This blog was written by LTT Extended Team Member, Karli Lomax as well as teacher Sandra Lima.

My school, Graded: The American School of São Paulo – where I serve as an instructional coach – began a professional learning initiative designed to foster deeper learning for students. Sandra Lima, a Portuguese language teacher, was one of the first teachers to participate in the initiative. After a few months of exploring the science of learning, Sandra participated in the LTT Elementary course. In this blog post, she reflects on how the course positioned her to harness the power of making small changes to her practice.

Moving from Research to Practice

As a professional learning community, we explored the research behind teaching for deeper learning and practices supported by cognitive science, but I still had questions about how to implement strategies for deeper learning in a practical way. So I decided to take the LTT Elementary course, which truly met my needs for authentic, applicable professional learning.

Making the Time

It’s not easy to find time and space for professional learning. While online courses make it more convenient and you can plan to participate at your own pace, you still have to commit to protecting the time for it. I normally plan my entire week in advance, including meetings, emails, projects, and conversations, so I know what to prioritize, trying to maximize every moment I have available, making it a habit. Since the LTT modules were released weekly, I could include time for reading and assignments and viewing the videos in my routine, one hour after school. After exploring all the materials, I reserved one or two hours during the week to apply my learning or interact with other teachers in the discussion boards. 

Instructional Shifts 

The ACT Model and the many strategies presented through the course helped me to prioritize learning goals for my students and make my lessons more focused. I loved using the Frayer Model to help my students to determine or clarify the meaning of key concepts or to activate background knowledge. Another one that I used with success was Concept Mapping, to organize and connect ideas. It is amazing how this strategy helped some students to improve and recall ideas. I also used the Hexagonal Thinking routine for small group discussions, having students collaborate to write explanations for several of their connections or present them back to the class.

As educators, we see how the world is changing, requiring us to rethink our teaching methods in order to prepare our students for real yet unknown situations in the future. We must intentionally make the learning personally meaningful for our students and the LTT process helps us to co-create learning with our students. 

After talking to my 5th grade class about the concepts we would study in our new unit – water, human beings, and society,  the students raised questions that caught my attention and showed the need to revise the unit’s objectives and conceptual understandings. Questions like, What can a child do related to this issue? or, How does this affect my life? led us, the teachers, to rethink the real world contexts and concepts our students needed to acquire and consolidate. Meaningful learning is the key to helping our students make connections and transfer their knowledge to novel situations.

Reframe to Reclaim Our Agency as Teachers

I now understand that building a culture of transfer does not require a curricular revolution; all it requires is a new way of thinking about, relating to, and organizing our standards and understandings in creative ways so we can develop new frames for current units. The simple reframing of a unit can help students connect more meaningfully with the content, invest deeply in their learning and begin to transfer their understanding to their own lives.

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