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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Over the past few years, I have been talking to teachers about the importance of extra practice.  Teachers days are so packed that they barely have the time to teach let alone build in practice time.  My professional reading has included the Outliers and The Talent Code.  Both books highlight the importance of extended and concentrated practice.  Each book focuses on how modern day experts (Bill Gates) achieved his level of expertise.  The Talent Code, does not just stop with the great leaders of our time.  It directly focuses on the young child who is highly engaged and just keeps practicing until they become virtuosos.  The need for extra practice does not result from a collection of studies.  No, this need is brain based.  How our brain "wiring" is developed determines our skill level.  The only way we can develop the skill is through repeated and deep practice.

So, its time to figure out how to chunk the many instructional responsibilities that we have in school and return to building in extra practice.  Most adults over the age of forty remember the endless extra practice sessions with the multiplication tables.  My teachers would clap out a rhythm while repeating the twos, the threes, etc.  This practice worked!

Checkout Daniel Coyle's (author of the Talent Code) site:  http://thetalentcode.com/
I know, readers are saying there just is not another minute in their day and the students do homework.  Sadly, to say, most homework is not designed as extra practice.  It is focused on having students finish one or more assignments.  Extra practice means deep engagement with the content, the skill.  It does not merely include finishing an assignment.  This deep practice is food for the brain.  It strengthens our "skill" wiring.  Deep practice is essential.

I believe that we can do more practicing in the classroom.  We can "chunk" the information that needs to be learned and present it to students at the beginning of instructional units as vocabulary that must be learned, concepts, skills.  Put the chunks in a graphic organizer (Kansas Learning features some great templates). Schedule in five to six five minute practice sessions each day for specific skill development. Finally, strategically plan homework for practice and not just homework completion.

One extra note, students have to be excited about learning and not just merely go through the routine.  Sparking this excitement is our craft.  We can do it!

Checkout Daniel Coyle's website (author of The Talent Code) http://thetalentcode.com/
Read, The Outlers, Malcolm Gladwell

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