Monday, October 1, 2012

The Explicit Instruction

I just finished reading the article, The Writing Revolution by Peg Tyre in the October issue of Atlantic magazine.  It made me think again that what we have been ignoring for a long time, "explicit instruction".  Good news is the grade level standards will be clear in upcoming Common Core State Standards.  So explicit instructions must exist in many ways in our classrooms.  Needles to say, there are so many companies spending a lot of time and money to create the lesson plans in writing. 

While my mother-in-law shared her schooling experiences in the highly honored Catholic High School in 50s, my impression was the Catholic schooling sounded really like Japanese schools.  Teacher (nun) taps a ruler on their palms and walks between isles of desks.  If they find the inappropriate postured student at her desk, there is no mercy.  Bum!  The ruler smashes the skin.  My kindergarten teacher walked around with 50 cm ruler to insert it between shirt and neck when my back was not straight.  The bamboo ruler's texture froze my spine.  In these similar circumstances, similar expectations were on the table beyond the cultural differences. 

The writing models that were used in Catholic school in 1950s were "explicit".  My mother-in-law keeps telling me the sentence structure lessons she has learned endlessly.  One the contrast, Japanese writing is not a separated subject from reading.  The writing model is inserted accordingly between reading stories.  In each writing session, the text books show the model (sample) writing piece.  A teacher teaches the concept in that lesson, the class analyzes how it's used in the anchor paper, then, all students try to use that strategy in their own writing piece.  For example, there is the story grabber (interesting beginning that invites readers immediately).  "Ring, ring, ring!  I darted to the telephone.  I know who was calling."  The grabber is obviously the telephone noise so that students think about their original onomatopoeia to start their entries.

"Explicit" is the word that I first heard in 2002 in the Reading First School.  The whole school treated the word with revolutionary enthusiasm.  But, at that time, I didn't realize that I grew up in the explicit instructions at the other side of Pacific Ocean.   Good system should be found and implemented.  I am honored to be a part of teaching team that gets to involved in the explicit instruction with "live" experiences.