number that came up. When I met in the post-conference with the teacher afterwards, I asked her what she had noticed as she walked around the room and she rather quickly share that she noticed most of the students were not reading the sight words. She then quickly added, but that’s okay because what we were learning how to do today was to roll a die and not have it go three groups over and get into an argument or to go underneath the cabinet and have to get the yard stick to pull it out.
Steve: 02:04 You see, she was teaching beginning learning production behaviors. If you visited her classroom a few weeks later, you notice students’ ability to work independently and collaboratively while the teacher was working in a direct instruction activity with a small group. That didn’t happen by accident. The teacher planned and taught critical learning production behaviors to start off the year. You see if you had another teacher who was struggling with classroom management and you sent her down to observe in that kindergarten classroom, she really wouldn’t learn anything from her observation. She would probably respond with, “boy, I wish I had a group of students who would work like that,” because she didn’t have the opportunity to learn how the teacher taught the necessary behaviors. By teaching and modeling how to learn, we really set students on a pathway for success. And early in the year learning success works as reinforcement for continual learning effort. In your coaching role with teachers, consider how you can assist them in identifying the most important learning production behaviors for success in their particular content area or grade level.
Steve: 03:31 For example, if students are new to learning a second language, what should they know about how to study and how to learn? What are the best, most important things to do? Do they need to know that making mistakes is a critical, initial part in learning how to speak the language? Perhaps an early learning activity that this teacher might implement would be to have students in small groups or individually spend some time researching best ways to learn a language and coming out of that activity, they could create their own personalized guidelines for learning how to learn a language. How does learning history or geography differ from learning math or science? One of the keys to learning history is making connections between facts. What questions should I as a student be asking myself as I’m reading a history assignment or listening to a history lecture? Knowing how to ask those questions is a critical learning how to learn skill.
Steve: 04:39 Many of the tasks that a teacher assigns are designed by the teacher around her understanding of best ways to learn. By clearly identifying teaching and coaching those learning behaviors for students, students gain a better understanding of the reasons behind an assignment or a task and that allows them to approach it as a learning task rather than as work that needs to get done. Some teachers are working with students in grade transitions that are more difficult and demanding than others. Students in these settings may need to begin the new year with new learning production behaviors. A common one is that transition from second grade to third grade. It’s often described as quite difficult. I’ve had parents talk to me about the difficulty they had as parents recognizing that the completion of the grade two curriculum did not necessarily prepare their youngster for third grade. Often in third grade, they were tackling reading and writing assignments that were substantially longer than previous ones that they had done second graders or they were expected to do more independent or more homework tasks.
Steve: 06:04 How do you explore and teach these students the new learning production behaviors that they need to implement? Entering middle school and now working with a team of teachers or high school with raised expectation can catch some students off guard. Encourage teachers to take extra time to build the new needed learning how to learn skills from the start of the year. This school year we’ll have some students continuing in virtual learning settings. When COVID closed schools last spring, teachers and learners were kind of thrown in to a learning and teaching environment that were new for many. Getting material up and getting students working was the immediate demand. This fall may be the time to start the year with new students building how to learn virtually skills that are critical. Help students identify, what are the key learning behaviors when I’m watching a video lecture at home? What are the learning behaviors for working in a breakout room with a small group discussion? When working virtually, how do I seek support when I’m confused?
Steve: 07:34 How do I look at creating a time management structure for myself and prioritizing tasks when I’m working among different teachers with different courses? Here’s some coaching questions you might want to use to explore with teachers, how to go about teaching student learning production behaviors. You might explore these questions with individual teachers or within a PLC. What student learning behaviors are most important for initial success in your first unit of study? You might break this down to what learning production behaviors are critical during instruction versus what behaviors are critical during independent learning. Probe for specificity. If a teacher says that doing their homework is important, ask the teacher what does the homework usually require as student learning production behaviors? How does your content impact the needed learning behaviors? Are there learning behaviors that you have historically students transitioning into your grade or content to be missing? How do you envision presenting teaching and coaching these necessary student production behaviors.
Steve: 09:10 You need to scaffold this work for some of your students and not for others. If you’re beginning the year virtually, or perhaps may end up going back to virtual at times during the year, how does that influence the student production behaviors you need to teach? If students are in school part time and virtual part time, how similar or different are the learning production behaviors when at school versus when at home? As a secondary team, do you want to share the teaching of specific learning production behaviors among the departments? Should some of this occur during an advisory or home room structure? How might we inform parents of the most important student learning production behaviors that they can support at home? Teachers focusing on identifying teaching modeling and coaching the critical learning production behaviors are empowering their students. Some students arrive in our classes knowing and having mastered the critical learning production behaviors.
Steve: 10:31 Others who have not are at a disadvantage. Closing a learning gap often requires teaching critical student learning production behaviors. I have my own personal example of that in that I went through high school not knowing that people were studying. I didn’t find out until I got to college and lived with folks who did. You see as a high school or I did the homework, but I never realized that others spent time learning through things that weren’t assigned. Some students actually tackled on assigned math problems or they reviewed their notes from class. At best, I waited till the night before a test to try and study. Homework and assignments often sound to students like authority statements. You as a student have to do this because I, the teacher am in charge.
Steve: 11:45 When students understand the reasons for an assignment similar to understanding the reason that the coach assigns laps to be run or the band director asked for music to be practice and reviewed, they can take increased ownership of their effort while teaching student learning behaviors is always worth the time and effort. I believe this new school year, it is especially critical in most schools learning will need to be accelerated. Students having the learning, how to learn behaviors will be critical to that increase success in learning that we need. Thanks for listening. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Steve [Outro]: 12:23 Thanks again for listening, you can subscribe to Steve Barkley, ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.