One of my favorite parts of the P.L.A.N. (Bird, Savage 2015) is the concept of “Shatterpoint”. A few years back I was reading a novel by Mathew Stover who wrote about a gem stone that was virtually indestructible — no matter how hard it was struck nothing would happen to it. Yet, a tiny tap in just the right spot and the stone would break apart into thousands of pieces. Finding the Shatterpoint is the work of a master who carefully studies every facet of the gem to find that single place to break open the stone.
Since reading that novel a decade or so ago, I have found myself using the concept of Shatterpoint to describe the importance of carefully assembled understanding of students that allows the master teacher to find that one little thing that will break the learning open. Sometimes the “tap” might be a shared connection to something a student is interested in (hockey, horses, astronomy, pop music, or whatever). Other times it may be a piece of content that is particularly compelling.
Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about student engagement through shiny technologies or flashy apps etc. While these things certainly have their use, nothing will be as important as the master teacher’s purposeful daily work of figuring out for each student what will work as a “Shatterpoint”.