Helping Students Take Control by Principal Waltrip

Our students have taken more control of their own learning…but we have a long way to go.  One area I am finding fascinating is the idea of self reflection.  Untapped potential seems to be just below the surface for our students waiting to be unlocked.  As we ask learners to become their own teachers or at least masters of their own learning, we ask ourselves what can adults do to facilitate this?  Not only do students need to know how they are performing, but they need to know where to go next.  Beyond that, they need to know how they are going to get there.  For example, let’s say I am a basketball player with poor free throw shooting percentage.  Step one in my development is recognizing that shooting 50% is low compared to the average player (I have identified where I am).  Next, I need to determine where to go next.  Perhaps a goal of 60 or 70% would be reasonable.  The next step is crucial.  What am I going to do to reach my goal?  Should I visualize making free throws or shoot 100 free throws per day?  Get coaching advice, or all three?

This process of students determining what they know, where they want to go, and how they are going to get there is a premise that we are running with at Rio del Norte.  In fourth and fifth grade (soon to include third grade), we are going through this three step process.  We are guiding students in understanding their reading ability so they can set learning goals.  Most importantly, students are identifying how they will achieve their goals.  For example, if a student is reading at the mid fourth grade level, a reasonable goal would be to read at the mid fifth grade level by the end of the year.  Some ways to reach that goal could be to read out loud to a sibling every day, check out many library books, identify specific types of words to practice, or ask for help if something doesn’t make sense.  The last part of the three step process, that is identifying strategies to meet goals is the meat of the process.  This is what we are helping are students understand so they can become more independent, more self-aware, and guide their own learning.
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