Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts’ book DIY Literacy gets to the meat of teaching in chapters 3 and 4: reminding and motivating with tools that support students to higher levels of competency.
Chapter 3: Remembering This: When we teach and reteach and don’t find evidence of the work in student thinking it is easy to lose faith. Chapter 3 tells us that forgetting is normal and to be expected. When we ask students to apply new ideas to their work, we need to give them tools to help them remember, to process and to do.
Bottom line: the teach, model, active engagement, now do this whenever you need to do isn’t enough. Learning and making that learning a part of your repertoire takes lots of practice and reminders of when, how and why.
Chapter 4: You Can Do It: Kate and Maggie differentiate between the two components of rigor: one, meaning the level of difficulty and two, meaning the effort put forth. I appreciate their focus on the later. Working hard is something we want from our students. And it’s a struggle. Motivating and supporting students is what Chapter 4 is all about. The students who push themselves no matter what are few and far between. It isn’t typical. Why students don’t struggle to reach higher levels of work could be because they don’t believe they can or because they don’t understand how. Students need tools that build confidence. That say, yes you can. And, they need tools to show how.
I love how the tools work alongside the gradual release of responsibility. Supporting all the way to independence. Students aren’t there yet, but we are planning for them to get there. I’ve listed them below from high to low teacher support.
Reminding students what to do is often not enough because students don’t remember how to or their understanding is weak. Demonstration notebooks are perfect for those strategy groups that provide the extra, explicit teach. Students don’t push to what we think they can because they aren’t sure how. The notebooks provide for students who need the tool and the teacher together to reach for more.
One of the big ahas I had reading DIY Literacy was how to build a progression based on and inspired by students. At the bottom of the progression is what all students can do and at the top is what the most proficient can do with adult coaching. The sequence of next steps becomes a coach to students. Creating these with students from beginning to end creates accessibility: all students can find themselves and their next step. Microprogressions should say: this is where you are, this is your next step. Go for it!
“Rigor is relative… the journey of rigor comes in all sorts of paces…there are times we need to empower students with their individual plan for how to work rigorously and at what pace. Bookmarks can help.”
I can’t wait to create these with my students. Giving time to reflect and create their tool based on the classroom tools promotes self-assessment and goal setting. How a student uses charts and microprogressions to collect their list of reminders and examples tell the student a lot about where they are in the learning. This personalized tool is a call to action and an artifact to use and recreate as throughout the year.
Being a fifth-grade teacher, my students come to me with so much teaching. Still, they often don’t do. I’m sure I’m not alone in that problem.
The co-constructed chart of “things we know” can be the tool that reminds students of all they have learned but need to be nudged to do. That chart paired with verbal reminders, mid-workshop interruptions, and quick coaching tips to notice and use a strategy from the chart can up the students’ game without reteaching. We remind. Then reassess. Notice growth and celebrate! Kate and Maggie see charts as “cheerleaders” for hard work. They are reminders for students on their way to independence, the last step in the gradual release of tools.
Removing the Tools:
We want to promote ownership and agency. We want it to be automatic. Our goal isn’t mastering the use of tools; it’s using tools to foster independence.
Kate and Maggie offered natural ways to remove or test out the removal of tools.
1. Do it at specific times in a unit
2. Challenge students to try work without tools
3. Poll students as to what charts they no longer need
I am grateful for the time to read, reflect and write about my new tool, DIY Literacy. Thank you, Kate and Maggie. And thank you to the #cyberPD community, who contribute to the thinking around this book.