Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Teachers: Dare To Stretch It!

As a first year teacher, one of my favorite books to read and reflect back on is entitled, Teach Like A Champion.

I stumbled upon the book by accident as I thumbed through the education section at Barnes & Noble. I looked at the title and thought, "Teach Like A Champion..yep, that about sums it up." I told my husband his Christmas shopping would be complete if I could just have the book--immediately! Hesitant at first, he gave in, seeing the twinkling excitement in my eyes. So, I found a cushy seat near the coffee shop and began my journey through the text. I ran through each page highlighting with fury. There were so many great strategies, and I found it to be an excellent step up from Harry Wong's classic, The First Days of School.

One strategy that stood out to me the most was Technique Three: Stretch It. According to the book, Teach Like A Champion, the lesson must not end with the right answer, we must continue to stretch the lesson by asking follow up questions that extend the knowledge. "The sequence of learning does not end with a right answer; reward right answers with follow up questions that extend knowledge and test for reliability. This technique is especially important for differentiating instruction. "(TLC, p. 41)

Well, I believe that this strategy applies to our classroom teaching, but it also applies to how we approach education in general. We should always be thinking about how we can stretch what we are doing to make it just a little bit better. We have to ask ourselves the questions, "How can I make this lesson stand out a little bit more? How can I make the biggest impact?" One thing that I have learned over the years is that details really do matter.

Currently, I am working on a summer reading program for my upcoming students as well my current students. At first, I thought I would have them read twenty books. I created a reading list and a reading log. I could have stopped there, but then I asked myself, "How effective would this be? How can I stretch it?" So, then I decided that it would be important for the students to create their own reading lists through online research. But is that enough? No..it's not. Let's do some more stretching.

Currently, their reading summer packets will include:
  • A personalized letter from me.
  • 7th grade Summer Reading instruction sheet
  • Mrs. Farmer's Reading List Suggestions with instructions for checking out books at the local library
  • Their personal reading list (researched and created by the student)
  • Instruction sheet on what is considered a book (100) pages= 1 book
  • Summer Reading Contract to be signed by the student ensuring their goal
  • Reading Log with stickers
Now, is it enough to staple these pages together? No way! To stretch it, I decided to place all the reading information in a 9x12 clasp envelope with a label entitled: Summer Reading Packet along with student's name.

I know...they may still toss it, but isn't a little more difficult to toss a large envelope than some papers stuck together with a stapler? As a parent and teacher, I know that it would stand out more to me.

My hope is that I used these last days of school to stretch my students to their limits. That they make reading a goal this summer. That they will stretch themselves, and come back in August as better students, ready for the adventures ahead.

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