New Pathways to Learning
A Glance into Regular Classroom Instruction
The school bell rings at 8:00 a.m. and the day begins for most elementary age children. Class attendance is taken, daily procedures are reviewed and the day quickly begins.
Mrs. Lowry, a the Fourth Grade Teacher, at Buchanan Elementary School starts the lesson by asking the students to turn to page 216 in their textbook. She rigidly instructs from the front of the room about basic prepositions through the lecture and class response participation method. The students seem uninterested and bored to tears. She reads the page 'word for word' from the student textbook in a monotoned voice without any additional instructional cues offered or questions posed as if the students would only slow her down from an activity she was tired of doing herself. The class answers her questions in a rhythmic fashion as if they were on their way to boot camp. The teacher asks if everyone understands the assignment. The silence was deafening. Slowly, half of the class responded "Yes" or gave an agreeable nod of the head. Without any delay, she instructed the students to complete the given assignment in the book. As if they were race horses released from the post, the students who understood the assignment bolted into the work. But left behind were another 12 students confused and without basic understanding of the concept well enough to successfully complete it much less get started. The teacher has an extremely perplexed look on her face as many questions come to her mind.
- Why didn't these students ask questions regarding the concept?
- Did these particular students completely understand the concept?
- How would the teacher have known if these students had mastery of the concept or not?
- Were there different ways that this concept could have been taught that would have provided more engaging instruction with greater success?
Exploring Marzano's High Yield Strategies provides a greater insight on methods of instruction that with greater learning results.
Students: Agents of Learning
Students have always entered the classroom as complex, resourceful and remarkably unique individuals. Today, students are in a constant state of learning, because they have access to greater amounts of knowledge:
Students are agents of their own learning. This allows them to select the mode of learning they like best. How does this factor into today's classroom? Point made is that traditional methods of learning are found far less in the classrooms now than ever. The classroom referred to earlier in this article very soon be difficult to find. Research has confirmed that the more engaging strategies are the more they assist students in achieving at greater levels of learning and help to attain mastery of learning concepts.
Marzano's High Yield Strategies
Robert Marzano, well-known educational theorist and educator, developed a list of strategies that are applicable to all areas of instruction especially in common subject matter such as Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science. The Marzano High Yield Strategies are categorized according to specific criteria. A few examples are as follows:
1. Identifying Similarities and Differences
- Students will classify, compare, create metaphors and analogies, non-linguistic or graphic representations.
- Examples Activities - Venn Diagrams, T-Charts, Thinking Maps, compare and contrast organizers, Frayer Model
2. Summarizing and Note Taking
- Students learn to write clearly, taking out non-essential information, paraphrase information where needed, write and rewrite.
- Example Activities - Identify key concepts, use summarizing strategies, outline information, narrative outlines, cluster summaries, quick writes, graphic organizers
3. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
- Rewards are based on standards of performance
- Example Activities - High expectations, display finished products, encourage students to share ideas and express their thoughts, stress free environment, Spelling Bees, School Newspapers
4. Homework and Practice
- Amount of homework varies from grade to grade, parental involvement is limited
- Example Activities - Retell, recite and review learning from the day while at home, reflective journals, teacher/parent emails, parental knowledge regarding learning goal
5. Nonlinguistic Representations
- Create models, representations, mental pictures, pictographs, hands on learning
- Example Activities - Manipulatives and visual tools, storyboards, concept maps, acting out solutions, diagrams, charts, webs, foldables
6. Cooperative Learning
- Limited ability groups, small strategically formed and based, assigned roles
- Example Activities - Shared reading, readers theatre, jigsaw, choral reading, debates, writing plays, science experiments, group reports
7. Setting Objectives and Feed Back
- Effective/Flexible goals, student choice, teacher feedback, created solely for a specific purpose and functions as determined
- Example Activities - Post all goals and objectives, use charting such as KWL, Webs, and Learning Posters, student driven learning
Changing Up Mrs. Lowry's Classroom
Mrs. Lowry's instruction provided some essential components of education to her students. Her classroom provided:
- structured learning
- well managed classroom behave
- half of the student population understood the presented concept
- contained the textbook which is an educational resource w
How could she have helped the other half of the student population to better understand the concept and attain the ability to work independently?
By looking through Marzano's strategies, Mrs. Lowry could have restructured her classroom instruction in the following manner.
- Students would write the objective down on paper and underline key words within the objective so that they had another opportunity to fully grasp what they were about to study. (Focus on the objective/learning goals and feedback)
- Before independent learning, she could have had the students work in buddy groups to come up with a chart of prepositions and non-prepositions.(Identifying Similarities and Differences)
- Then, they could have shared the results with other buddy groups. (Cooperative Learning)
- The teacher would rotate around the room evaluating student work praising good results when seen. (Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition)
- After this activity, students would be better able to work independently on the written text work. The teacher could allow students to share answers in the first section before allowing them to complete the entire activity which would nurture independency in student learning. (Homework and Practice)
- At the end of the lesson, Mrs. Lowry could have students write a short summary paragraph that would reflect their acquired knowledge about prepositions. (Summarizing and Note Taking)
Upward and Onward to Success
Whether you walk into the front hallway of a school building or into a classroom, you will see Marzano's Strategies at work. Student work lines the walls of hallways with posters demonstrating similarities and differences using a large variety of charting methods, student narratives and articles have been written using the writing process, cooperative work groups are being to used to build positive self esteem and interpersonal relationships, peer learning partners, and buddy reading groups are used to build skills, knowledge of concepts through collaboration, science experiment project boards reflect knowledge of content obtained through hands on learning just to name a few. All these products demonstrate the effectiveness of student centered learning. Success in the classroom begins by focusing on the student, the learner. Learning is the most significant word of the 21st Century Classroom. Active, engaging, and measurable activities that nurture all students toward independent learning will help these children live a better life in the present, and the future.