The time is upon us. As a building administrator, I recently began completing formal teacher observations. While visiting 11 teachers in a single week for a minimum of a 40 minute observation in each classroom can be a bit overwhelming, it also serves as a great opportunity. I had the chance to learn a lot about our instructional program by seeing our teachers and students in action.
While education has been moving toward more student-centered practices which allow students to take ownership over their learning, there is still work to be done. When I visit classrooms in my own school district or in other districts, one of the biggest things I notice is the amount of time it takes to get to student practice. In a workshop model of teaching, a mini-lesson should take no more than 5-10 minutes. Sometimes the mini-lesson gets derailed by extensive pre-teaching of a concept, or a longer than normal time for directions and scaffolding before a teacher feels that students are ready. It often goes long when we try to ensure that each student understands a concept completely before moving on to the student practice portion of a lesson.
What we often fail to remember, however, is that the majority of student learning takes place during student practice. If a student has to wait until they understand a concept or skill completely before being able to practice, they may not be able to learn on their own.
It is the chance for students to try, to make mistakes, to recognize mistakes, to explore, to fail, to move forward, and to learn.
It is important that we are getting to student practice faster and more often within our classrooms.
Let’s not waste any more time in letting them learn.