September 10, 2015

"It's a Sin to Waste Teacher's Time"

Tanny's other book is Comprehension Connections

     You know it will be a good inservice when the presenter starts with that rule!  And trust me, she DID NOT waste my time!  Tanny McGregor was worth the entire time I put in watching her!  Let me tell you a little about who she is and what she shared!

      Tanny McGregor is a Heinemann author who was invited to my district by our AWESOME representatives, Trudy and Nancy!  And, to make it even better, it was a FREE event for us!  She is a keynote speaker and workshop presenter who focuses on metacognition!  I have been a firm believer in metacognition for about 15 years now.  I've read Mosaic of Thought and been a fan of Strategies that Work!  I was totally into the idea of seeing this presentation and it was worth every moment of my time!  

      Her presentation was entitled "The Transforming Power of Reflective Thinking", another thing I've really renewed my interest in since reading Learn Like a Pirate! The nice thing about Tanny's presentation is she focused on the THINKING aspects of reflecting. Teaching this skill is key to developing the comprehension of our students in ANY area!  She shared an example from recent research by Hattie and Marzano.  John Hattie's research says that metacognition is the 14th most important strategy to improve students learning out of 138 strategies!  That's a good place to be!  In Marzano's research, he calls metacognition the "mission control" of learning!  Tanny says it makes the student more "brilliant" than others.  Not the self-named brilliant, but the shining, thinking, wonderful brilliant that we want our students to be!  I like that!!  

       She also talked a bit about what kills our ability to really teach metacognition-mandates, strict standards, expectations, kids schedules that are filled with "other", and TIME!  All of these things rob us of what we used to do naturally in a classroom, which used to make the kids think deeply and "brilliantly" because we could take that time.  This was my last year.  I felt robbed by all of these things, robbed from teaching my students what they needed.  I promised myself this year that it wouldn't happen-and I'm keeping that promise!  Even more so now that I've heard it from Tanny! 

       She also reminded us to carefully examine our texts before teaching.  Do you remember a time where you felt like you can do that?  That you could really plan out materials and create those awesome lessons that lasted long enough to get good thinking!  She reminded us to do that because if not, you, the teacher are missing connections you can't get back!  The first read of a text is so important!  That's where you make the discoveries that you teach from, that you build from!  We need to slow down, just like the students do, not just in teaching, but in our planning.  I was so happy to hear her point this out-it's what I've been doing this year, slowing down.  I've also been doing her next point-Make it your own!  Take time, as a teacher, to create a system that works for you.  Use the spaces in your manuals, (which, I hate) the WHITE SPACES as my own! She recommends that students come up with their own coding systems, to make it their own and build their knowledge based on something they understand!  I say, let's take this back in our own planning, our own learning, our own classrooms and build thinking, brilliant students who do the same!  

       The final thoughts I would like to share from this awesome inservice are research findings that are the most current.  Tanny shared that the two most important findings are:

1.  Deceleration trumps acceleration:  This doesn't mean slow down a novel to the point of boring.  It means slow down your reading and teaching.  We need to make our teaching and learning mindful about reflection on what we've read and learned.  This means we need to stop the rush of learning and step back into quality! Standards won't be mastered if students can't think!  Period!

2.  Spacing is more effective than cramming:  YES!  Little things matter, like turning and talking, drawing about their reading, and anything that makes them reflect!  Tanny clearly said, "STOP thinking, "If I have time..."  We need to make the time!  The gains students will make by thinking trump the cramming of curriculum down their throats!  The following statement pretty much sums it up, "It helps at our heart level!"  Because, you see, if you don't read and take it from their head to their heart (18" problem as she calls it!) you won't improve their comprehension!  

       So, let's step out and make a "conscious choice in our lesson plans" and stop cramming and spamming them with useless materials that aren't making it the 18" it needs to go!  And let's thank Tanny for the research behind this choice!  (Trudy and Nancy-we owe you so much for this opportunity too!  Thank you will never be enough!)

P.S.  I'm looking forward to diving into her information on Genre Connections!  So blessed to have WON it at the presentation because Heinemann ROCKS!

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