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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Optimal Window for Learning

Over the summer we attended a two day conference called the Direct Instruction Summit.  It was based on brain research and one of the best conferences we have been to in a while.   It has changed the way we are running our classroom and planning our lessons this year.

All students have what is called an OWL or an Optimal Window for Learning.  This OWL can take place many times throughout your day.  You need to identify the prime OWL spots and make sure to introduce your new learning objectives or review what has been previously taught during those windows.  

How do you know when your OWL is?
The first 10 minutes of school is an Optimal Window for Learning.  If you are like us, you are used to bringing the students in, singing a Good Morning song, taking roll and doing the calendar.  We came to the realization that if you follow this routine then you waste your student's OWL.  So this year we will no longer be coming in and working on the calendar first thing unless there is one new learning objective tied to it.  We have a clear goal to teach our learning objective and do so within 10 minutes.  That is no easy task, especially in kindergarten where you get interrupted quite frequently.  

 Both after recess and lunch are also Optimal Windows for Learning.  As soon as the students come in to class it is a great opportunity to introduce a new concept or review an old one.  Some teachers let students come in and get water or have them read independently.  If you do so, then once again you are missing your opportunity to hit the OWL. 

Can you reset the OWL?
Yes, yes and yes!  All you need to do is get your students up and moving.  A couple minutes of vigorous movement with no new concepts will do the trick.  Dancing is a great way to reset the OWL.  It gets the blood and oxygen flowing through the body and the brain.  A few of our favorites are:  The Boogie Walk by Greg & Steve and The Freeze Dance by Greg & Steve,

How many new learning objectives can Kindergarten students take in a day?
Only introduce 2 to 3 new pieces of content a day.
 Kindergarten students optimal learning time is only 5-8 minutes.  That means you should keep your teacher talk short or they will not absorb the rest of the information.  You need to be done with your teacher talk and into your modeling within 10 minutes. 

And Don't Forget...
 Closure at the end of the day is Super Important.  Take a few minutes (under 5) to revisit the big ideas of the day.

Look at this cute OWL timer we found at Vons.  What a great way to remind yourself to reset your student's OWL.

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