Thursday Scholar: Teaching Strategies, Treating Students

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March 29, 2012 by k. liz

So, I am not actually a fan of the term “treating” students. I don’t like making it sound like they are ill or diseased. But, that being said, I have been reading a lot of material recently about teaching explicit strategies and about working with students to change their inherent thinking about their status or ability.

Do you teach strategies in your classroom? I feel like I wanted to before, and I tried, kind of. But I don’t feel like I was actually effective in teaching strategies, and I don’t think that my strategy teaching made a lasting impact or achieved the goals I was going for.

But after reading a couple of chapters and several articles on the topic, I am much more excited about attempting this in my classroom. I don’t want to make an excuse for not doing it with my Kindergartners, but in all honesty, I haven’t found a strategy that I really want to implement yet. Right now, we are working on other things, like being kind and working in groups. 🙂

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What is strategy teaching? Strategy teaching is taking a break from focusing on the content of a class and rather giving the students tools for interacting with that content in an effective manner.

What is the objective for strategy teaching? The main goal in strategy teaching is that the students will be better prepared to be successful as they work with content in the future. You are giving up the time you could spend on the content now, to make sure that they can use their time with the content later more effectively and with less supervision or assistance. That sounds like a pretty good trade off to me.

What is an example of strategy teaching? The best example that comes to mind is teaching reading strategies. (Much of this information is taken from an article by Auerbach and Paxton on research conducted at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.)

There has been a fairly consistent outline for teaching a reading class that has gone around the ESL world for a while now. That outline consists of pre-teaching vocabulary, activating prior schema, reading the text for gist, reading for facts, and then summarizing and going into grammar. The strategies that I am going to share do not fit so neatly into that mold, as they are trying to serve students to be able to read on their own and without a teacher. We will look at a couple of strategies to teach students that they can apply before, during, and after reading.

Pre-Reading Strategies:

  1. Make predictions
  2. Skim for the general idea
  3. Ask questions based on the title
  4. Read the intro and conclusion

During Reading Strategies:

  1. Skip unknown words
  2. Draw pictures
  3. Predicting and/or noting the main idea of each paragraph

Post Reading Strategies: 

  1. Make an outline, chart, map, or diagram
  2. Relate to your own experience/write a response
  3. Retelling in your own words
  4. Revisiting expectations/answering questions

(borrowed from Auerbach and Paxton, University of Massachusetts, Boston)

These are strategies that as a native English speaker, you may consciously or subconsciously do. The fact that you do them does not mean that your students will naturally do them. In writing about teaching strategies, I am not writing about practicing these things once or twice, not just having your students write an outline after reading a text. What I am talking about is explicitly setting aside time to teach the students how to do this. What do you really need to have in an outline, where do you look for information. Give the students a text and an example, demonstrate it for them, explain what you did, and let them try it and discuss the strategy. Let the students give their ideas as to whether or not the strategy works for them and if they find it useful.

One important thing to keep in mind when teaching strategies is that you aren’t giving them content to be tested on. You are giving them tools to be successful. If a student doesn’t like making predictions, and it doesn’t help them in their reading, don’t force them to do it! That is not the point of teaching strategies. We are trying to teach people how to think and grow and work better, we are not trying to dictate how they read a book.

So, that is my short commentary on teaching strategies. I am really looking forward to incorporating this into some of my teaching! I want to feel like I am enabling my students and that even without me they are going to be able to complete those things that they need to.

Do you teach strategies in the classroom? Which is your favorite?

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One thought on “Thursday Scholar: Teaching Strategies, Treating Students

  1. Hi KL

    I teach strategies all the time – for preparing ‘phone calls, for drafting e-mails, for preparing presentations. Etc. etc. I would go so far as to say that without strategies (which we get by without in our native language more or less) the language we teach in the classroom will be largely useless to the student. That’s with adults, of course. I’m sure you teach lots of strategies to your little students too, though. In a sense, just learning to put your hand up, or say please & thank you are, really, strategies to get what you want..

    And I agree wholeheartedly that ‘treating’ students is a wierd phrase. Treating them to what???

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