Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do you know the game?

We often make the analogy, when we argue for math drills, let's say, that to get good at anything, you need practice. Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers gives us all kinds of examples of why extraordinary people do extraordinary things - they practice for 10,000 hours. As teachers, we argue that sports uses drills all the time. It's part of the hard work that makes us good at what we do. Therefore, drills in schools are a good thing. But where we go wrong in schools with practice is context. In volleyball, for example, we might practice setting for hours - but it's always in service of the game. The game is the thing. We practice over and over to win the game. But do kids know what the game is when they practice their times tables? The ones that do - win. How can we make sure each child knows about the game? And how can we ensure that we, as teachers, know the game? Sometimes we forget that it's not the test. It's not the assignment. It's not the project. And it's not the report card.


  1. Interesting insights Shelley! I absolutely agree that providing context to students (and for that matter, to teachers) is key to success in the classroom. I just discovered your blog and I'm impressed with the posts that I've read thus far. I look forward to hearing what you have to say in the future! :)

  2. I'm just catching up on this blog on my day off, and it occurs to me that so many others will not have the time to do this because there is just so much to do, and most teachers don't have the luxury of teaching three or four days a week. I'm going to make sure I pass along this message as my first priority next week. It's so important.