Making Knowledge Explicit

We had a professional development session yesterday at school and something clicked while I was listening to the speaker that I wanted to write about. Our speaker was Dr. Sharon Faber, a renowed educational consultant with many years of experience. She spoke to us about literacy and the common core. Her presentation was great, but I felt as though a lot of what she was presenting was information all teachers should already know. Something I did realize from Dr. Faber’s presentation, however, was how important it is to teach students how to do the “obvious” things in your classroom. There are all sorts of basic procedural things that we do in the classroom that sometimes we as teachers take for basic knowledge, but that students may or may not have previous experience with. The example Dr. Faber used was your class’s textbook. She mentioned having a lesson at the beginning of the year dedicated to discovering where all the information in the textbook is and how it’s set up. This was a revelation for me in a way, because I started doing these things this year as a third year teacher and it clicked that that’s where I can attritube my having greater success in my teaching.

In the foreign language classroom, there are many different tasks that have to explicitly taught to students in order for them to do a better job in my classroom. A few very successful lessons I had this year were teaching students how to use the online dictionary to find one specific word instead of using a translator and how to look up conjugations of verbs with it. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing students on the online dictionary finding the answers without your help! As teachers, never assume that students will learn these skills on their own–you must teach them. In addition, I have spent more time teaching the students how to read sentences without knowing every word so they can make educated guesses of what the whole sentence means without looking up one word. It’s amazing how these things have facilitated students turning in much better work and have relinquished a lot of the responsibility from me when the students are confused. I taught them to be self-reliant and I didn’t realize until this year the importance of that aspect of teaching. It’s so much more than just the subject content. If you want students to be truly successful, you have to teach them the skills that most teachers consider cheating but in actuality are just tools for your students.

I know that this year I have done a much better job of just telling students the tricks for remembering information. I say the little phrases and reiterate the memory devices more often and I can tell from the results how much more my students retain the information. I used to think that this was making the learning too easy, but really there is no such thing. We as teachers are supposed to make the learning as easy as possible and if we don’t teach all students how to “cheat” then some students make never come to those tricks and will find our subject too difficult. Next year I want to do an even better job of making more knowledge explicit.

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