5 Series: Five Key Qualities of Learning Frameworks

My fabulous colleague Jade Rivera and I recently swapped posts. You can read her 5 answers to my questions about micro-schooling and she allowed me to share about 5 qualities of Learning Frameworks. You can read it as she presented it on her site here, or read the text below.

Ever feel sincerely excited to teach something to a child, to have been confronted with a complete lack of connection or interest? Even teachers with experience, training, and beautifully designed lesson plans have faced this moment. Good teachers throw the plan out the window, and focus on a place of connection, because it is the best choice for a window of learning to open.

In my work, a key connection place is having kids influence what they are learning. My job
is to customize the experience to make learning more enjoyable. I refer to my strategies as
“learning frameworks” because they offer a structure to make the invisible, visible.

Who I Teach
Most of my learners are high on intellect with skills at a different level. For example, when I
come in to Sunnyside, a micro-school in Oakland California, the learners often have deep
knowledge in specific areas. These learners are bright, intellectual, active, and curious.
However, their curiosity is self-selective, and often not necessarily related to what I am
trying to teach them.

How I Teach
To make the invisible components of learning more visible, I use Learning Frameworks that
are scalable and individualized. They can be pared down or amped up according to the
learner in front of me. Activities are customized according to the students, based on what
they enjoy.

What I Teach
My content specialty is language arts and literacy. While most of my students love hearing
stories and information, reading and writing stories may not come as easily. Framework
strategies help ease this challenge. Here are five qualities of frameworks:

  • Explicit

Frameworks are taught with direct instruction. After enough practice, they become a habit.
To learn them, interactive modeling is important. I try to make it interactive with dialog
and demonstration, letting them do more and listen less.

  • Personalized

The content that layers into the framework is adaptable, and can be swapped out in a
moment. If a student is talking about Harry Potter as I come in, then some form of content
from Harry Potter becomes part of the lesson. For example, character names can serve as a
means for decoding practice with direct instruction on word parts.

  • Simple

The strategy is straightforward, allowing a student to feel competent and capable using it. Even if the material is complex, it can be less daunting when packaged in an approachable, inviting, or familiar way. All of my learners need a sense of “I can do that…” to enter into the task. Frameworks provide a welcome mat for a safe entry to taking a learning risk.

  • Engaging

The overriding challenge is always: engage the learner. This means being on the same track
and finding what motivates them. Engagement is eased with visual materials, color, and
format. I try to fill my bag with materials that are colorful, playful, mysterious, or funny,
even what might look merely like a game. These serve to draw in curiosity or bring a
cautious learner’s guard down. When something works for a student, I make sure to point it
out, so that they can advocate for themselves and know how they learn best.

  • Multi-sensory

Once a task is on the table and the learner is curious, then I am looking to create a hands-
on, interactive, tactile experience. The visual, kinesthetic, and verbal happen
simultaneously or in close association to access as many neural networks as possible for
learning to light up and make an imprint.

The Results
These five qualities come together through frameworks to foster connection. This respect
for the learner’s interests and abilities boosts a chance for success.

My students’ notebooks might include mnemonics, graphic organizers, and colorful models
that systematically organize the details of their learning for ongoing reference. At
Sunnyside, when I line up the kids’ notebooks, each looks different. The same strategy has
a unique representation by each learner. This is what I look for – a framework connected
with that learner became their own.

Find Your Frameworks
Frameworks are embedded into our own routines and woven into our world. What do you
do automatically and invisibly that could be made visible to the young ones in your
presence? Parents and teachers can look for ways to make the structure of everyday life’s
tasks more apparent. For example, the mystery of a meal is revealed by the experience
cooking in the framework of a recipe or whatever system you use to turn ingredients into a

For more on Frameworks – see my earlier blog post and web page overview.

To learn more about Jade’s micro-school, Sunnyside, please see her site or the companion post.

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 The 5 Series

In this format, I will explore a set of 5 things: 5 resources, 5 strategies, 5 qualities – the number 5 felt right. It provides a framework, you might say.