What About the Other Kids?

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I recently read a post-it parking lot graphic from The New Teacher Center in Chicago. On the post-it squares teachers were requesting strategies that would provide equal access to instruction for students with autism and students who are now joining their age-mates in the general education classroom. There is much rethinking about instructional grouping and re-calibration of teacher practice in classrooms from coast to coast.

The Every Student Achieves Act 2015 (ESAA) – reaffirms the goal that every child (including students with diverse learning needs) will achieve a higher level of success in school. Being able to read more complex text, being capable of returning to text to provide evidence for a point of view or position, and building background content knowledge about the world by reading, writing, speaking, and thinking about linear and non-linear text requires students to develop high level thinking skills.

Not to be overlooked is the parallel goal of building a community of learners who help each other in learning teams, make good decisions, and respect the points of view of others within the group. Teachers are going to continue to be very busy building a classroom community that is responsive to all students.

Unfortunately, not all students are hard-wired with the thinking skills they need to achieve academically and socially in a classroom setting when they enter school. Students bring their academic strengths and weaknesses (data) with them. Students told to “think about” their classwork probably already are, to the best of their ability. Students want to please their teachers by bringing their best selves into your classroom and want to experience the joy of achievement within their community.

But, thinking is not a concrete concept for many students. Can an abstract concept like thinking be made more concrete for young learners? What does “thinking” look like when you are doing it? How can teachers make the processes that go on inside a student’s brain visible to the student who needs to understand and control brainwork?

The executive brain functions that are essential and contribute mightily to a student’s achievement include prioritizing (figuring out what’s more important), organizing (moving and sorting information), using working memory (juggling information in the brain), shifting (looking again, in a brand-new way), and self-monitoring of progress (recognizing and fixing the most common kinds of mistakes). (Meltzer, 2010)

SMARTS is a program developed by Lynn Meltzer, PhD, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Institute for Learning, and Development (ILD) and ResearchILD in Lexington, Massachusetts. Dr. Meltzer ‘s extensive publications and professional presentations include articles, chapters, and books relating to the assessment and treatment of learning difficulties, with an emphasis on metacognition, strategy use, cognitive flexibility, self-concept and resilience. The SMARTS program comprises two curricula that provide teachers with lesson plans and worksheets for teaching EF strategies that build academic success while promoting supportive peer mentoring and peer coaching relationships. You can download a free SMARTS unit now from their website, www.researchild.org.

Coming next…

Metacognition: Thinking about “thinking” as you are doing it

(www.project-collage.com)

Meltzer, L. (2010). Promoting executive function in the classroom. New York: Guilford Press.

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