The Poster Explained

Evelyn brought me up sharply with her comment on my last post. She wrote, “…Talk about intimidating! I’ve read it a number of times now and still have to work my way through it to get the meaning! What do you like about it?”

I don’t mind being brought up sharply. It makes me think—and write. Still, after two recent posts people have asked for clarification. Maybe I should learn something from this…

What do I like about the poster?

Its form is connected to the meaning. When I look at it, my eye is drawn to the lower right hand section, where everything is wrong—colouring, size of letters, spacing—in a word, maladroit. Not smooth. Not skillful. Awkward. (Yes, I had to look up “maladroit” in order to write that last little bit.)

And that is what the quotation says—as teachers, our attention is often drawn to the errors students make.

Then, there’s that lovely phrase, “nascent deftness.”
I’m with you Evelyn—I’ve read it thousands of times, and still have to work my way through it.

Deft. The opposite to “maladroit.” Skillful. Smooth.

“Nascent” is a word that I grasped when I read it the first time, because I thought I saw a connection to “naître” and “nacer,” the French and Spanish words meaning “to be born.” But I’ll have to go to the dictionary again in order to define it here: “coming into existence; beginning to develop.”

Skill is being born in our classrooms. As a teacher, my job is to look for that developing skill, even though it may be difficult to notice amidst all the awkwardness that calls out for attention.

Finally, the poster has been with me through the years as I gradually developed the art of marking for confidence. (Click here for a pdf that is written in MUCH plainer language than the poster. And many more words!)

I was both intimidated and delighted with that quotation from T. Drummond, and as I struggled with working out what he said, I was struggling with finding a way to give feedback to students that didn’t focus on errors, but rather on their new skills. Over the years, both my struggles paid off.

So my apologies, Evelyn and other readers. I should have realized I needed to give some explanation of why I was posting that poster. I hoped it would delight you, and I forgot about how prickly it might be.

9 thoughts on “The Poster Explained

  1. Love the .pdf, Kate! I have students who will get half of the questions right, half wrong when each question pretty much asks the student to do the same thing (for example, put a verb in the negative past tense form). The example at the top of the paper shows how to answer the question, and we go over the material in class. Yet, the student still makes errors. Asking students how they got the correct answers is a great way to help them fix their own mistakes because you’re asking them to think about how they think. Thanks for the great information!

    Incidentally, I had to look up “nascent.” That was a new word for me.

    • You give a great example, thanks. As well, working with questions they know they got right puts them in a positive frame of mind to do their thinking in–they are much more likely to engage in the process than if you start by pointing out what they got wrong. Kate Nonesuch

  2. Hi Kate
    Thanks for your helpful explanation. I must admit that the first time I looked at the poster I read it as ‘nascent deafness’ and thought it described the way that students have of just ignoring teachers!!
    The actual words are much more constructive.

    • you made me giggle too – glad to find it wasn’t just me – i read it that way too at first – had to stop and pause to figure out what it was saying. In the end I rather like that about it – there’s such elegance in those rarely used words – draws my attention and holds it – thanks Kate! And yes the explanation brings it to life.

  3. Hi Kate, I’m glad that you explained that poster. I had quickly looked at it the other day and didn’t know what either of those terms meant (although I knew they must have had some significance or you wouldn’t have posted it). I had thought about looking them up, but was doing my usual quick read of my emails before work, so just left it.
    I’m a new blogger too ( a couple of months), but what I have learnt is that there are millions of blogs out there and if your post doesn’t attract interest very quickly, people just go to the next one.
    I agree with the message, it’s very important to find positives that we can focus on, rather what they don’t know. I believe that one of the most important things I can do for my learners is to build their confidence – after that everything else is much easier!
    I also admire that you recognise when you could do something better too – that’s how we learn, by making mistakes.
    Thanks for another great post!

love to hear your ideas or experiences!

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