Notes from Harvey Daniels’ “Best Practice Across the Curriculum”

This morning, I am pleased to be a part of Littleton Public Schools’ Adolescent Literacy Institute, and I am able to participate in Harvey “Smokey” Daniels’ keynote, “Best Practice Across the Curriculum.” Here are some notes from his session:

  • Goals for today
    • Define “Best Practice”
    • Consider the missing link: student collaboration
    • Watch video of kids working together
    • Introduction to Inquiry Circles
  • Books: Best Practice, Content Area Writing, Subjects Matter
  • 91& of the time, 6th graders spend their time listening to teachers talk of doing commercially prepared seatwork (Pianta et al, 2007)
  • What’s missing?
    • Engagement
    • Curiosity
    • Content
    • Thinking
  • Best practice
    • In 1993 when we worked on the first edition of this book, we were thinking about how other professionals look at the “state of the art” in their field and consider what is “best practice.”
    • Sadly, it is now showing up in “best practice” workbooks
    • So, what is “best practice?”
    • Coverage vs. Inquiry
      • Cover the curriculum (a “curriculum of mentioning”) vs. slowing down and going deeper, screened content
      • Atheoretical vs. driven by learning theory (whatever you subscribe to, all theories agree that students must act upon information in order to make it their own)
      • Assigning reading and writing vs. modeling reading and writing
      • No strategy instruction vs. explicit strategy instruction
      • Backloading instruction vs. frontloading instruction (Jeff Wilhelm)
      • Little or no support during reading and writing vs. time, activities and tools that support students (before, during, and after)
      • Textbook-based vs. variety of texts
      • Teacher chosen topics and assignments vs. student choice and responsibility
      • Solitary vs. social
    • See Consortium on Chicago Schools Research
      • Students in interactive classrooms had nearly 1/3 more gain in achievement than non-interactive classrooms
    • Small group work
      • Groups of four seems to be the magic number for group work
      • Small groups are lifelike
      • In small groups, we are smarter
      • Small groups generate energy for challenging work
      • Small groups make the most of diversity
      • Small groups bring “best practice” teaching to life
      • Small groups help us differentiate instruction
      • Employers increasingly require small group skills
      • Linda Darling-Hammond’s book on Powerful Learning
      • Social skills predict earnings better than test scores
    • Common Core Standards
      • “Engage productively and respectfully with others”
    • How do we get predictable and positive outcomes from students?
      • Make personal connections
      • Get them to know each other
      • Mix up the groups periodically
      • Know who can, and can not, work together
      • Teaching them to ask follow-up questions
    • Modeling an open inquiry
      • Studying the future
  • Points to consider when thinking about collaboration with Google Docs
    • We spend our weekend grading student papers while they are out — how can we invite them to collaborate?
    • Students often get information from only one source — how do we help them find more?
    • Solitary vs. social — how do we effectively structure group tasks to involve everyone?
    • Asking follow-up questions — how do we teach students to really interact with one another and ask pertinent, empathetic follow-up questions?


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3 thoughts on “Notes from Harvey Daniels’ “Best Practice Across the Curriculum””

  1. I am looking for a teacher that can help me with an assignment for my global collaboration class. I plan on using what I learn with my students next year. I have some questions I need answered from a teacher that has used global collaboration activities in their classroom. I would really appreciate any help. My email is berkowitz.heather@gmail.com. Thank you!

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