Teachers, how often has something come up during a lesson and you freeze: Do I forge ahead or just scrap the lesson and address what’s going on?
You have more options than you may think! Striking a balance between sticking with the plan and changing course is about seeing the range of possibilities and making a choice that will help most in that situation.
It’s a common classroom rule. But do teachers expect it to be followed always, every time, under all conditions? Really?
What about the times when that one student who never participates calls out an answer? Do we risk not hearing from her after insisting on reminding her to raise her hand?
Or during that magical moment when a class discussion gets going beautifully and you can step back and watch students discuss and debate? Do we stifle the discussion by stopping each student and pointing to the “no calling out” reminder on the board?
Teachers need to be firm in enforcing their expectations. But we also need to be flexible when the situation calls for it. How do we do both? Strike a balance!
Goldilocks and math instruction. There is a connection.
A recent article co-authored by a teacher and an education professor explored the sweet spot of providing support during a math exploration. Rachel Dale and Jimmy Scherrer describe finding the right amount of support by looking at two extremes and finding the “just right” level in between, like Goldilocks eating porridge that was neither too hot nor too cold. They give detailed examples of providing too much and too little scaffolding in a exploratory lesson on fractions, before landing in between, on what they call “productive struggle”—
The right amount of scaffolding: Productive struggle
This approach of Goldilocks discourse is an example of productive struggle (Kapur, 2014). The key to making student-struggle productive is providing the right amount of scaffolding.