"When students talk, they think. Talking provides students with practice with the language and an opportunity to clarify their understanding in the presence of their peers. As students talk, teachers gain a greater understanding of students’ mastery of the subject matter. But talk does not just happen. Teachers have to establish purposes for the classroom talk, provide scaffolds such that the talk remains academic in nature, and allow students opportunities to talk. When these structures are in place, classroom talk becomes a regular feature of the learning environment. "– Frey and Fisher
We are now well into the the first semester. Our routines and procedures should be in place, and we are thinking more and more about how to reach all of the students in our rooms. This is the main argument for a guided instruction model of teaching in various subjects; pulling small groups of students for instruction allows the teacher to better meet the diverse needs of all her students. But, I would like to consider the benefits of structuring time during your day for students to practice content together.
Often, during a guided reading or math block, teachers know their mini lesson and small group instruction are making a difference. But, is the work students are doing in workstations really helping? Fisher and Frey explain that workstations serve as a very necessary step in between guided instruction and independent practice when they are collaborative in nature. This collaborative time is the time students have to talk with each other, practice a newly learned skill with the support of their peers, ask and clarify questions of each other, and build deeper understandings. Because workstations are often completed in collaborative groups, students have each other and are therefore more willing to take risks--to try and practice.
Think about it. This is the way we naturally learn. We read about something new, talk it out with a friend, and then try it. Or, we read the directions, then go to Youtube to let our new buddy demonstrate it for us. We research and then talk out our options with our partner before buying the new car. Let's not discount the time we are giving for students to process and practice new learning in workstations. That is how the new knowledge becomes their own.
Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2008). Better learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.