The Art of Adjusting

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When discussing the changes and challenges in life with my coach, she often talks about the autopilot on a plane that makes continuous adjustments to speed, altitude and attitude of the aircraft so that it maintains a constant profile and arrives safely at its destination.

Teaching also requires the teacher to learn the subtle ‘Art of Adjusting’.  Unlike pilots, a teacher might measure engagement, skills and knowledge to ensure that her pupils are on course and will safely reach their destination.  Once the destination (outcome) has been set, and the course plotted (lesson plan written), the lesson slowly unfolds and then begins a series of adjustments.  For example…

Today I was teaching a class of Y3 students who were learning how sedimentary rocks were formed.  The teacher and I had planned a lesson based upon their previous learning.  There was a hook, a purposeful outcome, some discussion and thinking time, and most exciting of all a model based on making a sandwich.  All should have been plain sailing.

However, we quickly discovered that, despite previous work , the children were only able to tell us one fact about sedimentary rocks. There was adjustment #1.  Oh…they don’t really know anything.  Hmm…how I can make this simpler and start from where they are?

I decided that I’d have to do a bit of direct teaching using our model of a sandwich to explain the various layers of sedimentary rocks.  Well, that was fine and the children were enjoying the smells of the various ingredients.  However, sooner or later, we realised that the vocabulary and concepts weren’t really sticking. Adjustment #2 add in some actions, repetition and almost a song (thankfully I thought better of the singing) and the learning was starting to stick.

Several more adjustments later, if you quizzed those children tomorrow, they may possibly, perhaps be able to tell you the names of some sedimentary rocks, how they are formed and a what we use some of them for.  Then again, they might just tell you about sandwiches…

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