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10 Steps to Teaching & Learning Independence

Hello again, brain! Brain research is fascinating, isn't it? Michael Grinder's research showed us that "the brain receives input through three different memory systems: visual, auditory, & kinesthetic (1995). When information is stored in more than one of these systems, the memory is improved." That's the key to teaching independence...activate multiple systems. The question do we do that? it is:

Identify What's Going to be Taught
People are more likely to access & retain information when the goals for learning are clear.  Creating I Charts is an easy way to do this! (I charts are just T charts in which the T is turned into an I) In D5, we identify what's being taught by writing it at the top of the I Chart.

Set a Purpose/Create a Sense of Urgency
Admit it -- when you're sitting in a training (or even contemplating going)-- are you thinking, "What's
in it for me?" Sure...we all do. And that includes kiddos! Setting a purpose & a sense of urgency for learning in your classroom create a culture in which learning & practicing counts. How do you create that in your classroom? It's surprisingly easy! We talk about why we're doing an activity & affirm how it's going to help us become better readers (or writers). That is our ultimate goal, after all! In our classroom, we refer to those goals constantly!

Record Desired Behaviors on an I Chart
Here's an area where I may have failed in the past....I've always let the kiddos help brainstorm the list of what we should hear & see hear during our work time. How about you? The problem with this is we sometimes get a little off-track (you know how those conversations can go.."one time...."), & they end up adding some things I don't necessarily need on there. Take the guess work out of it! Tell kiddos explicitly what the expectations are & list them on the I-chart.

A word about wording...Be careful to word your expectations positively. If you're a PBIS school like we are, you probably already do this naturally. Instead of "Don't walk around", "Stay in one spot." Takes the guess work out of it....kiddos know exactly what is expected, which sets them up for success.

Model Most-Desirable Behaviors
After creating your I-Chart, call a few kiddos up in turn to model the expected behaviors. Going back to that brain research, "Michael Grinder points out that the visual input of seeing correct behaviors modelsd for the whole class and the kinesthetic input for those doing the modeling is the beginning of the process of creating children's muscle memories." Follow the modeling up by asking, "If Billy Bob does these things, will it help him become a better reader (or writer)?"

Model Least-Desirable Behaviors Then Most-Desirable Again
Model Least-Desirable?! Yes! There is power in non-examples. And consider this....when you follow up the non-example with the question, "If Billy Bob does these things, will it help him become a better reader (or writer)?", your kiddos are going to answer with a resounding "NO!". That's a powerful way to get kiddos to think about & realize that their behavior affects their success. And how specific behaviors negatively impact their success.

Do make sure to follow up those non-examples with examples of most-desirable behaviors, though! Remember that we are working towards building that muscle memory...don't let it end with the least-desirable behavior in their muscle memory!

Place Students Around the Room
Psst! Here's the secret to the success of placing kiddos around the room to practice reading in a spot the first time:

  1. Place them in groups rather than one-by-one
  2. Leave the group of kiddos with the least amount of stamina for last 
Practice & Build Stamina
Be prepared....all practice sessions are going to be short. When kiddos break stamina- stop. It's important not to let them (any one of them) practice incorrectly! Create a large graph on which you can track your kiddos' progress with building stamina. This provides a great visual of the progress & a reminder of your goal. 

Of course, you've got to teach your kiddos what stamina is, why we need to increase it, & what the benefit is for us. Of course, to get better at anything, we need to practice. A basketball player plays basketball as much as she can....a mountain biker rides bikes as much as he can...a reader reads as much as he can. I always tell my kiddos my brother's story. He grew up right in the same town they are, went to our same school (in other words - just like them). He decided he wanted to be a mountain he rode his bike as much & as often as he could....& worked to build his stamina. He did become a pretty awesome mountain bike rider. (That really IS my brother in the poster!). Please click the pic to grab a FREEBIE copy (there's also a less ink-intensive poster in the link).

I put that in caps because that may be the biggest mistake we all make. Here's the scenario: kiddos are practicing...all quietly reading around the room......& here goes the teacher, buzzing around the room whispering at kiddos all the way. "Good job", "Keep it up", "Way to go", "Excellent"! Then what happens the first time we want to pull a small group? It all falls apart. That's because, with all of our buzzing around the room, we've taught them to need that extrinsic motivation we've been providing. It's hard...I know. But it really does make a world of difference!

Use a Quiet Signal to Call Kiddos to the Meeting Area
I think it's fairly well known that The Sisters recommend the use of chimes for calling kiddos. Why such a soft sound? We're going to call kiddos when we see that stamina has been exhausted. That's typically going to be your barometer sweetie. "The interruption of a loud voice can easily trigger an escalation of the entire room's noise level..."(& nobody wants that!). "[U]se the power of a calm & respectful signal". It's a pleasant sound & sets the tone for the next activity. 

Group Check-In "How Did It Go?"
Ask kiddos for a quick self-reflection. We refer to the I-Chart , ask the question, & kiddos hold up the number of fingers to indicate how they thought they did. We use the same system described in the book:
  1. Below Standard
  2. Approaching
  3. Meeting
  4. Exceeding
I am LOVING this book! And I'm so glad so many people are joining's great to read other perspectives & ideas. I'd love to hear YOURS, too! Please comment below or link up!

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