Sunday, September 29, 2013


Mike Schmoker, FOCUSElevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning

Dr. Mike Schmoker, is passionate about school reform. “The argument of this book is simple: If we choose to take just a few well-known, straightforward actions, in every subject area, we can make swift, dramatic improvements in schools.” He encourages us to put aside the initiatives and address what is essential for student achievement and FOCUS On:

What We Teach:
A reasonably coherent curriculum that is actually taught with “essential standards in sufficient intellectual depth, with adequate time for deep reading, writing, and talking.” In 2003 Robert Marzano’s research summarized; “Curriculum may be the single largest factor that determines how many students in school will learn.” All students deserve and need a combination of adequate amounts of essential subject-area content, concepts, and topics using habits of intellectual thinking and interactive skills with authentic literacy.

How We Teach:
To ensure all students are learning, sound lessons must be taught using the same basic formula Madeline Hunter taught us years ago, but few implement consistently. Effective lessons must include a clear learning objective referred to before, during, and after instruction with specific feedback to the student on their progress towards the learning target. A teacher must model the thinking of the skill or strategy being taught. (I DO.) These “think a louds” are not funneling the learning, but demonstrating the skill or strategy being taught. Then throughout the learning the teacher provides guided practice at brief intervals to allow students to practice or apply what is being taught either independently (WE DO), or in a group setting (YA’LL DO) and finally, checking for understanding with formative assessments to guide the learning. (YOU DO.)

Authentic Literacy
This is integral to both the “what” and the “how” we teach. It is the “spine: that “holds everything together” in all subject areas (Phillips & Wong, 20101 p.41). What is needed is purposeful reading and writing in every discipline. Reading changes everything. A student needs multiple exposures to a variety of text that allows them to evaluate characters, lessons, and themes so they can learn to argue and interpret, including close reading in literature, social studies, and text.   

Elevating the Essentials by:
The implementation of the FOCUS elements must be ongoing in every team meeting and every profession development session in every school and district meeting. They must be collaboratively created by a team of teachers “working together in a true professional learning community where curriculum and lessons are continuously developed, tested, and refined on the basis of assessment results.” (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2006; Schmoker, 2006).

“This time, let’s not just talk about it. Let’s all of us actually do it. Right now.” (Schmoker)

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