Currently in Social Studies we are working on a slide presentation about Atlantic Canada. I chose four outcomes, posed them as questions and turned my students loose to research the answers and present them in a Google Slide presentation. My students had been working independently for two periods when Sally (names have been changed to protect the innocent) came to me and honestly admitted that she was struggling with the assignment. She asked if she could get some help from me. This happened to be on a Science day (we alternate days for Social and Science) so I had some time to think about how I might be able to help her. I often need to “percolate” ideas. They need to sit in my brain and bubble up and down for a while before I can come up with a solution. So...this question percolated with me for a day.
The next Social Class I extended the invitation to any student who was struggling with the assignment. I had thought that Sally couldn’t be the only student who was having trouble finding the information on the world wide web and then distilling it down. I ended up with at least half a dozen students stay behind for step-by-step instructions on how to find information and then put it into our own words.
I am really happy that Sally had requested the extra help and that I was able to help not just Sally but the other students who were struggling. In the era of differentiated learning and the “guide on the side,” I struggle with the balance of direct instruction and independent learning. Teaching too long for those who got it after the first example and not explaining in enough ways for those who are struggling with the concept.
What Sally taught me this week was that I need to offer small group instruction on all of my assignments that I think could be completed independently. A group of my students will always need the extra help of direct instruction from start to finish on a project. Will this group always be the same students? No. Will this group wax and wane in size throughout the school year? Yes.
I provided Sally with some feedback on her project this week, as we are working on the assignment. When she read her feedback she came up to me and hugged me, thanking me for my comments. Mike Drop! Exit Stage Right...until she needs me again.
That’s my view from the 86th Pew.