I just had a meeting with one of my teachers. The school year starts for our private school next week, and boy, do we have a lot of work to do. Miss Isabel is a skilled teacher, and the boys adore her. She’s one of those people that brings out the best in everyone she meets. I feel lucky to have her on my staff.
But a winning personality isn’t always enough. One thing that I have found to be so powerful with kids who struggle to learn is guided practice, so I really stressed to her how important it is for these kids to have the confidence to learn.
By the way, it is my belief that all kids can learn, but that will have to be kept for another day. Today, let’s talk about guided practice.
Modeling is important, but guided practice will helps students practice in a risk-fee environment.
This is that important step that most teachers are too busy to include in their lessons. Most teachers go through modeling what they want, although they usually forget to tell the kids why that skill is important for them to learn. Most kids, especially those with learning issues, sit in frustration and fail to connect the dots of why that skill is important. Even so, they can manage to learn without the “why” of it.
What they desperately need is guided practice.
This takes place after correct modeling is done. Hopefully, the teacher has enough sense to model what he/she expects of the students. After that, the students need a chance to practice without risk. With someone walking around the room and helping them if they need it.
For instance, if you teach the students how to multiply two-digit by one-digit multiplication, you would want to tell/ask the students where and why they might need this skill. This only takes a few minutes. Once they understand the purpose of the skill they are about to learn, model the behavior wanted. On the white board, you would model how to go through the steps of doing this skill correctly.
Now, for the guided practice.
You can give the kids white boards or scratch paper. Shaving cream on their desks. Clay. It doesn’t matter…just give them an opportunity that is safe, risk-free, and full of large doses of help and encouragement.
To do this, you would give the kids a problem similar to the one you modeled. Then, you would have them practice this problem, letting them know it’s okay to make mistakes. You walk around the room helping those who struggle. Or, you can give them white boards, have them do the problem and hold up their white boards when everyone is done. It is easy to spot those having problems and those who “get” it.
From there, you can give the students who understand the objective of the day an independent assignment and work with a small group who don’t understand the skill. Of course, you would want to shorten these kids’ independent assignment, as they have been working with you and have already revealed that they don’t understand the concept.
This is so easy to do, yet I rarely see this happen in schools anymore. Kids are given assignments without a risk -free way to practice. Then, they are tested on a skill that already confuses them.
If you suspect your child’s teacher isn’t using guided practice, print off this blog post and share it in a kind manner. I know how hard it is to be a good teacher, but as a teacher I always pointed the finger at myself. Not at my kids. If my entire class failed a test, I blamed myself, never the kids. These days, the students are made to feel like failures.
Fortunately, I taught in a time when I had the flexibility to reteach the lesson the next day and make sure the kids understood the skill. Teachers today have a lot on their plates, but they should be open to using guided practice.
If they aren’t, then you need a new teacher for your child, especially if your child has learning problems. A good teacher is open to learning new skills and wants an easier way to help students succeed. Or, you can coordinate the day’s assignments with your child’s teacher and implement guided practice at home. But goodness, that seems like a lot to do when it’s so easy for the teacher to do this one little thing that works like magic!
Guided practice is one of the simplest ways to ensure that students succeed. With learning problems at an epidemic rate, we should be open to using methodologies that work, and I promise, this works. It doesn’t cost money and is easy to do.
It’s no wonder our students fail. Or rather, we fail them.