Naming What We Do

As I reflect on this year of teaching, I've been thinking about the missed opportunities more than anything. It's so hard for me to celebrate the little successes (although I try to do that in front of my students at every opportunity) instead of dwelling on the things I could've done better. I always tend to focus on those things I want to do better, while not giving myself enough (any) credit for the things I do well. I believe I'm good at what I do. It's just that I'm constantly striving (expecting) to be a little better each day.

I've been thinking about all of the opportunities we have as teachers to specifically name what we're doing (as teachers, learners, thinkers) to make that same thinking and learning easier and more meaningful for our students in the present and future. For example, how often do we refer back to one piece of writing and teach something that will make it better? Guess what that's called? Revision! I have an extensive literacy background, and I have no excuse for not using the term "revision" at every appropriate moment, but I don't always use the vocabulary I want students to know and use. And by calling it different things on different days, aren't I just making more work for myself? Aren't I just making the writing process more complex instead of less? Of course, this is just one example, but others abound. Just last week, I heard myself reminding students to use the words and sentences around an unfamiliar word to help them figure out its meaning. I had JUST taught a lesson on context clues the previous day! Why didn't I say, "Use CONTEXT CLUES to help you figure out the meaning of that unknown word."? After all, if we expect students to use academic vocabulary, we have to do it ourselves.

Consistently naming the strategies I use (and therefore want students to use) is definitely something I need to work on. It's an opportunity to help students build academic vocabulary, and helps make our thinking visible.

What are your missed opportunities? I'd love to hear from you!

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