The title of this post is a well-known proverb that carries a great deal of weight during times of adversity, struggle, or uncertainty. I don’t know of a single person who really wants to take on more work, especially during a pandemic. Pie in the sky strategies, fluffy concepts that are dead on arrival because they ignore critical context or lengthy books with little tangible examples do little to alleviate stress. There is no better time than the present to pause, reflect, and focus on simplicity as a means to improve practice.
In Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, I honed in on research-based strategies that have withstood the test of time in addition to emerging strategies such as personalized learning. While I was afforded the opportunity to go into depth in the book, the fact of the matter is less can be genuinely more.
It is critical that students understand not only what they are expected to learn but also why they are learning the concept(s) and how it will be used outside of school. A straightforward way to set this stage is to unpack the standard(s) into a learning target. I shared the following in Disruptive Thinking:
These frame the lesson from the students’ point of view and are presented as “I can” or “I will” statements. They help kids grasp the lesson’s purpose—why it is crucial to learn this concept, on this day, and in this way. Targets help to create an environment in which students exhibit more ownership over their learning. Critical questions framed from the lens of the learner include:
- Why is this idea, concept, or subject vital for me to learn and understand?
- How will I show that I have learned, and how well will I have to do it?
- What will I be able to do when I’ve finished this lesson?
Tried and True Strategies
While a learning target is a significant step to ensure clarity, it is the use of effective pedagogical techniques that lead to meaningful learning. Reviewing prior learning, checks for understanding, and closure have and always will be valuable components of a lesson. Be sure to check out this post on the topic that adds context to the image below.
Fewer Tools for More Impact
It’s not how much technology you use in the classroom that matters, but the degree to which students use it in a purposeful way. Too much of a good thing tends to have drawbacks, which tend to increase when not aligned with sound pedagogy. When it comes to technology, less is definitely more. Consider settling on one or two tools to complement and enhance the instructional strategies you use daily. For a list of some of the tools I see teachers use the most with a high degree of efficacy by instructional strategy, click HERE.
Toned Down Choices
I am a huge fan of personalization through blended learning as a way to ensure equitable learning in and out of the classroom. All of the schools I coach in have found ways to successfully implement these strategies with a high degree of efficacy. One stumbling block is time. Educators love choice boards and will spend hours creating them with either six or nine options. While these can be very effective in empowering learners, the fact is that you don’t need a full-fledged board. Consider having only two are three options for them to choose from to complete. You can also consider utilizing must-do/may-do or a playlist with only a few options.
Chunked Professional Learning
Time is the most precious resource for educators these days. Lengthy workshops or being pulled out of schools for even a day isn’t always practical or beneficial. Just like with direct instruction, chunking professional learning allows for needed support that is more targeted and specific. Single concepts or strategies can be presented, as well as modeled, in twenty-minute blocks. Creating an asynchronous course in a learning management system (i.e., Canvas, Schoology) or Google Classroom is another excellent way to chunk learning into manageable pieces.
In the words of Leonardo da Vinci. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It also helps ensure that an idea, strategy, or implementation helps achieve its intended goal.