High Expectations

Teachers must always expect great things from their students'; emphasizing the structure of a subject, a concrete understanding of the basis of each thing taught. This is necessary for all levels of students, allowing them to learn deeply, and to explore the subject matter themselves as specialists in their own right. Students learning about rocks are Geologists; I believe that teachers should give them this respect in their learning, they deserve credit and credence. Making clear the context of what is being taught, letting students see what they are learning in relation to the whole rather than just in fragmented, disjointed pieces helps them to want to learn, to try to work toward a goal.6 In my experience teaching writing to first graders, many of whom speak English as a second language, I insisted that they write as much as they could think of about themselves on their monthly autobiographies. They were writers, and they knew more than anyone else in the world about the subject of themselves. When teaching subjects about which many had little prior knowledge, I frontloaded the information using strategies such as Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD), providing visuals, songs, technology, movement, and words to boost their knowledge and understanding. I scaffolded them by allowing them to use temporary spelling, having them tell me ideas verbally and helping them to write what they had said. I wrote commonly used words on the board, and kept in view Pictorial Input, Inquiry, and Sentence Patterning charts, chants, and encouraged them to write everything they could think of, and then expecting them to write much beyond what they had written in the past. These first graders became confident writers, they did not allow their inexperience with writing words, or with the English language to limit their expression, they just wrote.