The Dinner Table Test

Every night families sit down to dinner with kids who have been in school that day. They mumble as they eat about what they did that day, sharing stories about activities, sports teams, work, and, of course, school.

The Dinner Table Test refers to what happens when that last question comes up, as it always does if there are kids in school at the table. When parents ask, "What did you do at school today?" or "What did you learn today?" you want your students to know what to say, to be able to say something real, something that makes sense.

I don't mean that kids should have a nice little list of skills they learned or standards they worked on. Like some other things I won't refer to here, when it comes to effective teaching and meaningful learning, we know what it looks like when we see it.

I heard once of a teacher who stood at her door at the end of each period handing out little slips. As she did so she would say, or so the story goes, "This is what you learned in my class today. When your parents ask you at dinner what you learned, this is what you can tell them."

I don't do that, nor do I plan to. Parents can, however, see the day's lesson plan on School Loop at my school, and I always want it to meet their expectations about my work and their hopes for their kids' future.

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