Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Optimal Practice Routines

We all know that to get better at anything requires good practice.

The challenge lies with the definition of good practice--what does that mean?

As I analyze the term, good practice, I am thinking about time, place, access, and the types of of exercises that help students master skills, concept, and knowledge.

I've established a typical Tuesday-to-Tuesday routine. I established this routine so that families and students who want to use weekend time for study are able to do that, but for those who do not want to use weekend time, that's okay too. I also established this routine because I can devote the four or more after hours of work it takes to check in on each students' practice each week on a weekday rather than a weekend day. This helps me to provide each child with personal response to their practice habits each weeks. This is one way to know my learners well.

I have been using all kinds of online and offline practice venues. The typical, expected practice is online or offline, simple, and not too long. The bonus practice offers a greater variety for those students who want more or different. Bonus is optional and open to any interested student.

We renewed these routines yesterday and I sent notes to families of students who are a bit behind on completing homework this morning. I also offer a couple of extra help sessions each week so that students can complete their work in school with teacher help.

I'm thinking about how I might better practice routines in the days and years ahead to support all students' achievement.

One idea is to better enlist the help of others. I can welcome special educators, title one, and special program educators to join me to help out during extra help sessions. Further our team is looking for ways to provide these extra-help sessions during the school day too as another way to provide tutoring-like help to all students, the kind of help that has recently been the focus of research studies that show this kind of traditional help as helpful.

Another idea is to work with colleagues to discuss what optimal practice looks like, how it is scheduled, access, and ways to assess student efforts in this regard. We can discuss how this practice fits into our overall program design and goals too--what is reasonable, what is helpful, what inspires and encourages students' natural desire to learn with depth and interest?

And of course, how do I respond to student practice is another important question? What kind of feedback and response supports students' best learning. For example, yesterday after reviewing student efforts, I noticed that a small number of students were mixed up with a couple of concepts. I asked a student teacher to work directly with those students to teach them the concept. It was a successful approach. I want students to understand that their practice efforts inform my teaching efforts. When they ask questions and complete their work with care, I can then use those efforts to inform next steps in the teaching/learning program. This give-and-take practice approach helps to lead every child forward in ways that matter.

Commitment to learners is an essential part of teaching well. How we demonstrate our commitment matters, and supporting students' optimal practice of identified learning standards is one way to demonstrate that commitment. How we do this matters and how we do this profits from open discussions with others about what they do and how they do it to support all students well.