Monday, February 8, 2010

Break It Down Into Steps

steps In Jennifer: Real-Life Learning from CEC Blog, the author states

“I am teaching, it is usually easy to break down topics into bite-sized pieces that my students can understand. Reading, for example, is relatively simple to break down once I recognize which sounds or blends are giving them trouble. And math is fun because, once I figure out which step is challenging them, I can pull out that one step and come up with all sorts of games and activities to focus on it until my students are ready to pick up the math program where they left off.”

When I teach my procedures course to teachers, I really try to stress the importance of task analysis. I think over the years, we learn things ourselves by breaking things down into steps automatically. We have learned this behavior an tend to forget that our students have not reached the same point in life as we have.

I believe that every new skill can be broken down into steps. We follow a certain procedure no matter what we do. Everything has its own recipe.

When I am teaching a new skill, I write these steps down and post them in the classroom. Before I post them, I actually get someone else to review them. Sometimes I leave out a step because my actions are automatic again. If I can’t find someone else to review them, I sit down and follow each step listed exactly as it is written. It is amazing what I miss or don’t explain clearly when I do this.

When I am teaching I explain each step. Then I actually model how I follow each step to complete the assignment. Then I will get an example that we all can do together following each step. Finally I let them do it on their own. When they have a problem, I have them explain to me what they did following each step. Usually their problem comes from missing a step. When they can see what they did wrong, it is easier for them to get it right the next time.

If I write these steps on some kind of poster paper, I can put them up around the room. The students like to refer back to these when they need to. As the year progresses, and we need room, the early procedures are usually ingrained and can be removed.

Sometimes I like to get a student who is more ahead of the others and may already know how to do a certain skill. I will ask that student to come up with the steps. After reviewing and editing the steps with the students, I may even let the student be the “teacher” for that skill. Many of my students enjoy learning from a peer. At the time, that peer-teacher may be able to explain something easier to the others than I could because that person is seeing this from a different perspective.

By breaking things down into steps, I am helping my students be successful. As long as they follow the steps necessary, they should reach the natural outcome. With practice, these steps become automatic and they don’t even have to think about it anymore. These new skills become the steps to other new skills and all these skills together will lead to success.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Barnard Castle' by: Peter Caspiolay

1 comment:

Melissa Stephens said...

Sounds like you teach explicit lessons. I am trying to teach explicitly too. It is time consuming and tedious at times, but in the end it pays off. It is relieving when the students can work independently on the assignments because the scaffolding was put in place. Task cards have been a huge focus in my literacy stations.