Have you ever planned the most amazing lesson, taught your heart out, and then…been totally stunned when your students bombed the test? You can’t help but wonder…what happened? Why didn’t they get it?
This has happened to all teachers – even the good ones. Let’s just admit it – we have a problem. We don’t release the academic struggle to our students, so they can be successful independently. We have the best intentions. We all want our student to learn.
What if we are actually getting in the way of that learning? What if our best intentions are actually enabling our students to depend on us to learn the strategies, skills, and standards we are teaching them everyday?
In order for our students to learn those skills and strategies – we have to learn to let go. Let them struggle.
I know it’s hard. When we see them struggle with a concept or skill, it’s our job to help right? Sometimes we internalize that we somehow failed them by not teaching it good enough. But guess what? It’s not us – it’s them. It’s their job to learn. So, we have to give them time to grapple (struggle) with new learning. But it’s hard.
The question is how do I do that? Here are a three strategies that you can use to start releasing the academic struggle to your students so they do the learning while still supporting them.
1 – Talk Less
As an instructional coach, I get the opportunity to work alongside teachers all the time. One of the ways I work with teachers is to observe and script lessons as they teach. We analyze those scripts and the biggest aha for them is how much they talk during the lessons. Like way more.
In order for the teacher to talk less, the students must talk more – but it must be about the learning. Using accountable talk strategies and question stems will really boost your students ability to talk constructively about their learning, and you can talk less. It will open the conversation between students and encourage them to process their learning out loud. If you want to explore how you can get accountable talk implemented in you classroom, this post The Secret to Turning Classroom Chatter into Accountable Talk can get you started.
2 – Ask Really Good Questions
For a variety of reasons, we sometimes choose tasks that are not truly aligned to the standard we are teaching. The activity may appear to be aligned, but it never gets to the heart or depth of the standard. Sometimes it’s because we (veteran and new teachers) don’t fully understand ourselves the intent or depth of that standard.
Here are a few rigorous resources that can help you release the academic struggle to your students:
- Accountable Talk Question Stems
- Regions of the U.S. Close Reading Pack
- Comparing Fractions Word Problems Error Analysis
- Frederick Douglass Growth Mindset Close Reading