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Creeping Towards a Goal: Teaching Lessons from My Granddaughter
This weekend I was doubly blessed to see both grand-babies and sit back in awe over how quickly they are developing their personalities. And as they grow into themselves, I am discovering that they are helping me think about teaching and learning in new and different ways.
Sunday I was watching my granddaughter enjoy a little tummy time on my living room floor in hopes we could see her make movements towards crawling. We placed a book just out of reach of her grasp and watched and waited. She stretched her long arms but she couldn't quite reach the book. This grandma wanted to push the book closer to her long fingers, but her mama wanted her to try for one more minute. Her attempts and reaches got her ever so close to touching the corner of the cover and her grunts and fusses became louder. I wondered whether she had reached her point of frustration yet and whether this would propel her more or turn her off. When do we give that little push towards the next step? These thoughts were churning in my head when my daughter in law patiently edged the book closer to her and my granddaughter responded by reaching further, touching the book but not quite getting to her goal and still no leg or knee action. Finally, her mom placed her hands behind her feet and pushed her legs forward to give her the sense of forward movement. At last, she reached the book and the smile on her face showed pride in her accomplishment.
I paused to reflect on the steps we took to move her towards her goal without frustrating her: pushing the book closer, then closer still so that she could just barely touch the book and finally pushing against her feet to help propel her forward, tiny scaffolds to guide her towards success. I likened these baby steps to what we do in the classroom when our students encounter trouble. We see a child approach a new skill with a little bit of frustration. We want to swoop in and take over the task for the child, hand him/her the book so to speak. That is the easy way. But we need patience and we need to take baby steps towards the child’s success. So instead we inch the book closer with lean prompts like: What’s wrong? What should you do next? What have you tried and what else could you use? When those prompts don’t work we lean in a little closer and ask if s/he has any charts to look to for help. And finally we might place a little pressure on the feet and nod towards a wall where the strategy chart is hung. We take these slow and calculated steps towards the goal, gently guiding the child and making sure they are doing most of the work for that is when the learning takes place!
I know that my granddaughter will be crawling in no time. Just like I know our students will master that strategy in no time. In both cases, we need to be patient and slow down by offering lean prompts that give our students every opportunity to crawl towards their goal on their own!