Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.
I have a pretty hefty fear of skiing down steep slopes. I know to avoid anything marked “black diamond.” One unwritten rule in our family is, Don’t take Mom down anything scary. If you do, she will take hours figuring out how to butt-slide down the mountain. This incident will be embarrassing for you and everyone involved.
Last weekend, a friend tried to help me conquer my fears. Like a good teacher, she watched me ski and immediately realized how much I needed to learn. For the most part, she kept this very long list of learning goals to herself. She mentioned I didn’t how to use poles. This is correct. I have NO IDEA how to use them. She pointed out that my turns are very sharp. Right again. I make quick turns, so my skis point down the mountain for the shortest amount of time.
As she talked about what I could learn, she paused and then said, “Why don’t we work on your stance and your balance? Once your balance is better, you will feel more comfortable on the slopes.”
I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded good, so I agreed. She explained, “Instead of looking at your skis and the snow right in front of you, keep your head and shoulders facing down the mountain. Pick a focal spot in the distance and keep your eyes fixed on that. The rest will come.”
Sounds pretty easy, right? Not so much. I practiced this single skill for hours. As I skied down the slope, I said to myself, Okay. Keep looking at that tree, and don’t look at your skis. Keep your shoulders and head facing down the mountain. Don’t worry. You know how to turn.
My friend chose a learning goal that would improve my skills and build my confidence, and then she let the rest go. She knew she couldn’t fix everything, and she didn’t try. She also kept the big picture in mind—this learner needs confidence, and this is supposed to be fun.
As I confer with students and review their work, I will remember the ski slope. Which learning goal will motivate this student to persevere? Which strategy will have the biggest effect at this point? What will practice look like if this student focuses on this one goal?
A learner can absorb only so much at a time, and it’s our job to choose wisely, give lots of opportunities for practice, and celebrate the learner’s approximations. We step back, watch, and celebrate the growth, despite the messiness that surrounds it.
I skied down a black diamond for the first time in my life. I still don’t know how to use my poles, and my turns are still too sharp, but I made it. Instead of fear, I felt joy. A moment to remember as a skier and as a teacher.
This week we look at look at grouping for instruction. Enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Tammy Mulligan partners with Clare Landrigan in the education consulting firm Teachers for Teachers, working with educators in New England and beyond for long-term systemic change.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills develop a process of pre-assessment, careful planning, and systematic record keeping to up the value of their small groups.
How can you support the “outliers” in classrooms — students with unique needs or profiles who don’t neatly fit into any instructional group? Shari Frost offers some strategies.
Lanny Ball shares tips for coaching writers in small groups.
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Tara Barnett and Kate Mills describe how they help teachers move from guided reading to strategy groups in the upper elementary grades.
Dana Murphy explains how her small-group planner is an essential tool for organizing groups in her fourth-grade classroom.
In this week’s video, Franki Sibberson pulls together a group of fifth graders to explore writing mentors together.
In an encore video, Katherine Sokolowski meets briefly with a group of fifth-grade girls to go through the notes they are taking for their environmental studies project and talk through next steps.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Matt Renwick has to confront his “blind spots” and assumptions when his data from instructional walks about classroom talk in small groups and whole-class teaching situations does not match teacher perceptions.
In this coaching minute video, Cathy Mere and Kelly Hoenie talk about the importance of more collaboration between literacy coaches and reading specialists, and how to foster it.
Tammy Mulligan leads a demonstration small group with third graders on determining importance. The video includes a prebrief and debrief with the teacher.
Anna Gratz Cockerille shares some of the basics for improving classroom discussions. This article would be a great catalyst for discussion in a staff meeting or professional development session.
Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.
That’s all for this week!