Friday, June 14, 2013

The A-Ha of Learning

The A-Ha of Learning:

Sometimes students can’t accomplish a task because they have never thought of a way to complete the assignment. Sometimes a student may accomplish a task without knowing the steps they went through to complete the task. Teaching inner dialog, or helping the student create a thinking script for actions, often creates thinking connections. An interior script provides a thinking bank for making connections to which the student can refer the next time they have a similar task to accomplish.

Sometimes producing the A- Ha is nothing more than explaining something that seems to be obvious, but which a student has somehow not learned or been taught. For example, a sixth grade student, once referred to this author for consultation, was reading on a second grade level. She was a bright, likeable young woman who obviously had the capacity to be a good reader. Her teacher believed she had the information she needed to read. Year after year she’d been taught the phonetic sounds of letters, and tested 100% on sounding them out.

She had been able to learn some words by sight; a skill that helped her maintain belief in herself up to that point. Her reading problem remained a mystery until I began talking to her about how she went about the task of decoding words phonetically—and discovered she didn’t. The concept of blending phonetic sounds into whole words had never been explicitly explained. While other students in her class were able to learn this skill without an explanation, this student did not make that connection. When taught blending, using a multisensory approach, she easily grasped the concept of blending. Within a few months she was reading at grade level.

It is important to think aloud when teaching skills and concepts. Explain the reasoning behind decisions and ask students to do the same. When students can tell the instructor the thinking behind their answer(s), it is possible to know if they complete a process by rote or they really understand.

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