Part 6: Act 2 – Ch…Ch…Changes!


You are on your way to an effective and productive Independent Practice session. It won’t be long before you can begin to individualize instruction and pull small groups. Once students can accomplish Act 1 to an 85% – 90% level of success, and only then, they are ready for Act 2. In this stage, students are given an additional activity, for a total of two, and focus on transitioning from one into the other. This stage is all about transitioning. Here is what that session may look like.

Act 2 – Stage 2:

  • Review the rules and routines. Review the expectations for both activities and how to manage materials.
  • Introduce the new focus. Begin the session by explaining the focus will be on how students transition from one activity to another. As a side note; students need to transition into the known activity. This means the first activity student will be working on is a different activity, not new, but new to the independent practice block. Organizing in this way will help students manage their transition since they will be moving into a known practice; of which they have experienced a high level of success.
  • Start the session. Give the signal for students to begin the session. As much as possible, try to keep independent practice at the same time each day. You may consider having it more than once a day – one for language arts and the other for math.
  • Observe the practice. Your role is to be a quiet observer. You are actively monitoring two things: how successful students are able to complete the “new” activity, and; how successful students are with transitioning into the next activity. Make a mental note of what is and isn’t working. Remember that you are interested in the practice, which is the focus of the session.
  • Close the session. Give the signal for the end of the session. If you are considering music, it is a way in which students may monitor their clean-up. Select a piece of music that gives students no more than 2 minutes for cleanup. Upon hearing the music cue, students know that it is time to stop what they are doing and to complete cleaning up by the music’s end. When used in this manner, music serves as a self-monitoring tool. Allow students to manage their materials and to come back together as a whole without your input. Your job is to observe their practice.
  • Debrief the session. Again, the debrief is the most important part of the session. Ask; “What worked today and what do you feel good about?” and “What didn’t work today and how can we fix it?” Allow students to respond while you facilitate the discussion. Agree, ask clarifying questions, mark important insights, and bring to light any important observations not discussed. Record their responses.
  • Set goals for the next session. The final question is; “What should our focus be for tomorrow’s session?” Allow students to choose what the focus for improving their practice will be. Relate goals either to the rules or the procedures of the practice. Keep it simple! Have them come up with solutions to the problem, notating each, and post your agreements.

Keep your expectations high. As with the second act of a play, where things begin to get a bit topsy turvy, this is the most difficult stage to master. Stay consistent and committed to the practice, and remember not to cheapen the debrief process. When students are reflective about their practice, learning is deepened.

By: Terri Hamilton


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