Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Learning the Basics

Do we as educators too often assume that students have mastered certain skills when indeed such skills can never be truly mastered? And what is on your "never truly mastered" list?

Too many times there are too many assumptions that happen in our schools.

I remember growing up and starting every year with work that seemed like a review of last year. I didn’t understand it as a student but now I can see why this was done. My new teacher did not make assumptions that we all knew the same things.

When I was teaching myself to knit, I had to learn the basic stitches before I could put them together to make a single item. When I learned to write, I had to learn the letters before I could put them together to make words. When I learned multiplication, I had to learn my number facts and addition before I could master multiplying. There are so many skills we learn that are based on fundamental basic skills.

Today it seems like teachers are so wrapped up in staying with the district timelines that they don’t have time to help the students who fall behind or miss the concepts totally. Then when some of them are lucky enough to pass the course anyway, they proceed onward to harder material while never learning or understanding the basics. This seems to me like a precarious situation for a student and for some it is the beginning of the path to failure.

I believe I need to see where each student is at in their learning stage and move forward from there. Yes, I can hear many teachers say that this is impossible or it takes too much planning but I see that as my job. My job isn’t just getting to the end of the year at the same place as others but my job is to help my students become successful. It means nothing to reach the end of the year if most of my students have fallen behind or failed.

I am always amazed when I’m teaching fractions to students to find out that they don’t have basic multiplication or division skills. I have to go back to the basics before we can move to more advanced skills.

I find the same thing with reading. If students don’t have the basic decoding skills, how can they read at all and try to comprehend anything that they read. If I want to focus on content with these students I either read the material aloud, have someone else read it aloud, or play a recording of the material for them. Then we try to focus on decoding skills in a separate lesson.

What do you feel are basic skills that students must have? Please share.


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