Today I Questioned What Matters: Conventions, Really?

Professional development sometimes upsets my focus. Tuesday’s PD was on the conventions portion of the language standards. I looked at them all split up. A puzzle to solve. Which standard went in which grade level was the challenge.

Confession: I have not focused on the conventions portion of the language standard this year. Reading, writing and speaking and listening and vocabulary standards felt like quite enough.

Confession: I really like teaching reading and writing, speaking, listening and vocabulary.

Confession: Not a fan of conventions.

Justification: Teaching when to use the future perfect tense seems quite pointless if my students are still trying to get subject verb agreement. Teaching proper use of “whom” when we are still struggling with me versus I. Please!

Me thinking: Attempting these “grade level” standards would be an exercise in frustration and a waste of time, students’ time.

So today I questioned

How am I using my time?   Rephrase, their time.

Is it adding up? For them.

Is it making a difference?  In their learning.

What makes real learning? That sticks.

What will matter for this student? Now.

Working Answer/Philosophy: I must trust in what matters for this student now. The rest will come in time. Maybe not in my time, but in their time. I must believe in the process of learners owning their learning with an eye toward a goal that is visible, to them. The path might not be clear. Things might get in the way. Detours and adjustments are my job. My time with this student is limited, but their time learning is not.

IMG_0730Learning moments that will build to more learning matter. That’s all.

Me still troubled:  I look at the conventions standards in Appendix C and find this,

“Grammar and usage development in children and adults rarely follows a linear path. Native speakers and language learners often begin making new errors and seem to lose their mastery of particular grammatical structures or print conventions as they learn new, more complex grammatical structures or new usages of English…These errors are often signs of language development as learners synthesize new…knowledge…students often need to return to the same grammar topic …as they move through k-12 schooling.”

This and the accompanying table that shows a progression of when basic skills need to be retaught starts to fit with my thinking of how learning goes, the need to be re taught and for teachers to meet students where they are. These things take time to master and the growth that may feel like a step backward is a step forward.

This thinking and writing is due nerdlution-button-tiny-01-1to the #nerdlution challenge.  Thanks be to #nerdlution.

6 thoughts on “Today I Questioned What Matters: Conventions, Really?

  1. First of all, I am glad that I found your blog–you have a lot of great ideas here! Secondly, I really like what you said about the process of learning. Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the notion that grasping a concept must happen here and now. Your post reminded me of the value of trusting the process, and letting learning be an organic process, and not something that we as teachers dictate all the time.

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments. I think we feel the need to control the process. We feel responsible. But the more we can let students take charge of their process we can get them there faster. Even if it’s just a matter of them identifying what the problem is, that’s a big step towards learning.

  2. What a great post, and your thinking resonated with my own thinking, too. It also seems to me that this line of yours — “These things take time to master and the growth that may feel like a step backward is a step forward” — is a theme running through a lot of our #nerdlution blogs this week.

  3. Conventions…ughh! So funny that I came across this post tonight, because as I was driving to school this morning I was thinking about how my language block used to be purely grammar. Now, I struggle to instruct it in a meaningful way. Really love Jeff Anderson’s book, Everyday Editing for his authentic teaching of conventions.

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