- Paperback: 237 pages
- Publisher: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development; 1 edition (January 21, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416611304
- ISBN-13: 978-1416611301
- Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 73 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning 1st Edition
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In an age where teachers are forced into the unrealistic pursuit of unobtainable standards, finally, a book emerges that cuts through the noise and helps us return to sensible, authentic teaching. Focus: Elevating the Essentials for Radically Improved Student Learning is insightful, practical, and, above all else, inspiring--a must read for all teachers, administrators, board members, and policymakers. Reading this book has made me a better, more reflective teacher. --Kelly Gallagher, educator and author of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It
Few writers on education ever get close to the clarity provided by Mike Schmoker. He is a pleasure to read, but always makes me angry. I keep thinking, why can't the rest of us see schools this clearly? In this book, he blows me away. He identifies the faddism that keeps killing our schools, and tells us precisely what educators must do--just a few simple things, but difficult because they contradict what the crowd thinks is right. Read it and be amazed, and frustrated, and motivated to do something to fix this mess. --Jay Mathews, education columnist for the Washington Post and author of Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America
Once again, Mike Schmoker takes a wide array of complex concepts and initiatives and weaves them into a framework that is not only easily understood but translates into immediate action. --Robert J. Marzano, C.E.O. of Marzano Research Laboratory and author of The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction
From the Inside Flap
Bestselling author Mike Schmoker describes a plan for radically improving student learning that is built on three core elements: a focused and coherent curriculum (what we teach); clear, prioritized lessons (how we teach); and purposeful reading and writing, or authentic literacy.
With this "less is more" philosophy, educators can help students learn content at a deeper level, develop greater critical thinking skills, and discover more clearly how content-area concepts affect their lives and the world around them. Both a call to action and a blueprint for creating more effective classrooms, Focus: Elevating the Essentials for Radically Improved Student Learning will challenge your assumptions about schooling and show how educators who have embraced this approach quickly achieved spectacular results.
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I recognized the educational regime Schmoker describes since it is the one I grew up with as a student. Schmoker advocates a return to teaching practices used by Madeline Hunter and further developed by people like Fisher, Frey and Burns. It is an elegant and simple regimen of creating an "anticipatory set", guided practice and checking for understanding; this is how I was taught in public school. I also learned how to read for meaning. I was taught how to do close reading by annotating the text followed with writing. This simple process has served me well over the years.
I started public school in Nova Scotia in 1959 at age five. It was a two-room school house with kindergarten through third grade in one room with one teacher and fourth through sixth grades in the other room with one teacher. The school had a wooden floor, a pot-bellied stove and two outhouses. Fortunately for me, modern teaching methods hadn't yet arrived. My teachers taught me in a very simple and focused fashion.
Sadly, only 30% of children who started school in Nova Scotia in 1959 completed the twelfth grade. Schmoker's advocacy of whole-class instruction does not address the challenge to those students who are genuinely unable to learn without differentiated instruction. This is the rub; how can we ensure all students' learning needs are met so that they complete grade twelve and are prepared for a career and citizenship?
My colleagues would be interested to know that the word standard(s) is used 246 times in this book. Why? Because the educational system in the United States is awash with educational standards; there are too many standards to put a strong focus on student learning. Thus Schmoker advocates--as do many prominent educators--developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum.
In general terms, such a curriculum requires the development of power standards. Power standards are selected from either state or national standards. These are found in standard-based education curriculum documents in educational jurisdictions which have Standards Based Education. This is not the case in many jurisdictions in Canada; Canadian educational policy makers need to be careful not to adopt standards-based education tools when such standards do not exist. Additionally, no good can come from adopting the angst reflected in the writings of some prominent American educators.
Schmoker, typical of many writers in education, asks how teachers can go on adopting new initiatives when simple and focused teaching will result in great gains in learning. The answer is simple: teachers are also employees of school districts. We must do what we are told. We are not policy and decision makers. We have to implement policies and programs as directed by our employers. Schmoker could learn much from reading Richard Ingersoll's Who Controls Teachers' Work?: Power and Accountability in America's Schools.
This book is a good read for those who long for a return to a simple and focused teaching practice.
Dr. John Merks
Riverview High School