Practice Makes Permanent

One of the highlights of #SHAPEBoston was being greeted daily by the smiling face of this week’s guest blogger, MAHPERD President Claudia Brown. She is an educator whom I admire immensely and I’m delighted that she is our guest blogger this week.

Evolution. When I began teaching, it was the time of, “don’t let them see you smile until Christmas.” and “this is the way it’s always been done.” Don’t get me wrong, there were always great teachers who inspired me, differentiated instruction (without it being named as such), kindness always existed, it’s just that when learning classroom management, we were told that teachers had the final word, that command style was king (or queen : ) and if you gave an assignment, students could sink or swim.

Fast forward thirty years. Yes, thirty. To my young colleagues out there, your teaching only gets better – it is really something to look forward to! When I became a K-12 HPE curriculum coordinator, while still teaching health education nearly full time, I was required to attend many professional development leadership seminars. Our Assistant Superintendent arranged for the curriculum leaders to attend a full day conference with differentiated learning and assessment guru, Rick Wormeli. This day changed the way I teach and lead. Forever.

Mr. Wormeli’s passionate stance on grading equality and his book, Fair Isn’t Always Equal, have motivated me to make changes in my own teaching and to help others in my department and field to think differently about assessment and grading. Now, I know this isn’t new thinking. I have been practicing some of the strategies I have learned from Mr. Wormeli for about seven or eight years. But when I think about what specific ideas have improved my teaching, this is at the top of the list. So, if you are considering expanding your horizons and you have not experimented (yes, my classroom is a big lab!!) with redos, I urge you to give these ideas a shot:

1. If we are really differentiating, we allow work to be redone for full credit. Consider this in skills based health education. If you believe, as I do, that many touches on the ball = proficiency in sport and that many practices of a skill = proficiency in health education, then you can see how redos make perfect sense in the skills based classroom. Let’s take a role play where students demonstrate refusal skills for assessment in interpersonal communication. Students must demonstrate all of the skill cues for refusal (healthy relationship content infused), and how the health of an individual might be compromised if they were unable to refuse a risky behavior. The first time this role play is demonstrated might include some giggles, miscues, or lost lines. When we give these students an opportunity to perform the role play as many times as necessary in order to meet all of the requirements of the rubric, we reinforce the ability to use refusal skills. It’s a win win situation.

2. If we look at the real world outside of school, which is where our students will need these critical skills, we know that redos make perfect sense. Instead of bemoaning the fact that health screenings will take place during your class time, use the screenings to have students practice communication skills to increase self efficacy. Students may greet the nurse or screener, ask questions about the screening, and thank them for their time at the end of the test.

3. When students are writing a SMART goal around a health behavior, should they be allowed to rewrite the goal if it needs adjusting? Of course. As Wormeli says, “a pilot can come around for a second attempt at a landing.”

4. Students may have practiced conflict resolution and negotiation in your classroom using skill cues and role plays, but what if there is an “authentic” situation where these skills are needed? This may take place in your class (orchestrated by you, unbeknownst to the students), or it may arise when you least expect it. There is no better time to assess these skills.

5. If your students are preparing advocacy projects and it is clear that they could expand their thinking so that they really “move a needle” toward a change in the health of themselves, their families, or others, send them back to the drawing table, with a timeline of course and the support they need to be successful. Does this take more time from you? Yes, but every effort that you, as a teacher “redo” will be worth the growth and confidence you see in your students.

A last thought on redoing a skill in a healthy way. A graduate student of mine said this to me following a role play on communication where the healthy decision was the outcome: “I just don’t think I would respond this way if this situation really took place.” When I asked why, he responded: “I didn’t learn it that way.” Right.

Wormeli, R. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland Maine, and Westerville Ohio: Stenhouse, and National Middle School Association, 2006. Print.

Claudia T. Brown, M Ed. Curriculum Coordinator North Reading Public Schools. Adjunct Professor, Boston University. President, MAHPERD 2016-17

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