I was in a PD session last week. We were talking about Class Act and how to develop phonemic awareness skills in our students. It wasn’t long before we started talking about teaching printing, as printing the letters is part of these skills we’re trying to develop in our students. I’ll admit that in my head I was asking, “Why do we always get hung up on printing? Why does it matter how the students form the letters? Is this really key to their success?” And that’s when the Speech Pathologist that was delivering the training, said some words that made me think differently (paraphrased here): Students need to be able to form these letters automatically without spending so long thinking about the actual letter-formation. Then the focus can be on the writing (i.e., the ideas) and not the printing. Excellent point!
I share this story because it connects with a great conversation I had online last night with Andrew Campbell: a wonderful teacher from a neighbouring Board. He wished that I hadn’t written a post yesterday on printing vs. cursive writing vs. typing, and his reasoning is shared below.
I understand what he’s saying, and in fact, share many of his thoughts, but with a couple of exceptions: How do students have real choices in their learning if they haven’t been exposed to these choices? How do we only focus on “what we’re doing,” if students can’t get the ideas down to work with them in the first place? Overall, tools seem “easy” and pedagogy’s “hard,” but when you’re teaching students that are just beginning to read and write, both can be challenging.
- How do you introduce the tool choices?
- How do you keep the students focused on the learning and not on the tool?
- How do you keep your professional dialogue focused on the pedagogy? Is it important that you do so, or are “tool discussions” also valuable? When might this be so?
- How much direct instruction do you give, and how much do you let students explore on their own?
- How do you decide on the best options for different students?
- How do you help students later choose the “best option” for themselves? When do you encourage students to start making these choices on their own?
I would definitely rather keep our discussions focused on the students and on the learning, but I can understand how the tool also becomes a focus. I think that the problem starts when all we discuss is the tool without the pedagogy. How do you stay focused on the learning? What role does the “tool” play in your discussions? What role do you think it should play? Thank you, Andrew, for getting me to think more about this important topic!