Can Students Do It Upside-down and Backwards, in the Dark?
You can learn something over and over a thousand times and that does not mean you have acquired it. But when you are weary and about ready to give up, the thing you have been trying to learn turns around and kicks you in the face.
As a teacher how can we promote acquisition when it is so easy just teach and teach and teach in a Geeky way?
Here is a model you should not practice:
You are a computer Geek and someone comes to you with a question they cannot solve on their own. As a tech expert do you proceed to whizz through all the steps as they stand helplessly by and watch? Because you whizzed through the steps so effortlessly you assume they got it! After all it was so easy, wasn’t it?
A general overview is fine but don’t solve all the problems along the way. In fact, your learner may have to repeat the lesson, several times and take detailed notes and still get lost on the third step when there is an unforeseen glitch! It will take a good deal of practice before the lesson sinks in.
After the overview, give students the first step and let them practice. Then go on to the next step and let them practice. It is not until they have practiced all the steps and can complete the lesson with their eyes closed that they have actually mastered it.
Don’t be the tech expert demonstrating how to whizz through the whole problem and then leave it dangling in the air while you move onto the next problem.
Give your students every opportunity to practice the core elements of the language. They should be able to repeat structures to you upside-down and backwards in the dark! That is when you know they have acquired them. That is when you know they have met your learning goals.
Don’t do it for them. Watch them do it for themselves. I know this is hard to do. If you’ve ever tried to teach a toddler to tie their shoes you know how frustrating it is.
You are usually impatient as you watch them and you are inclined to reach down and tie the shoes for them as you explain what you are doing. But the toddler will not be able to get his shoes tied by himself until he has practiced and made his mistakes, sometimes over and over. And he may still trip a little on tied shoelaces that slightly missed the mark and look like a scramble because he didn’t tighten enough along each step of the the way.
A teacher needs patience, and respect for less than perfect results.
If you were teaching someone to make a pot on a wheel they would never learn from watching you make the pot. I know. I have tried to make a pot and after watching several times I thought it would be easy to do. I was wrong, very wrong! In fact I never mastered the art.
Learners would need an idea of what they had to do to form the pot. But they could never create a pot until they got their hands wet and actually felt the pot forming beneath the pressure of their hands. I would not be surprised if the potter in this picture could make this pot with closed eyes in the dark.
As a teacher, you are the guide and provider of the skills that must be practiced. That is a given. But as a leader who directs students to do things accurately and smoothly on their own you need to let them practice. Show them the tools and Give them the guidelines but let them get their own hands wet. In fact every class should be a guided practice session.
Then sit back and watch their production. You will be blown away. They may product the most beautiful ‘pot’ or sentence you have ever heard or seen.
So keep them practicing and practicing and practicing