Friday, June 22, 2012

Daily Five Book Study - Chapter 2

Chapter 2 speaks to my heart.  I believe very strongly in truly inclusive learning and this chapter does a great job of explaining a lot of what I believe inclusive learning to be about.  It speaks to setting priorities related to developing community and student agency.  It speaks to setting up learning environments that ensure that all students are engaged and learning.  It speaks to scaffolding and supporting students to become independent, focused learners.  I see so much potential in creating inclusive classrooms that are responsive to each student's learning needs based on what is written in this chapter. 

Because my role is not that of a classroom teacher I am answering the questions for this book study from a bit different angle. My role is support the learning and inclusion of the students on my caseload.  All of those students have multiple complex needs and most of them have complex communication needs.  Programming for these students in general education settings requires adaptations, modifications, assistive technology (AT), alternative and augmentative communication (AAC), alternative assessments...etc.  Sometimes we get so caught up in thinking about all the specialized supports and approaches that students with significant disabilities "need" that we end up actually narrowing our focus too much and creating barriers to authentic learning.  The foundational concepts discussed in this chapter speak to the base that is needed for all students to learn - including those with significant disabilities.  I would tend to argue though that although these things are not always freely given to students with disabilities, they tend to be given to them more then to those with disabilities.  Sometimes in our efforts to help students with disabilities to learn we end up unknowingly taking away from them some of these foundational concepts (example: we have learning assistants hover close to them rather than find natural supports that would allow them independence or we step in an help them when we see them start to struggle rather than give them the time and space and resources to figure it out themselves).  All too often with students with disabilities we reduce things to "skills" rather than focusing on cognitive processes and in doing that, we actually make things harder for them because we take away motivation and the picture of the bigger why.  

1 .What goals do you have for your classroom as you work to implement the principles and foundations of the Daily 5 discussed in chapter 2? What support do you need to do this?  

I feel that to successfully include the students on my caseload all those that work directly and indirectly need to adopt all of the principles outlined in this chapter when working with them and those around them.  I think operating from these principles would build a good base for an inclusive classroom.  In the world of special education we focus a lot on "independence" but sometimes the things we do in the name of independence end up creating barriers.  There is a story in the building stamina section that references walking around and praising students while they are trying to teach stamina and how doing that actually created a barrier to what they were trying to achieve as students became focused and dependent on the teacher feedback.  In our desire to help and to push a student towards independence we sometimes create dependencies by over-prompting, over-directing and over-reinforcing when we don't really need to and create learned helplessness in our students.  We talk about this with students with disabilities but I think the same is true in general education when we think of truly independent self-directed learners - it is just perhaps just a bit more subtle.  I once read something that referenced how when you look at a kindergarten room and  a grade 12 classroom in referenced to independent SELF-DIRECTED learning we seem to be doing things a bit wrong.  The kindergarten students have centers where they explore and interact and the grade 12 classrooms have rows of desks where teachers stand in front and feed information to students.  It seems that somewhere along the line we have mixed up the definitions of memorizing and learning. 

The six principles and foundations of the Daily 5 are:
  • Trust:  This one makes sense but in practice it is a challenge because it goes a bit against what we believe as teachers.  It goes further than just believing that our students can follow the routines to the point of believing they can direct and create their own learning.  
  • Choice:  I like the way this section is outlined as choice within structures.  The structures are taught but then motivation is created by giving the student control of choosing things like order and what books to read and what to write about.  This is a great way to ensure that each student's learning is personalized. 
  • Community:  I like how this section described behaviours in a positive light by referencing community members holding each other accountable for behaviours of effort, learning, order and kindness.  This section speaks to helping each other to remember expectations and supporting each other in learning and speaks to the need to look to building a learning community rather than creating discipline or management plans.  It also speaks to the often untapped resource of peer influence and interaction when it comes to "on task" behaviour. 
  • Sense of Urgency:  This section is about ensuring students understand the why of learning.  Not understanding the why is perhaps one of the biggest challenges in a lot of special education approaches because in our need to simplify we often take away the why.  We break things down so much that the student we are "teaching" cannot see the bigger picture and understand the why. 
  • Stamina:  This section speaks to the understanding that we need to scaffold and support students in being able to do literacy activities independently for extended periods of time.  It speaks to needing to take time to build and learn these skills.  It is a bit different from breaking it in to pieces and then putting the pieces together afterwards. 
  • Stay Out of the Way:  This one ties it all together.  Once everything else is in place we need to stop our urge to jump in too often and continue to trust that students will not only continue to follow routines but that the things they do within those routines will actually build their own learning.  They need the time and space to interact with what they are doing without interference.  When it comes to students with special needs we find this one particularly difficult as we believe we are helping by always directing and "teaching".  But there is a difference between teaching and learning and we need to let all students own their learning.  Of course... there is a balance which I'm sure we will learn more about when we start reading about mini-lessons and conferencing. 
2. What stands out as the most significant aspects of this chapter? 

I'm pulling some of my favorite quotes that I think speak for themselves to answer this question...

"Not when we trust kids enough to show them how." (page 19)

"A sense of community provides members with ownership to hold others accountable for behaviours of effort, learning, order and kindness." (page 21)

"If a student is disrupting others during their work time, the community will joint together to encourage, support and hold this child accountable for his or her learning behaviour."  (page 22)

"If we are instructing so much that the students don't get a chance to read, or if we are counting working working in a workbook as reading time, then we're not giving them enough time to become better readers or writers." (page 24)

3. How do the foundational principles of the Daily 5 structure (trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, and stamina), align with your beliefs that support your teaching strategies and the decisions that you make about student learning? 

These principles align very closely with my beliefs.  The challenge always comes down to bridging the "knowing-doing gap".   On paper these sound great but in practice old habits die hard.  We want to help and we believe that helping involves stepping in and giving advice, ideas, directions...etc. We say we trust our students but this goes deeper than just trusting them to follow routines.  This chapter is about trusting them to direct and monitor their own learning.

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