Sunday, February 26, 2017

Monkey see, Monkey do

Walking out of church this morning, my little Owen started running towards the playground on the other side of the parking lot. My parents were walking with us and I said to them, "That's crazy! How does he even know where he's going or that it's stuff to play on over there!?" (I mean, sure... the playground at the park across from our house, I get that. But this is an entirely different play yard!) Mom, who spends every day with Owen, smiled and said, "I guess because we walked up here twice last week??"

Yes...we have hit that point in the ole' "growth and development" phase. You know, the point where you realize how important routines are, and it's not even that he's learning everything on his own, but instead, he's repeating what he sees/hears/does. To a passerby (like me, for instance, not knowing he had been to the church playground recently) it seems very much like these little ones are the most intelligent humans by saying and trying new things. In reality? They're replicating processes and phrases they hear from those around them.

At some point in a child's growth and development, we tend to forget this critical phase. We forget that they need to see and hear and try new learning more than once before it becomes part of their vocabulary and an essential piece of their daily routine. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard the words, "I taught them that" or "I talked about that" from myself and other educators, I'd probably be able to consider early retirement!!!! :)   And that's not bad! It's not a bad thing to introduce a new skill to a student. But it IS bad if all we do is introduce the skill and never provide context for that skill and never allow students to explore that beyond the initial introduction, because THAT'S where the magic happens!

Sure, Owen's still growing his depth of knowledge with these skills right now as he recognizes slides and swings (among other skills). Since we didn't just name them or let him play on them only one time though, he's beginning to get the concept of sliding and swinging. He seems to be grasping cause/effect now every time he climbs to the top of the slide and let's out a big "weeee" before he even gets moving, and with his pointing and screaming "ing! ing!" every time we pass a swing, we feel like he's able to classify this type of equipment too. But he wouldn't know those more advanced skills if he hadn't been introduced to swings and slides, allowed to play on them, allowed to fumble with their use, called them out as other kids were playing on them.... MULTIPLE contexts, various levels of application.

So take a look at the agendas you have planned for the week. What skills are you hoping to teach and/or assess with your students? What variety of opportunities are you designing into your work to allow (not just for repetition, but) for contextualizing of standards and skills? How will you celebrate a student's replication/regurgitation of a skill and name for them that this is the beginning of a deeper application of this skill?   Why are you still reading this!?!? Seriously....go look at your agendas and make sure you're doing your job and serving your child(ren) well!

Peace, love, and so much up & down on the slide!!!!


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