Slice of Life: What do students need to know?

What do students need to know?

What do we need to get them ready to do?

What skills should they have?

Perhaps because I teach the last year of elementary school, I get asked these questions all the time.

Perhaps because people believe this is the beginning of the end. The last year before middle school. The last year before the end of childhood.

Yesterday, a group of students helped after school.  They did the work I could have asked parent volunteers to do. Work that would have taken a teacher hours to accomplish. With a little instruction and my physical presence, students got two classrooms ready for a social studies field trip. They assigned teams, roles, and organized each class.

They loved it. Even left a thank you note for the experience.

Every year I give students opportunities to work independently.  Times that they are responsible for something other than themselves. Times to work without a net. No scaffolds. The tasks I ask them to take on won’t result in disaster if they fail. It’s a safe way to try on independence.

I believe that we inadvertently discourage independence. Our charts, our coaching, our prompts, our questions might be a necessary step. They could be tools that help students “feel” the sensation of success. They can allow for approximation. But could some of them also imply that they can’t do without us?

We need to start asking, does our teaching create dependence?

Trouble happens when students have no knowledge of, practice around, or instruction in what to do when we’re not there to ask, defend or problem solve.

We need to provide independent practice. At home and school throughout the elementary school years. We imply belief when we allow students to try.

What do students need to know?

They need to know adults believe they can do it, and the sooner, the better.


Thanks to Two Writing Teachers Blog for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.