When we checked out at the end of the year, we were given the task of reading the book: “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction” by Sean Cain and Mike Laird. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this over the summer, and so I left it until this last week of my summer. But I did read it before my meeting Monday morning. I was actually quite surprised by what I read and plan to implement the “Fundamental 5” in my classroom this year (to the best of my ability). So I want to list out what the Fundamental 5 are to share with you and so I can put into words what I am planning to do in my classroom.
The Fundamental Five practices are:
- Frame the Lesson
- Work in the Power Zone
- Frequent, Small-Group, Purposeful Talk about the learning
- Recognize and Reinforce
- Write Critically
Framing the lesson is where we deliberately state the learning objective at the beginning of the lesson in a concrete, student-friendly language in the form of a “we will” statement. Then end the lesson with a closing question, product, or task that is in the same form but as an “I will” statement. They ended the chapter describing the lesson frame as an Oreo cookie. The two objective statements are the chocolate cookie and the great instruction and fun we have in class is the yummy filling.
Working in the power zone is probably the most known to all teachers. Proximity. But not just proximity to manage behavior, but to be close to where the learning is happening. There are three focuses in this, first is to remain in close proximity to one or more students in excess of 75% of the class period. Second, is to purposefully arrange the classroom to facilitate teacher movement. Finally, limit or remove teacher distractions (easier said than done, right).
Frequent, small-group, purposeful talk about the learning is the next part of the Fundamental Five. Here we are encouraged to stop talking/teaching every ten to fifteen minutes and have groups of two to four students briefly discuss a questions related to the previous instruction or activity. Use question stems to guide the discussion. I am looking forward the the student retention part of this. They say that when the students have to time to debrief with a peer, those who didn’t get it, will have a better chance of getting it now.
The recognize and reinforce chapter was not as long as the previous one on the small groups, but it was full of information that I am still trying to filter for myself. There are many aspects to this thought. We can recognize and reinforce the academics, social or behavioral lives of the students. The main thing I need to focus on is being intentional to recognize and reinforce as many aspects that I can, not just those that are extremely obvious, such as honor rolls or perfect behavior, but those who improve and really try hard. One statement in the book was this, “Reinforcing effort can help teach students one of the most valuable lessons they can learn – the harder you try, the more successful you are.”
Finally, the last of the five is to write critically. I don’t know about you, but I’m a math teacher and this does not come easily to me. I agree and believe that students should write in all areas including math, but again, for me to remember to include it all the time and to make it meaningful to my students (and me) is that hard part. Some of the things that caught my attention about this is that writing critically increased the amount of material that can be recalled by the learner. It also allows the teacher to stretch the rigor of any lesson. These are two things that I want to do in my class, so I will work on it and try it this year.
I am now glad that I read this book. I am looking forward to this year and I am going to try all of this to help my students be more successful than ever. It’s a little scary, change always is, so all I can do is be intentional in my lessons every day and see what happens.