These are your orders. Top secret. Get them inside you.
The Navy duty officer hands a slip of paper to the young lieutenant, my father-in-law, and as Pop starts to read, the officer continues,
And once you’ve got it memorized, shred and swallow. Here’s some water.
Secrecy was that important in those early days of WWII.
Well for this high-achieving, high-poverty school I’m watching, the secret’s out: What’s important is Getting it Inside You.
Mrs P is teaching the strategy of estimating before adding and subtracting decimals to her fifth-graders.
Okay Millie, where do we start? (It’s the second day for this topic. Mrs P wastes no time waiting for volunteers. The kids are SLANT-ing as in Sitting up, Leaning forward, Attending, Nodding, and Tracking the teacher (or whomever has the floor). Yes, exactly. And Wilem, what comes next? Remember the rounding rules? Tell me how it goes. Use the strategy that works best for you. Armen? Yes, the number line works for you. Go with it. Let’s do one more together and then you try it. (So far, in these first 10 minutes, Mrs P’s done one problem and told the students: Watch me while I do this. Then she and the students did one, with Mrs P eliciting from the students the next step.)
During next phase, the Try-It, she grazes the room and coaches, with no pencil in her hand for demonstrating because at this point in the lesson the students are expected to do more of the math work.
Show me what you’re doing. Where are you using the strategy we just did on the board? What’s your strategy for this one? Tell me what you’re doing. Say it out loud. What will you do next? Tell me the words you’re using to guide yourself: yes, find the chunk; yes look at the smaller number; does it make sense. Good. You’ve got it.
And over and over she says: Use my words. Get them inside you. Then you’ll have a guide inside.
Her words are clear, relevant, and, yes, redundant. They have to be.
Mrs P doesn’t engage in any magical thinking; she knows that this hand-over step is as crucial as the initial first teaching. She’s teaching for transfer. Making the students responsibile for using what’s been taught.
If you’re saying to yourself, but of course that’s how it works in schools, you’re wrong. Teachers teach and students learn, but that doesn’t mean that the students are learning what it is the teacher is teaching.
Teachers need to deliberately teach for strategies first and then, just as deliberately, teach for transfer of those strategies. And the kids need to know that by next Tuesday- the 4th they are expected—on their own—to do the thing the teacher is teaching.
Get it inside you.
It’s that important.
And, unlike that poor young Navy officer who had to get the orders inside him by downing them with water?
It’s no secret.