I belong to a mom’s group, called Darling Doubles, a group for twin moms. This group is a nonprofit group of woman who are strong, untiring, and not a force to be reckoned with. After each meeting I am amazed and awed at the talent, energy, and vision of these woman. We come from all walks of life focused on one common goal – bettering our lives and the lives of our children by helping the world become a better place.

In January, I committed to running a half marathon with this group of women in late May. I mapped out my training schedule knowing I could begin the 13 week training schedule the last week of February. In my head, that little voice was saying, “Why not? You’ve completed two marathons before. 13.2 miles won’t be anything.” Three weeks late, I began training this past Sunday. It was rough and incredibly slow.

After I returned home from my two 20 minute miles, I was disturbed and a bit down trodden. My expectations of myself were quite different from how I had actually performed. I had to take a step back and look at what I was really expecting of myself-running a 7 minute mile like I had at peak performance in the Chicago Marathon? I don’t think so. This was my first go at it in a while and I needed to begin with baby steps.

In the classroom, we have to set expectations for our students’ learning, much like I need to do in my running quest. Setting expectations of what students’ will learn throughout the year focuses the teacher and student along a path to success. One of the easiest ways to set expectations is to have students create their own goals in incremental steps toward the end goal. As students first begin the process, their goals are superficial. Yet, with coaching and demonstrating goals become intrapersonal and right on target.

One of my colleagues uses the strategy of goal setting on a daily basis. At the beginning of class, Julie asks her students to open their notebooks to their goal setting page, and write what they will do to be better mathematicians, writers, readers, scientists, or historians. Each student begins with, “A goal I can set for myself is…” Julie then asks a couple of students to share out their goals with the entire class.

I love this strategy. Students are taking responsibility for their own learning. Julie’s expectations resonate in her classroom with the belief that all students will learn, use their strengths, and build a wealth of strategies to be successful throughout the entire year.

Now, let’s go back to what I need to do to be successful in completing the half marathon in May. I need to set my expectations of running a 7 minute mile when May comes. In the meantime, I need to continue to practice and refine my workouts, stamina, and shear willpower to succeed in meeting that goal.

Happy goal setting!

Demonstrations – The Powerhouse

Kindergarten Demonstration Click here to watch the video.

Last week I was demonstrating a math lesson using pattern blocks to build spatial understanding in a kindergarten classroom. I was asked to do this particular lesson by the teacher because the students were struggling with showing an understanding of the concept and she wanted to know how to support her students’ success.

As I planned the lesson, I kept thinking of one of Cambourne’s Conditions for Learning, Demonstration. When I explain demonstrations to people I explain it as a conversation with myself. Everyone does this. They ask themselves questions and answer them all the time in their head. It is the same thing when a teacher uses this strategy, only there is an objective and her students hear the conversation. Based on my conversation with the teacher, I found that there were two previous lessons where the information was introduced and taught. This lesson was the third and presented the most rigorous of patterns students would encounter. I decided to incorporate a number of short, precise demonstrations throughout the lesson allowing students time and opportunity to see what exactly I expected them to accomplish giving them small snippets of information at a time in order to build and apply their learning.

The video is the introductory segment of the lesson. I wanted students to make connections to the real world and begin using their background knowledge to make sense of why shapes are so very important. By taking the part/part/whole approach, I demonstrated how a triangle and hexagon created an ice cream cone. When students were released to work on this portion by themselves, rocket ships, cats, ice cream cones were just some of the examples. However, one in particular was quite interesting. The little girl looked like she was just putting shapes together without purpose. Here was the conversation…

Jill: Tell me what you are making.
Abigail: A hill
Jill: A hill? That looks like a really big hill! Tell me more about the hill. What made you make a hill?
Abigail: I went sledding in Thermopolis this weekend. It was so much fun.

Abigail had a purpose in what she was doing. She made the connection that shapes created objects in the real world. She knew that by arranging shapes in certain ways would give her the sledding hill where so much fun took place the previous weekend. So often, students miss the connection to the real world and why we ask them to do what they are doing. My objective was met in such short time, four minutes, because of the demonstration I utilized. This particular demonstration allowed the students to think beyond just individual shapes. What I found out later was that the teacher had demonstrated a rocket ship the first time she introduced the lesson.

Demonstrations are powerhouses that give students the expectation of what you want from them. There are NO hidden agendas for students to figure out. NO wondering what does this look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? What am I really suppose to be doing?

So I leave you with a question. How can you use demonstrations no matter what type of age of the learner you work with?

Demonstrations are powerhouses.