David Coleman (and other authors of the Common Core) advocate that schools avoid teaching to the tests and narrowing the curriculum to achieve success on the Common Core tests. But, will they listen to this sage advice? Coleman voices support for the arts in a comprehensive education where students will achieve Core standards naturally. In the Core literacy standards it is written “While the Standards delineate specific expectations in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language, each standard need not be a separate focus for instruction and assessment. Often, several standards can be addressed by a single rich task.”
This is good advice for both parents and teachers. Both can work to arrange rich learning experiences for children to participate in in the form of interesting projects. Around the home, this can include lawn work, furniture arranging, interior room design, writing thank you notes, making holiday presents, cooking, crafts, board games, party planning, and household repairs. Remember that a child’s first classrooms are, in fact, the kitchen, the living-room and the backyard. Many learning opportunities await the child with a imaginative parent!
The trick to promote school success is for the parent to make connections for the child between these activities and specific academic skills. This is not always easy to do, but it includes things like taking time to carefully read the written instructions. Good thinking includes detailed planning and explicit logical problem-solving steps. Checking the quality of one’s completed work is also a good thinking habit that all parents can train the child to do. There are also many opportunities in the kitchen for doing math and carefully following recipes/instructions. These are all useful skills that will promote school success.
Teachers can also use “rich tasks” that involve several different intelligences for successful completion including written or math components. This might be a project that is completed by a small team of students or individually. There are two strategies that a teacher will want to keep in mind as she or he designs a curricular project — Bridging and Scaffolding. The first question is, Are there four or five different intelligences involved in the project? If so, then a wide range of entry points will be provided into the topic so that nearly every student will be able to bring an MI thinking strength to the task. The use of a personal MI strength is that child’s “bridge” into the topic.
Because students are novices at the target learning objective, they will require the teacher to “scaffold” the skill. Scaffolding the students’ thinking can employ a range of activities of decreasing involvement by the teacher. Scaffolding often begins with the teacher modeling the target thinking skill. At the beginning, the teacher does all the “thinking” and then gradually removes her or his assistance (the scaffold) until the students are doing 100% of the skill themselves.
More on Bridging and Scaffolding in future posts!