I have been really reading closely some blog posts (Chris Lehmann has a good one out) and tweets this last month about ‘letting go’ or ‘doing less’ and I have been thinking about what this means to me and my teaching. The basic principle is that you have set your students up with the tools for working without you constantly guiding them. I have been working really hard in my PE lessons on peer coaching and feedback – trying to ensure that students share with each other using a variety of feedback methods (blog posts, continual formative feedback opportunities and times to reflect and set new goals). These have taking a long time to instill in students, but one semester later, my lessons are more about walking around watching and engaging with students not being the center of my classroom and this is down to two main changes:
1. Teaching effective Peer coaching – Currently in my Badminton unit, students are working through a set of skills that they need to master. They work in pairs, one assessing and one practicing and they swap over. When they think they have the skill down, they come to me together. One performs while the other stands and we coach and talk about their work together. I have found by prepping the student for the peer assessment, that they are learning very quickly about technique, they can now see several things all at once and with practice they begin to preempt what the next step/skill/level must be as the watch their peers develop. This sense of peer coaching will now carry on with them through to our Track and Field unit where they will work in groups of three as they practice their throwing events. Person A will throw, Person B will collect (to teach the importance of not crossing over the line for A) and Person C will give some advice based on what they saw. We will show exemplars of great throws, and break each throw down into its essence points to allow them to make comments based on those points. So my job is to have exemplar films, break up the skills and then to ensure that our activities meet these needs (eg. need to release the javelin with height – throw it over this soccer goal – have to throw high to clear that). If my preparation is better, my “letting go” in class is much more real.
2. Using Google Drive – the new app on my iPad is fantastic! I can grade, comment, show videos, give the kids my iPad to make their own comments or get feedback or to share with others so easily. This has vastly changed the landscape of formative assessment for me. Coupled with Drop Box and Coaches Eye, I am ready to film/screencast/email or Dropbox films and then write up my notes before I get back to my desk – all very easy. But this does require careful planning of documents in advance.
I am “letting go” or maybe I am embracing more with further created opportunities that allow me to get more out of my students, to observe them more closely, to teach them how to peer coach more effectively and to share their learning without feeling so stressed or more worried about class management than about learning and collaboration with my students.