TIPS FOR TEACHERS

| September 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Katy Mthethwa

“Are you learning your spelling for Friday?” I asked.

A couple of boys replied yes, a few hesitated, thinking this through in the light of our previous discussion, then one boy answered, “No, we’re learning them for life!” Delighted that slowly but surely, the tide was turning in my classroom, I’ve made this question and response kind of exchange a regular occurrence. The children are able to see that learning their spelling is not about a spelling test or a mark in their book, but about developing effective written communication skills for the future.

If you ask teachers, “What year are you preparing your students for?” many Grade 2 teachers will reply, “Grade 3,” Grade 6 teachers, “Grade 7,” Grade 9 teachers, “Grade 10,” etc. Yet, if we are only preparing our children for the following year of their education, we have a very limited view of what and why we are teaching. We are simply ensuring the children can jump through the hoop to the next stage. If, however, we see the big picture, that we are preparing our children for life, it will radically change the way in which we approach all we do in the classroom.

Survival skills The reality is that we are preparing our children for the 21st century, for a competitive world where they will work in jobs that haven’t yet been created. Dr Tony Wagner of Harvard University collated the requirements of business leaders and identified seven skills essential for the 21st century:

  • critical thinking and problem solving • collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • agility and adaptability • initiative and entrepreneurship • effective oral and written communication
  • accessing and analysing information
  • curiosity and imagination.

Wagner goes so far as to call them survival skills. Our children will not survive in the future without them. They are not optional extras for us in educating children, they are imperatives.

So, how do we go about ensuring we teach these skills whilst getting through the content of the curriculum? The figure adjacent gives us a clear picture of how everything fits together:

Tools to support thinking

The diagram below shows content at the core of learning. Without content, there is no vehicle to develop thinking strategies or dispositions. Tools and strategies to support thinking shape the way in which the learning of the content takes place. Using methodologies that ensure a child-centred approach to learning; engaging with the thinking verbs of Bloom’s Taxonomy to ensure higher order thinking; and adopting the use of tools school-wide will ensure rich learning and application of the content. Such tools might include Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and CoRT Tools, David Hyerle’s Thinking Maps or Dr Toni Noble’s HITS and HOTS.

Surrounding this are the dispositions towards learning. Art Costa’s Habits of Mind define 16 dispositions that can be developed. These include managing impulsivity, striving for precision and accuracy, persistence, working collaboratively and being open to continuous learning. As dispositions are identified and improved, the ability to learn and become more successful in life increases. Finally, all is underpinned by beliefs and values. Within a school these may be based on the religious beliefs that the school adopts. It is from here that morals are taught.

When the teaching is understood by teachers and children alike in terms of developing skills for the future, through the delivery of our content, we will have rich, stimulating, engaging lessons with self-motivated, self-directed, enthusiastic children.

Developing intrinsic motivation

If our children can begin to understand that learning spelling is about developing a 21st century skill, an intrinsic motivation towards learning will develop. Through spelling, we can teach children that they are developing the dispositions of striving for precision and accuracy and, in some cases, persistence. It is no longer about the assessment, but about life. So, when are your students learning their spelling for?

Sources:

1. http://www.tonywagner.com/7-survival-skills

2. www.instituteforhabitsofmind.com/.

3. www.thinkingfoundation.org.

4. www.thinkingschoolssa.co.za.

Category: Spring 2013

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