Last week, I referenced the Sports Illustrated Sneakerphone. This week, I will be using another culturally iconic juggernaut from the 80's, The Karate Kid.
In the original Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel-san to sand the deck, paint the fence, and wax the car (wax on, wax off). After days of endless sweat and effort, Daniel-san has had enough. He stands up to Mr. Miyagi and says, "You're supposed to teach and I'm supposed to learn!"
Mr. Miyagi calmly replies, "You learn plenty."
After Daniel-san vehemently disagrees, Mr. Miyagi wisely asserts, "Ah! Not everything is as seems...!"
And you know the rest of the story. Daniel-san, having never performed a karate move in his whole life, is able to successfully block each and every punch and jab that Mr. Miyagi can throw his way. Pretty. Darn. Amazing!
Great story, Kurt. (Slow clap.) But where are you going with this?
It isn't until Daniel-san understands how these skills fit into the context of karate that he understands the purpose. Until that point, everything he had been doing lacked context, purpose, and meaning.
You see? You learn plenty!
Transparency is Key!
A standards-based approach relies on transparency. The students should always know which skill they are working on. They should understand how each learning activity is advancing their skill development. And they should know what mastery/proficiency looks like.
Sure, there would have been no cinematic intrigue if Mr. Miyagi would have said, "Painting the fence simulates a great blocking technique. Go ahead and spend a day painting my fence before you actually try to use that motion in a real-life situation." But look at the frustration this caused Daniel-san!
We may not see that frustration in our students. But we may see them focused more on trying to accumulate points than on trying to improve their skill. They are doing Mr. Miyagi's household chores, not practicing karate!
How Do I Get Them to Practice Karate?
- Tell your students which CLS(s) you are addressing in this lesson or on this assessment. Remember: Transparency!
- Make sure they know why this skill/content is important.
- Show them what mastery/proficiency looks like. They are more apt to achieve it.
- Then, later on, let them tell you what it means to be proficient or to show mastery. (A great metacognitive activity!)
- Give them feedback that informs them what they are doing well and what still needs work.
- Provide avenues for the students to monitor their own learning progress. Bonus points for allowing them to have some flexibility with an assessment's time and format.
Three hip-hip-hoorays to Natalie Soto for the Karate Kid analogy. She wanted to know how to assess individual skills that are part of the holistic process of language acquisition. Her "sand-the-deck" reference framed the discussion nicely for me! In short, we decided that you may want to solely assess how well your students do one thing (i.e., paint the fence) even though they are using a variety of skills at a given time.
A fist bump to Paul Radek for supplying me with the idea of transparency. He talks to his department about removing the secrecy of what they are doing in the classroom. He also tells me that Transparency is the name of an old, old wooden ship.
Yes, I can see the trouble with my analogy. Mr. Miyagi's teaching strategy relied on keeping Daniel-san in the dark. And it was genius! I just wouldn't try to make a living on its employ. It's not a reliable way to continually overpower the Cobra Kai Dojo.