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Focus… Mike Schmoker style.

March 21, 2011
Recently, I began to read the book Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning by Mike Schmoker.  In the past, I have tended to disagree with some of the positions that Mr. Schmoker takes – particularly in the area of integrating technology into the classroom.  (He sees no use for this integration, while I do…but I will save that for another post.)  However, he is well respected and uses research to support his position.

In his latest book, he develops the point that schools need to stay focused if they are to achieve significant gains.  He outlines three elements that should be implemented in each subject area:

What We Teach
He describes this as simply meaning a decent, coherent curriculum, with topics, and standards collectively selected by a team of teachers from the district.  They should be made up of about half of the content standards from State documents.  This allows them to be taught in sufficient intellectual depth with plenty of time for deep reading, writing and discussion.

How We Teach
This refers to the use of quality lessons.  He states, “structurally sound lessons that employ the same basic formula that educators have known for decades.”  However he cautions that “few implement consistently.”

Authentic Literacy
Authentic literacy is described as both the how and what we teach.  It holds it all together and is built around purposeful and often argumentative – reading, writing and discussion.  He states, “this is the key to learning both content and thinking skills.”

I am just getting started with the book, so I still need to learn more about his ideas. He is never one to shy away from making bold statements…  like this,

“Believe this or don’t: These three elements, if even reasonably well-executed, would have more impact than all other initiatives combined.”
I’ll let you know my thoughts after I finish the book.
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