The Refining Fire: What Instructional Strategies Will Sustain the Fire?

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

By Rachelle Hodge, Executive Director, Branching Out

Malachi 3:2-4

We are all experiencing the molding or shaping of the refiner’s fire during these uncertain times. I can't help but wonder what post COVID-19 may look like. There is much to consider.

Will schools return to normal?

Will all of the introverts of this world decide to continue to work and learn from home?

Will the achievement gap that teachers who have worked so hard to close increase rather than decrease?

What will we all remember from our quarantined days?

What lessons will we have learned?

The one thing that continues to stick with me is that I believe we will all begin to scrutinize what is really important. Even now in the midst of the pandemic, we are evaluating our relationships, drawing closer to God and people. As time passes, we will examine what we really need to be teaching in our classrooms. While much of our curriculum is essential and should continue to be taught, some is outdated and should be evaluated. Ask yourself, "Is this lesson, objective, or assignment essential to what I want my students to learn?" If the answer is, "No!" then it’s time to reevaluate! Think of yourself like a goldsmith. The process for refining gold begins with a craftsman sitting next to a scalding fire with molten gold in a crucible. The gold is being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal. What dross will we remove? Let us re-examine our instructional practices and find the precious gold in the process.

What to focus on:

Focus on learning that is purposeful and meaningful. Students will not remember the skill and drill assignments, but they will remember genuine learning opportunities that are relevant to them. The #1 key to retaining information is to bring understanding and meaning to the new learning. If there was ever a time when we need to consider giving students an opportunity to do something meaningful it is NOW. Many of our students are asking “WHY should I do this assignment?”

Ways to increase the relevancy of your learning experiences:

  • Create sustained learning opportunities that go beyond the classroom.

A great place to start is with inquiry, problem, or project-based learning. Give them an opportunity to take a deep dive into something they are passionate about. Or find a solution for a current community problem.

  • Problem/project based learning should have a real audience.

Make it real, make it relevant, and then make an impact. Find a real problem, figure out WHY it matters to you and your community, and find solution.

  • Find ways to collaborate and communicate on projects.

One idea is to have students interview someone about who has been through a previous crisis. They could also create a tutorial on something they have researched. They can share their information with classmates through Flipgrid, Zoom, Skype, phone calls, texting, private class Facebook group, or even snail mail.

  • Offer choices in activities, topics to explore, or assessments.

Choices are a great motivator! Offer a choice board or tiered activity. Don't forget to add a challenge to go deeper and explore further.

  • Provide opportunities in a variety of learning preference.

Consider using a variety of multiple intelligences in assignments.

  • Provide opportunities to self-reflect and self-access their efforts.

Try journals, check list, or self-reflection writing at the end of an assignment. Expect growth, not perfection.

Just remember, our job as educators is to avoid the fire blowing out. Let's keep our students motivated, learning, and growing.

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