My mother likes to email me things she thinks are useful and/or amusing. Nine times out of ten, I have little-to-no use for or interest in what she’s forwarded to me in my inbox. Every once in a while, though, she sends me a little gem. This week, my entry will be based on a top-ten list she sent me found here.
I won’t get it all covered in one entry, so I’ll carry it over to next week.
Coming in at the number ten spot on the important skills students need to succeed in life list is computer science. Not your basic keyboarding and word processing skills, though – something much more in depth and difficult: programming. I’ll be the first to admit that computer programming is not at the top of my “fun things to do” list. I took one computer information systems class in college, and it absolutely destroyed me. I had zero idea what I was doing. None of it made sense. Now I’m in a job where it would be beneficial to understand and be able to write programming code, but I can’t do it. Yes, I’m old, but I’m not so old that I couldn’t have had some instruction in basic programming. I’m pretty sure C++, at least, was around while I was in high school. Computer programming is a completely different language. It’s a completely different way of thinking. It’s not like trying to learn French if you speak English; it’s like trying to learn Chinese if you speak English. A completely separate alphabet, grammar structure, etc. With the technology industry continuing to grow, this ability is a virtual necessity. At best, however, it is something students will be introduced to if they choose it as an elective. Instead, it should be as mandatory as a visual art or physical education credit. What can the average teacher do about it? Not much, to be honest, but if you can get in the ear of the media or technology specialist at your site, or even the administrator in charge of scheduling classes, maybe you can plant the seed about this being a necessity.
Clocking in at number nine is the art of speed reading. Does every student need to know how to speed read? Does anyone, for that matter? Probably not. But the article makes a good point that the foundations of speed reading can be useful for other reading skills. Especially for struggling readers, the ability to skim lengthy texts and still get the gist of what the central ideas are is critical. Teaching students how to visually chunk text as they read can benefit them in many ways. So what can teachers do to foster this skill? For English and Reading teachers, direct instruction on this would be useful. Built-in practice time during class is easier than for other subject areas (note I said “easier” and not “easy” – I know no one has extra time to do anything that isn’t in the curriculum). But if you teach another subject, you still read. Modeling skimming or block/chunk reading to students is helpful. The metacognition (where you talk aloud as you “think” so students can follow your train of thought) teaches students how to do the task.
Last one for this entry is the number 8: Time management. This really deserves an entire entry all for itself. Teachers tend to be naturally good time managers. We have to be. There are a million things to do and about an inch worth’s of time to get it all done. But how did we get to be good time managers? For most of us, it was trial and error. Because we were self-motivated, we kept at it until we figured out how to be successful. Unfortunately, many of our students don’t harbor that intrinsic drive, and failure becomes routine. Teaching students basic time management techniques is critical. There really could be a whole class on it (in some districts, they’re actually moving towards this with programs like AVID). Students need to know how to use planners/assignment logs. They need to know how to prioritize. They need to know how to schedule their time and then keep track of it. Even just starting with something simple like time management on tests is a good place to begin. Teaching students to regularly check the clock to make sure they’re not taking too long on one question or that they’re not going to run out of time on a test can be the basis for good time management skills in other areas of their lives. Scheduling deadlines for students throughout long-term projects is another way to foster this skill. Even if the students don’t seem to want to manage their time or maybe don’t even seem capable, showing them successful tools and strategies can be impactful later. Once they “wake up” and realize they need better time management, they’ll have the arsenal of “Oh yeah, Mrs. Moody made me plan out my project work on that stupid calendar so I didn’t let it all pile up until the last day. I guess it wasn’t so stupid…” and other techniques they’ve been exposed to during their schooling. Every teacher can contribute to this. It doesn’t matter what you teach – you can model good time management for your students and teach them time management skills for them to use in their own lives. Who knows, maybe it will help you manage your own time a little better, too.
That’s all for this week! Stay tuned next week for numbers 7, 6, and 5!
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