Sticky Teaching for Lessons that Last

The school year is winding down everywhere.  Teachers are thinking about cocktails by the pool, sleeping in, and…plans for next year.  We can’t help it!  Thinking about what we might try next to take our teaching to the next level is on our minds all the time.  I know that’s you, because you’re reading this post!

As we reflect on how far our students have come, we of course also think about areas they didn’t grow as much as we’d hoped.  It can be really frustrating when we’ve taught lesson after lesson on certain things, only to see that those lessons just didn’t stick all that well.

All too often, when it comes to literacy instruction, we keep writing lessons squarely inside of “writing time” and reading lessons squarely inside of “reading time.”  Often, the phonics, word work, and grammar we do is also a separate part of the day.  

The problem with this approach is the isolation.  

When reading and writing lessons are not connected, it’s really hard for kids to apply what they’re learning as readers to their writing, and it’s really difficult to transfer what they’re learning about writing into their reading.  And if word work and grammar is also separated out, kept as distinct blocks in their day, kids think little of applying what they’re learning in one part of the day to the related components of literacy in other parts of the day.  

This is a huge reason our teaching doesn’t seem to hold. 

What can we do to make our teaching stick?

I have two very easy tips to offer for more sticky teaching:  

  1. Integrate
  2. Reiterate

With intentional linking of reading and writing, we can plan to make that connection super clear so that kids will apply the skills much more strongly.  Kids need to see how reading, writing, and word work all work together.  

Integration is key to sticky teaching.

They should know, for example, that punctuation is a guide for phrasing when they read, and that it signals phrasing and sentences to a reader when writing.  They should know that what they’re learning about syllabication in phonics is applied to decoding in reading, and is also how we tackle writing bigger words.  And they should understand that as readers, it’s important to pay attention to the way an author describes things, so they can create a strong mental image in their mind, which is why as writers themselves, they should work to use precise words and descriptions so that their own readers can create a mental image in their mind.

Making the connections between word work, reading, and writing is a big part of integration.  

But it goes beyond that.

We also have to reiterate.

Using the simple punctuation example above, one way to reiterate might be to model how to read fluently using the punctuation as a guide.  The text would be visible to the kids for this, perhaps on the Smartboard to really show it.  Then, you might use shared reading to practice that same work together with a different text (which, by the way, isn’t just for primary students).  Later, you would again talk about the importance of punctuation as a guide for phrasing as you model your own writing.  You might also reiterate this during 1:1 conferences and again in small group instruction.  

But there’s even more we can do to reiterate.  

If punctuation is the focus, it needs to be reiterated across the day, too.  In math, you might ask kids to explain the error in an error analysis, or describe how addition and multiplication are related. In science, you might ask students to summarize how polar animals have adapted to their environment.  In social studies, students might explain why a map key is important.  With every one of these tasks, you’d watch for and provide feedback–and expect–proper punctuation in their responses.  

So much of what we teach our kids as readers and writers can be reinforced across the day.  This idea of reiteration is not new.  Edutopia writer Rebecca Alber is one proponent of this approach, and offers tips in this 2014 article.  

It’s also easy.  All it takes is planning! 

So, as you think about how to increase your impact in the coming school year, I encourage you to keep integration and repetition in mind.  With just a little more forethought in the planning phase, your teaching is sure to be sticky!  

Could you use a partner in planning for integration and repetition for sticky teaching?  Reach out!  I’m just an email or Instagram DM away!

Who is Coach from the Couch??  I’m Michelle, a 24-year veteran educator, currently a K-5 literacy coach.  I continue to learn alongside teachers in classrooms each and every day, and it’s my mission to support as many teachers just like you as I can.  

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