Medium 9781943874941

A Handbook for Unstoppable Learning: (Make the Complexities of Unit and Lesson Design Manageable)

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Benefits

  • LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FLOW.
  • REIMAGINE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT to create conditions that foster a state of flow regularly.
  • MOTIVATE STUDENTS to become naturally curious, creative critical thinkers.
  • MAKE LEARNING INHERENTLY FUN, encouraging students to love learning.
  • GAIN EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES for improving motivation, instruction, pacing, and feedback in the classroom.
  • Understand how intrinsic motivations can better inspire students’ learning than extrinsic rewards.
  • Grasp how to effectively match students’ perceived skills with an equal level of challenge.
  • Issue immediate and effective feedback to help students monitor their own learning progress.

When students are fully engaged, present, focused, and alert, they experience flow. By rethinking student engagement and bringing flow to the center of instruction, teachers inspire students to love learning and reach new levels of achievement. Using the key components of flow, generate a state of flow in the classroom every day to spark optimal student performance. Learn what steps teachers can take to personalize instruction, empowering students to own their learning.

Contents

Introduction: What Is Flow?

  1. Motivation—Shifting From Extrinsic to Intrinsic Rewards
  2. Instruction—Shifting From Differentiation to Personalization
  3. Pacing—Shifting From Action to Suspense
  4. Feedback—Shifting From Top-Down to Horizontal Assessment

Conclusion

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7 Chapters

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1 Planning Focused and Purposeful Curriculum

ePub

CHAPTER 1

PLANNING FOCUSED AND PURPOSEFUL CURRICULUM

What comes to mind when you think of planning? How much time do you invest in the deep and thoughtful understanding and planning of the content to be taught? We confess—when we both began teaching, we thought planning meant going through the textbook, practicing the examples, and possibly finding an additional way to practice before starting homework. We would start class by reviewing homework. Next would come direct instruction, introducing the new material. Then we would practice the new material. Here we could be creative and find puzzle-type worksheets or occasionally design a new game or activity to keep our students engaged. Finally, if there was time after lecture and large-group practice, students could begin their homework in the last few minutes of the class period.

At that time, planning was about the prep work. Truthfully, we vividly remember being handed a beautifully tabbed, hundred-pound binder containing the state standards. We stashed the binder on a shelf and then rarely ever opened it. We knew what we were supposed to teach (the text, pages 1–400) and made certain not to skip any of the major concepts during the year.

 

2 Launching Lessons and Starting the Unit

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CHAPTER 2

LAUNCHING LESSONS AND STARTING THE UNIT

We teachers often have set routines for how we begin our classes or content sections. Does the following scenario sound familiar?

“Good morning, everyone!” Ms. Asbury greets her class. “Your warm-up is on the board. Please get out your journals and work on the warm-up while I take attendance.”

Most of the students begin working on the warm-up, some students still fiddle with their backpacks and books, others continue their conversations about the TV shows they watched the night before, one student has his head down on his desk, and a few are staring forward with nothing on their desks.

Ms. Asbury completes the necessary administrative details, looks up, and wonders how to get everyone on task. “All right,” she says. “Who wants to answer number one?”

Some of us begin with a warm-up or review of any assigned homework. Others dive right into the new learning. How we start a lesson makes a difference. Our decisions about how we launch lessons must be as thoughtful as the activities, modeling, and assessments we will give throughout the lesson. Launching the lesson should hook students into the learning to come, connect to prior learning and experiences, and foresee the lesson or lessons ahead. In order to effectively launch a lesson, we need to establish its focus and write learning targets, understand factors that influence a launch’s success, and dedicate time to purposefully designing and implementing the launch.

 

3 Consolidating Learning by Choosing Significant Tasks

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CHAPTER 3

CONSOLIDATING LEARNING BY CHOOSING SIGNIFICANT TASKS

It happens in classrooms regularly. Readers may recognize this situation. The teacher thinks things have gone well and sends his or her students off with a little homework to make sense of and practice the day’s learning. The next day, students come back and say, “I understood it in class, but when I got home I couldn’t do the homework.” The teacher sees the problem is that, as someone who can explain things well, he or she has made the learning seem very logical and easy. We teachers understand, but the students haven’t done the work to make sense of the learning for themselves until they attempt the homework—and then find out they truly do not understand after all. Until students do the work of making connections and deepening understanding, they do not own the learning.

There is a difference between renting and owning. Often people drive rental cars harder or faster than their own cars. If someone rents a house and something breaks, that person is usually not responsible for fixing it; the landlord is. Sometimes students treat learning as a rental, not fully investing their time and efforts in class. Sometimes teachers do not offer opportunities for student ownership in class. The strategies we choose and activities we design for class largely determine whether our students will be renters of information who largely forget what they learned following the assessment, or owners of learning that they store in their long-term memory who are able to transfer their understanding and skills in the future. We call this consolidating learning. Students consolidate learning when they make sense for themselves of how new learning connects with previous learning to make a coherent whole (Fisher & Frey, 2015). In this chapter, we will examine how complexity, rigor, and balance are necessary to empower and motivate students to invest in and consolidate their learning. We also offer suggestions for several engaging and rigorous activities and strategies teachers can use in their classrooms.

