It’s ironic that teachers spend little time teaching students how to learn. I was fortunate to co-teach with a teacher who did [see previous blog post]. How can we change this?

Teaching students how to do school is largely ignored, as the chuckle from teachers at the opening of this chapter indicates [see previous blog post]. As students move through school, we assume they learn basic skills and procedures from their teachers in earlier years. Since almost everyone assigns homework, we believe students know how to do it. When we ask them to read a chapter, we assume they know how. After all, they’ve have had years of reading already. And when we say, “Take out your notebook,” we take it for granted they know how to take notes. Besides, because we have so much content to cover, we feel we need to teach it as quickly as possible.

If we took time to interview students about their skills, their differing competency levels would probably astonish us. When they fail at homework, for example, we often attribute it to lack of effort or unwillingness to try when, in fact, they may not have a clue as to what we want. When they take poor notes, we wonder about their motivation. Few students willingly speak out in class to ask for help for fear of appearing incompetent. And, when we see them highlight whole paragraphs and pages, we too chuckle.

Praise for Teaching from the Middle of the Room: “I am enjoying your book and have found it quite powerful––accessible, concrete, helpful. Job well done!” ~Ben Klompus, Principal, BArT Charter School, Adams MA

Discover other such ideas for teaching literacy in Chapter 3, “Instill Skills” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn, which you can purchase from