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Teaching from the standards not to them

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Lead from the Start: Teaching from the standards not to them

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Teaching from the standards not to them

I have been thinking about standards-based versus standards-referenced teaching ever since I went to a conference in October. While doing my National Board portfolio back in 03-04 I hadn't really thought about the difference between the two. I had to redo the Math/Science integration portfolio entry because of my inability to move my thinking in math and science from standards
referenced to standards based. This is a common problem for early childhood generalists in the National Board process. I was reminded of this at the Center for Teacher Leadership's advanced candidate retreat this weekend where I am honored to coach. The day long workshop put on by the director of CTL Terry Dozier (1985 National TOY) is usually a very emotional day but this year it wasn't so bad. The one lesson I made sure to tell the advanced candidates was, "When I did achieve I knew it was because I had built my lessons on the standards and what students needed to learn, not on what I wanted to teach."

I think the standards based vs. standards referenced paradigm shift has transformed teaching and learning more than teachers really think. This disconnect is due to the change in teaching over the past 10 - 15 years. When you use standards as your framework, how you teach the skills and knowledge you are responsible for, changes. For example, I received some very simple but, very important advice a couple years ago. A TLN colleague at the high school level said that he decided whether to use constructivist or behavioral approaches to content based on the nature of the content.

At the preschool level this changed some of my core beliefs about how to teach reading. I realized that letter recognition and recognizing letter sounds is a behaviorally oriented activity. Not that some students don't need a more constructivist approach sometimes but the basic idea is: the more times I expose kids to letters and letter sounds the more likely they are to remember them. Period. The instant recall for letter sounds we use as adults in understanding new words is based on this simple recall of sounds and grammatic rules. This freed me up from having to do a hands on activity for every letter to help kids "remember" the letter. All I had to do was submerge them in the alphabet for them to learn the letters. So, I changed how I taught.

Changes that I made to my teaching included:
  • singing 3 - 5 different alphabet and letter sound songs every day
  • singing these songs daily at the same time and in transitions between activities
  • incorporating movement into songs
  • dedicating one of 3 "small groups" every day to letter recognition/letter sounds and stories
  • asking students to name letters consistently through out the day (not just at certain times)
  • teach all of the letters from day one instead of one letter at a time
  • focused direct teaching of letters students were not learning quickly instead of following a prescribed order

Of course, I did some of these things already but, it is the way that I did them that changed. It is the repetition that made them stick, not the cute art activity that we did this week for letter G.

Now that I am teaching my students how to read independently I am using more constructivist methods like word building, games, sorts and real reading of real texts.

Moving from standards referenced to standards based has meant that some of the "cute" activities that we did in the past don't get done. I do make time once or twice a week for those cute activities and as an artist I passionately encourage creativity in all its forms in my class. I haven't had any complaints from parents. They are happy their preschoolers are reading.

4 Comments:

At 1:34 PM, Blogger TeachMoore said...

John, I think you (and whoever gave you that tip on TLN)are right on that content should dictate the type of teaching approach used (behavioral or constructivist--or both). I would add that the more we get to know our students, their backgrounds and cultures, we also adjust teaching methods accordingly. What "works" for one child, may not work for the one sitting across the room. I learned that from the 11 children my husband and I have raised.

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Nancy Flanagan said...

Great post, John. Many researchers who study the impact of National Board Certification on teaching and learning find little evidence of changes in classroom behavior of teachers who become National Board Certified. They conclude that the National Board process has little professional development value, in spite of the fact that more than 90% of teachers who go through the process claim it is good or excellent professional development.

You have deftly illustrated how deep changes in thinking improve practice, even though teacher actions look much the same. Nice work.

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger Vanessa said...

Kudos! This post should be required reading for every pre-k teacher! I sometimes feel as if I am fighting a losing battle and I am the only one out there NOT teaching a LOTW. Thanks for showing me I am not alone!

"the more times I expose kids to letters and letter sounds the more likely they are to remember them."
I couldn't agree more!!!

"teach all of the letters from day one instead of one letter at a time"- this one is my motto!

http://www.pre-kpages.com/lotw.html

This would be a great topic for your dissertation...

Thanks again, you made my day:)

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger loonyhiker said...

I too went through National Board and it changed the way I thought and taught. My students were more on task, retaining more information, and felt that my lessons were more relevant. Glad to know it just wasn't me.

 

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