This week… a special request: specifics on appropriate parental involvement in homework.
In The Art and Science of Teaching, Marzano lays out some action steps around using homework as a strategy for helping students to practice and deepen knowledge. One of the listed strategies is to give homework that involves participation from the home. This can be a tricky.
“Wait, teacher-centered tip of the week?” You might be thinking. “Aren’t we all learners, Courtney? Teachers included?”
Yes, we are. It is just that this week’s post is really more about you, the teacher, rather than about the classroom or learner-centered practices in general. Also, I wanted to see if changing the title would get new views. Did it work? Great!
Let’s talk about how you can use me. My whole purpose, my reason for existence as the k-12 instructional coach, is to support you. I realize that many people are still wondering what that means. We can get into specifics when we talk together, but here are some general ways to think about working with me.
I’m An Action Step. You know how when you are writing your goals, and they have to be SMART? Or maybe you are asked what strategies you will use to meet your goal? Courtney equals Action. Exactly what that action is can depend on a variety of things, but think:
I’m An Interpreter. I can be a bit geekish about all this teaching and learning stuff. Sometimes it is cumbersome to relate the theory-talk to actual classroom practice. Call me in. Let’s crosswalk some Marzano and Calkins, or 7 Habits, or PBL.
I’m A Mirror. It is my job to reflect back to you what I am seeing. The mirror metaphor is great, actually. When you look in the mirror, you are typically looking for something specific. Does this scarf work with my boots? Is my prill cream keeping my cowlick tamed? Do I have any toothpaste on my shirt? Likewise, having something specific for me to reflect back to you about will make the whole process more productive. It could be as simple as how you move around the room to something as complex as launching a service learning project.
I’m A Curator. I spend a large amount of my time listening to you about what you think is working well, what’s you think is next, and what you would like to change. Then I go to work putting together experiences that match what I am hearing. A particular group of teachers may have an interest in something, and I work with them to make it happen. A school may have some ideas about topics to explore or talk about, and I work with them to make it happen. While planning and supporting learning experiences that meet your interests I am also working to make sure those experiences meet the goals of the school and district.
All of my work with you is non-evaluative. I am not an evaluator, and I am not really interested in evaluating you. I’m interested in working with all of you to be the best we can be.
However you think about working with me, the most important thought is that my work really is about you. Some people have an easier time focusing on themselves, and are already jumping to get in touch with me. If you are not, don’t worry. I can support you in focusing on yourself too.
I am excited to announce some professional learning opportunities open to all teachers in the district this year! Spots are limited, so be sure to sign up quickly.
Participants will get a copy of the book, 10 contact hours, and engage in work that is tied to district, school, and personal goals. Each book club meets three times after school.
Teaching And Learning Exchanges
Participants will spend a day visiting other teachers in the district, and one day hosting other teachers from the district. We will engage in discussions aimed at sharing ideas and knowledge related to instruction. Participants can use this work towards district, school, and personal goals.
At last week’s professional learning day, we all spent some time in our groups talking about homework. What is the point of homework? How much is appropriate? Are there boundaries?
According to Marzano, homework has a positive effect size only some of the time. It very much depends on a variety of factors if the homework is beneficial or not. He gives some of these tips for making sure homework is beneficial:
This assignment holds up well against the points listed by Marzano. Depending on what a student chooses to engage in, they could be working on a variety of different targets. Developing life-long learning skills? Growing work habits? Absolutely. It also weighs in pretty well against the recommendations of Tony Wagner and Sir. Ken Robinson who advocate for more including creativity, innovation, and student passions in school.
A major goal of learner-centered proficiency based learning is to foster independence in our students. An excellent classroom tool for supporting this work is an anchor chart. Anchor charts are posters that make processes, cues, strategies, and guidelines visible to students. As students are internalizing and learning these, the chart serves as the reference text. Many people already use flow-charts and s.o.p.s in their rooms. Some people have reading and writing charts up. Other people have group work charts, and problem solving charts. All of these fall under the broader category of anchor charts.
Like anything, some anchor charts are stronger than others. Here are some basic tips for creating and using quality charts in your classroom:
When To Make A Chart
How To Use Charts In The Classroom
How To Make A Quality Chart
Before you run off with this idea, a bit of a warning: beware of pinterest! Remember that the point of an achor chart is to support self-regulation and independence in your learners. How pretty or perfect a chart is does not matter! Use the anchor chart examples you find as inspiration. I’ve started a board on pinterest of examples of great charts for various grades and contents to help!
Courtney is the Instructional Coach for KIDS RSU #2 in Maine. She also hosts a podcast about personalized learning, and is available for independent consulting work.
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