Thursday, October 4, 2007

Model, model, model...

This week I spent a quiet evening at gymnastics practice. This is our second week at gymnastics, we are still getting the hang of it all but we are having so much fun. The facility is just wonderful, it is a converted warehouse that houses more balance beams, floor mats, and uneven parallel bars than I have ever seen. I get to watch the entire scene from the balcony glassed-in parent's room. From there I can see everything. On Tuesday while I was watching I was paying close attention to the pre-teenies as they were preparing for their upcoming competition. They were twirling, and flipping, and doing things with their body that I didn't know was humanely possible. They practice these moves in a center like rotation while their coach worked one-on-one preparing them for their floor exercise.
First, she ran through the movements while they just watched. Then she had them mirror her as she and the student tried the moves. Next, she did the movements while the student watched again. Finally, the student did the movements on their own, several times. Not just once but several times. If the student still had trouble the coach placed their hands, or feet where they were supposed to be.
Teachers of writing are a lot like the gymnastics coach, they must model, model, model. Students need this constant modeling to be successful. Even when teachers think that they should find their independence and do it on their own, they should still model. After teachers let students exert their independence they need to come along side their students and confer, and place their hands and feet where they should be. This is important work, if it were easy don't you think teachers would have been doing it for years?
At the end of the practice, the gymnastics coach gathered all the girls and spoke to them about their performances. They shared things with one another, they helped each other with movements that were difficult, and then they gave high fives, and "knowing" nods. This was their sharing time, and the coach took notes.
Our sharing time should not be much different from this example, it is a place to acknowledge our weaknesses, praise each other for the positive stuff, and set goals for the next time.

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