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Friday, December 12, 2014

Challenging Advanced Students

In every discipline there are students who are advanced.

For example, in a reading class, there are those students who read hundreds of pages each week with fluency and comprehension.

The same is true for math class. There are students who can do most of the grade-level work with ease.

For every discipline, skill, and attribute, there are those who present in advanced ways. I like to think about "advanced" in these ways as few to no students excel in all areas. The gifted math student may struggle when it comes to social skills. The wonderful athlete may have trouble reading a book. The school's terrific artist may have difficulty writing. Each student similar to each adult is a mix of strengths and challenges.

With this in mind, I consider a successful teaching/learning menu as one that presents just right learning challenges and struggles for every student. I know that it's not in a student's best interest to sail through school with ease and little effort for multiple years without a challenge because when first academic challenges occur at later years these students are often ill equipped for those challenges.

Even at fifth grade, if a child is facing an academic challenge for the first time, I find that the child is resistant to push forward and accept the challenge. Instead these facile students often shy away from the challenge due to the fact that they haven't had many changes before. In contrast, the child who has faced one positive challenge after another is well equipped to push forward and study with successful strategies. They've developed resiliency.

This week I was reminded of this as many facile students struggled with new content. I kept coaching them forward with various strategies and most eventually responded with good effort and result. I still have a few facile students resisting these new academic challenges, and I still have a number of strategies to try.

Every child should face positive challenge when it comes to learning well. Designing the learning experiences so that every child has growth-producing struggle in the classroom is important and takes time, thought, and apt strategy.  Today we'll continue the challenge to get every student in the class facile with computation skill. As we work together to build that skill with a large number of strategies, we're making terrific progress.

We'll step back a bit at the start of the lesson today to acknowledge the growth students have made, and to recognize that new learning often presents a struggle as well as a bit of confusion as to what paths are the best learning paths, and how to travel those academic paths.

How do you offer every child a positive struggle in the classroom?  In what ways do you coach a positive attitude and response to learning struggle?  How do you mix play and struggle in right ways so that learning is empowering, enjoyable, and growth producing?

I don't always hit the mark I'm reaching for, but typically when I don't meet the mark I share my own teaching/learning goal and struggle with the students and sometimes their families too. They usually respond with good ideas for change and better teaching/learning. That's the teamwork that benefits everyone in my class.

I look forward to your thoughts on this topic.