31 Days of Sticky Teaching: Focus


If we’re going to make our teaching stickier, we need to be certain that we’re focused about WHAT we’re teaching. There is no way possible that something is going to stick with a 7 year old if I’m not even clear about what that something actually is.
Focus is trickier than it sounds. It means picking one thing and sticking with it. No bird walks, no add-ons, no “one more things”.
What makes it especially tricky are the little people with whom we work. They can be depended upon for doing something unexpected (for good or for bad) during any given lesson. I’m teaching something brilliant and suddenly — POOF, Sam is doing something even more brilliant and I want to call attention to it. The next thing I know, I’m off on a bird walk. My formerly brilliant objective is gone and I’m “making it up as I go along” to fit Sam’s brilliance. And usually, as I begin working with it, I discover that its not all that brilliant after all. My lesson is now a train wreck and there is no hope of anything sticking.
Also adding to the trickiness of this simple idea is that most of what we teach is actually really complex. Reading, Writing, Mathematics — these are really complicated brain functions. They involve ways of thinking and accumulation of skills and strategies that number in the thousands. In teaching, we break things apart and address them as if they were discreet items. But, the reality is, there is a huge messy quagmire of learning awaiting us. It becomes very easy to lose the tiny discreet part that we’re teaching and to see only the big, hairy thing. Sticky teaching is all about keeping my eye on the ball, teaching one thing at a time and not getting distracted by all of the other really important stuff.
So, how do I support or scaffold myself into FOCUS?
I tend to teach with a planning board in my lap. This is a simple whiteboard from the dollar spot. I use a permanent marker to write in the structure of my lesson (mini-lesson, inquiry lesson etc). Then I cover the whole board with heavy duty packing tape to make a whiteboard marker surface over the original surface. Now for each lesson, I can write in my FOCUS with a whiteboard marker. My focus stays right in front of me, keeping me focused.
As we explore other facets of stickiness, I can support those with my planning board too.
What was your focus in your last lesson? How focused on the focus were you?

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