 

4 Assessing Students Responsively

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CHAPTER 4

ASSESSING STUDENTS RESPONSIVELY

It was a day of long-anticipated celebration and nervousness as an anxious young man arrived at his new independent law office on its first day of business. After completing law school, he had spent months researching the perfect city where his fresh start would take place in a charming, downtown, turn-of-the-century brick building listed on the historic registry—the type of space where he had always envisioned a successful, well-reputed lawyer would operate. He decorated his personal office to reflect the high-powered attorney offices he had seen often in popular courtroom dramas on television, displaying his diploma in a regal, gold frame above an impressive walnut desk. Professionalism was evident throughout the office décor, while a different story churned internally.

The office door was wedged open awaiting his first client. Nervous yet confident in his skills, the young man looked up to welcome the unnamed footsteps approaching his office. He quickly picked up the receiver from the office phone on his desk and, to appear as if he were engaged with an important client on the phone, spoke into the receiver to address his make-believe caller.

 

5 Adapting Instruction Through Differentiation

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CHAPTER 5

ADAPTING INSTRUCTION THROUGH DIFFERENTIATION

A new school year has begun at South Middle School, and the sixth-grade rosters reflect an average of twenty-six students per class. Teachers have created an inviting atmosphere that includes desks arranged in student learning groups of four, decorative bulletin boards, a computer center, a reading corner dressed with both old and new titles for the adolescent reader, and a writer’s conferencing corner equipped with all the writing and editing tools the young writer needs. They have placed new texts on each desk, ready for the eager learners to begin their march through the content. The teachers have been feverishly digging into lesson plans that not only ignite the interest of learners as the new year begins but become a catalyst for laying the foundation for classroom policies, procedures, and protocols for the rest of the year.

During the first few weeks, teachers conduct student preassessments to determine academic, social, and emotional strengths and weaknesses. Though they effectively organize and execute all plans, programs, and protocols, it becomes clear that there are immense learning gaps. Some students need placid, unruffled structure, while others need more socialization and group interplay. Some build a case in defense of their answers (whether correct or incorrect), and others seek concrete, analytic problem solving with little wiggle room for negotiation. A handful of students are quick to solve equations while others exhibit lengthy, verbal deliberation. Some students are distant, developmentally delayed, nonverbal, or socially awkward. Others find self-heightened curiosity as they voluntarily share new knowledge with one another. Some students behave inappropriately or are disengaged from the learning. It isn’t necessarily that these students don’t want to learn. Conversely, they act out because they don’t know how to learn and don’t want to bring attention to their academic inadequacies.

 

6 Managing and Leading the Learning

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CHAPTER 6

MANAGING AND LEADING THE LEARNING

The mind is a powerful thing, isn’t it? Our thoughts create a physical reality in both the body and brain that affects our physical and mental well-being. The stories we tell ourselves can either cripple or sabotage change or they can catapult us to new heights of learning. It’s our thinking and our attitude, not our DNA, that determine the quality of our lives to a large degree. It’s called our mindset.

Carol Dweck (2006), a researcher at Stanford University, is well known for her published work on fixed and growth mindsets. A person with a fixed mindset believes that each of us has a fixed intellectual capacity and a set amount of talents and abilities that remain static throughout our lifetime. We are what we are through genetics. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe each person has talents, abilities, and intelligences that he or she can develop through effort, strong teaching, and personal persistence. We are what we think we are, and the sky is the limit. Our mindset unconsciously affects how we run and lead a classroom as well as how we instruct, encourage, and respond to students. A key question to ask oneself is, What is my teaching mindset?

 

Appendix: Putting the Pieces Together

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APPENDIX

Putting the Pieces Together

The scope of this book has covered a broad range of topics with multiple details and examples. The following big-picture planning charts and visuals pull all the components together and support teachers in visualizing the big picture. We hope you find these figures helpful as you move forward in crafting Unstoppable Learning for our students.

Use figure A. 1 to evaluate your current status on each of the Unstoppable Learning components: planning, launching, consolidating, assessing, adapting, managing, and leading. This tool can be used individually or as a team.

Figure A.1: Unstoppable Learning planning template.

Visit go.SolutionTree.com/instruction for a free reproducible version of this figure.

While we have offered strategies and considerations throughout this book and especially in chapter 6 for building collaborative teams and schoolwide or districtwide systems that are enriching and effective, this does not happen immediately. Rather, it happens over time. The development of effective systems usually happens in five phases, as shown in figure A.2.

 

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