By Linda Moyer
We’re well into the new school year and teachers are feeling the heat to improve student achievement. History tells us that we must prepare for the future. If what we are doing isn’t working to achieve our goals, then we must look at ourselves and decide to make changes within us—our teaching styles—instead of blaming our students. Our students are our stakeholders and just like a corporation, we need to meet the needs of our stakeholders and customers if we want education to prosper. How do you plan on thriving this year?
Along with demands and challenges of a new year, I have encouraged our educators to follow a sequential process for theory lessons. We are well aware that lecturing in this day and age is old school. So how can students gain the knowledge that they need to be successful? As an educator myself I teach students strategies, offer them resources, and guide them to be life-long learners instead of spoon feeding them information. In so doing, students have the necessary tools to enter any workforce or post secondary environment that sparks their interest.
As a high school student I was convinced that I wanted to be a nurse. Because I did poorly on my entrance exams for nursing school, I settled to complete a practical nursing certificate at a local community college. I remained in the nursing field, which sustained my life in the eighties, but sought a career change in the nineties, which led to opening my own freelance pastry business. Becoming overwhelmed and disappointed as a business owner, I stepped back into the nursing world for a few years, only to end up in education in 1999, teaching pastry arts. To this day I am currently at the same school where I am now a literacy integration instructor.
In the seventies, when I was sure I wanted to be nurse, there was no such occupation as a literacy coach or academic integration specialist. Who would have thought I would now have a passion for reading, when my comprehension and reading skills fell below the average to become a registered nurse? Who would have thought I would be speaking to teachers, presenting at educational conferences and encouraging students to work on communication skills; the girl who had a lisp in elementary school and whose public speaking classes would bring such anxiety that the sweat would bead upon her upper lip and run down the middle of her back. When I think back to my high school days, my teachers could not have prepared me to be a literacy integration instructor because there was no such thing. However, what my teachers did give me were the tools to improve my comprehension, reduce anxiety when speaking and find my passion. Although it took me years to identify my passion, I was able to use those strategies to persevere into the unknown of a literacy integration instructor four years ago.
As a literacy integration instructor, professional development for my coworkers is a large component of my job. It is my goal to help teachers embed the tools into their curriculum that will inspire students to:
- improve their comprehension and desire to read
- enhance their creative and professional writing skills
- hold discussions, engage in debates and frequently utilize short oral presentations to practice not only speaking but listening as well.
Communication, whether it be oral, written or non-verbal, are dire necessities to recovery and sustainability of our global society.
So this year as teachers work diligently to strengthen the education of our youth, I would encourage you to use the following sequential process during a lesson that is more student focused than teacher focused.
- Plan and prepare each lesson in advance.
- Use warm-ups every day to prepare the brain for learning.
- Use word walls to tap into students’ prior knowledge, improve spelling, speaking and writing.
- Utilize the strategy of previewing the text to allow students to think about what they are going to read and give them a purpose for reading.
- Practice the concept or skill with a hands-on application or real-life application.
- Use an exit ticket to evaluate students understanding and your teaching practices.
- Reflect on each class to identify changes for a better lesson on the next day.
In today’s world we must impress upon our students the need to sustain education as we prepare them for occupations that are not yet known. Although it is important for students to learn about something they enjoy, it is equally important that we teach them to be life-long learners using strategies and tools that will help them transition into a passion that is just waiting to be discovered.
What type of strategies are you using to improve student achievement in your classroom?
Linda worked with ACTE this summer to create how-to videos, templates and handouts to help you master several strategies in an important area of comprehension: pre-reading. This Literacy Libraryincludes the following pre-reading strategies:
- GIST—Generating Interactions Between Schemata and Text
- Word Walls
- Previewing the Text
- Writing on the Wall