You know the saying “Practice makes perfect”? Well, here are my thoughts about practice.
This statement is only sometimes true, but really, when it comes to academics, the more you practice something the more automatic it becomes. I like the saying "Practice makes automatic" and here is why.
At the start of every year I say to my class “Practice makes…” and they always answer "perfect". At this point I explain to them that from now on we will say “Practice makes automatic”. I then ask them about learning to ride a bike (thankfully many still learn to ride, if not we talk about learning to print). We talk about how in the beginning we have to think about how to hold the handle bars, how to pedal forward, how to stop by pushing backward on the pedals, and how to keep balance as you go forward. For the first few times we have to think about all of these things so that we can stay up and move forward. But the more we practice the less we have to think about it anymore. This is because our mind now automatically knows what to do and does it. Do we ride our bike perfectly? No, but we are gaining more confidence and becoming a better rider.
It is the same in academics. The more we practice reading skills and strategies such as asking questions before, during, and after reading the more automatic it becomes as we read. For example, as adults, before we read a book we wonder what its about. We usually don't just start reading because our automatic thinking is to find out what we will be reading about. We read the synopsis on the back, we ask friends that have read it, or we read reviews on line. As we read we automatically use context clues to figure out words. We make sure we know what is happening before we continue reading and when we stop reading we don't just put the book down, we think about what we just read. We do these things because they have become automatic. Are we perfect readers? No, but we know what to do to help ourselves enjoy the text the author has put before us.
The more we practice good reading, writing and math habits the more our mind will know what to do when we don't understand, or when something doesn't sound right or when we don't know if we should add or subtract. In class, every time we learn something new or review something old, I remind them that the more we practice the more automatic it will become and the more automatic it becomes the less they have to think about doing it because their mind will just make them do it :)
Let’s face it, if kids have to figure things out on their own (things they are not interested in) they just don’t do it because it’s too hard, too much work or they believe they understand just enough without doing any more. This is where modeling plays an important role in showing kids how to practice these skills, strategies and concepts, because the more we practice the more automatic it becomes.
I use these posters as reminders for my students.