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Outside the Classroom: Teaching and Learning is an Extracurricular Activity

Malcolm Gladwell made popular the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. The bright side is that there are so many more hours available to us as teachers and students in progress to reflect and practice.

My top five non “teacher” mentors/colleagues that help me to be a more responsive teacher are:

1. ALL MY TRAINERS AT THE GYM. They remind me that achievement is a long process but that they are with me every step of the way.

2. MY DOG’S TRAINER. She reminds me how hard it is to learn a new language

3. MY DAD. As he teaches me to garden, I am reminded of the importance of how much doing just a little each day can go.

4. MY WEAVING TEACHER. She helped me to assess my own learning process and assumptions made about a learner’s prior experiences and goals.

5. PARENTS WITH THEIR CHILDREN at library storytimes. They remind me that everyone can, and is, a teacher, if that is their intent. Formal training is not the defining characteristic of “teacher”.

Similarly, as I posed in my post “Coaching out of Context”, the professional development provided within educational spheres should be extending its influence. As a result of participating in library storytimes with parents, I saw a connection to the tutoring sessions with adults also working on early literacy components be they speaking and listening or reading and writing. The difference between them being that in the storytime, the facilitator is coaching the adult to teach their child, and in the case of adult learners, they must be teacher and learner simultaneously for themselves. There are not enough learning hours in the day if they do not construct learning opportunities for themselves. Listed below are three simple types of tips adapted from Saroj Ghoting’s work with parents teaching their children early literacy skills. These tips connect the what, where, how and why of a lesson with the objective of increasing the likelihood of continued practice.


Give an explanation means that you point out the literacy area (alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary) that is the focus of the tutoring session. For example, “Today we are going to try a series of activities that work on fluency.” You may include other more specific details related to the student’s goals such as “When I say fluency, I mean rewording my questions into phrases you use in your answers. We will try to decrease the amount of time it takes you to do this in a conversation about your family.”


Give an example means drawing the student’s attention to the practice of the literacy focus area (alphabetics, fluency, comprehension , vocabulary) immediately before or after its practice during the session. For example, “Remember that today our focus is comprehension. For our next activity we will be pausing after each paragraph to summarize what happened in one or two sentences. When we finish I want you to tell me what was most interesting about the article. In this way we will strengthen your comprehension skills as you remember and have an opinion about what you read.”


Empower means bridging the content learned and opportunities for practice between the tutoring session and the twenty four hours found in the days the rest of the week between sessions. You may do this throughout the tutoring session or at the end, but it is important to connect the session’s activities with daily life’s interactions and applications. For example, “Today we learned five new vocabulary words. It would be interesting to record how many times you see those words in the world around you during the week. You could keep a tally. Or, maybe your children would like to play hangman with those words.”

To read further check out "Storytimes for Everyone! Developing Young Children's Language and Literacy.

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