Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top 11 'C' words re: teaching and learning

The other day, running through my head were several different words relating to teaching and learning. Strangely, they all began with the third letter of the alphabet. So I started capturing them on my iPhone. When all was said and done, I had typed 94 different words. Some were nouns, some were verbs, some were adjectives.

In sticking with my "Top 11 for 2011" theme, I decided I wanted to determine what I believed were the top 11 "C" words relating to teaching and learning. Here they are. Enjoy.

  • Choice - it's a staple of democratic classrooms. It's necessary for giving students opportunities to feel a sense of ownership over their work. It can be implemented in teaching and learning in so many ways.

  • Community - inside every classroom should be a genuine community of learners. Without a real sense of community, students are almost completely unlikely to take learning risks. With a real sense of community, what students learn and what students learn to do can really be endless...

  • Connect - a text is no longer just a textbook or a novel. There are countless opportunities for students to learn in a global context thanks to the internet and web2.0 technologies. No classroom should go without opportunities for students to use and learn from such technology. Without such opportunities, we rob students of valuable learning experiences.

  • Consume - because a text is no longer just a textbook or a novel, I like the verb consume as it better captures our "reading" of all the texts that surround us in the world and in the classroom. Words, images, video, audio, situations, events… they're all forms of texts that we can give students opportunities to consume and learn from.

  • Create - students need to be creating things to really get the most out of school. Whether it's an essay, a research report, a video, a podcast, a poster, a project using paper and scissors and glue, a blog, a multimodal portfolio--just to name a few--students can learn an abundance during the process of creating and from the final product itself.

  • Challenge - we've got to set high expectations for teachers and students. High, but attainable… i.e., realistic. This is how we push ourselves to teach and learn to the utmost of our abilities. And it's also important to note that high expectations are definitely not one-size-fits-all. Teachers have to differentiate their instruction for the students they teach, who are most likely at different levels and paces in their learning.

  • Conducive - it's extremely important to create and maintain a safe, nurturing, and productive learning environment that is conducive to teachers doing their best teaching and students doing their best learning. Bullying should have NO place in a classroom community. Neither should degrading slurs or other hateful language. Our classroom communities must be inclusive, not just in theory, but most importantly, in practice. This is paramount to creating an environment conducive to effective teaching and learning.

  • Cooperate - contrary to what our culture always promotes (competition), it's really important that we encourage students to cooperate and collaborate with each other, and that teachers and administrators do the same among themselves. It's pretty amazing what happens when people convene to cooperate, to work together, to strive together and push each other toward achieving a goal. It's completely opposite than competition, which requires winners and losers and ultimately people having to be more selfish than they naturally need to be.

  • Constructivist - (primarily) constructivism classrooms vs. (primarily) transmission classrooms. The former promotes a mentality and opportunities for students and teachers to work together to construct knowledge and develop understanding. The latter usually includes teachers talking at students, filling their "empty" heads with facts and information. Knowledge and understanding are often socially constructed. Students don't usually retain much when they're constantly lectured. They need to be more active in their learning. (Of course, there are times when transmission is necessary.) Primarily constructivist classrooms, therefore, would seem to enable the most effective teaching and learning. 

  • Capable - all students are capable of learning. ALL. Students. Are. Capable. Of. Learning. Race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class, sexual orientation, age--it doesn't matter. ALL students are capable of learning. And not only are they capable, but they actually--deep down inside--want to learn and want to succeed. It's imperative, then, that we assume the best of all students.

  • Confidence - teachers must have it to teach effectively. Students must have it to learn and perform effectively. As teachers, we can take certain actions to help students develop confidence in themselves. Positive talk. Acknowledging them and their contributions and achievements. Helping them understand that their thoughts, choices, and actions all go together in determining consequences, both positive and negative, in their lives. These are just a few things we can do to help students build the confidence necessary to succeed in life, both in and outside of the classroom.

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