Pyramid or Tree?

At this point, I consider the teaching of skills, or competencies, to fall into two categories: pyramids and trees.

 In one sense, the process could be thought of like a pyramid, where the teacher takes focused time to build a skill, like a big stone brick that is then used to construct a pyramid that creeps higher as student acquire more skills. The bottom bricks support the ones higher up. One example of this would be spending the first week or two of the school year intensely targeting the read-to-self routine, then practicing and maintaining it throughout the year. Another example is spending a short but intense amount of time learning how to use quotation marks appropriately, then giving them opportunities (plus brush-up lessons) over the rest of the year. I could see this working for formatting a paper, using Google tools, desk organization, thinking routines, group projects, etc. 

The skill of formatting a paper though, could also be learned another way. Instead of dedicating a sustained period of intense practice, it could be slowly cultivated by presenting students with tasks were proper formatting is required over time. This method feels more organic and natural, quite akin to a tree developing and growing over a long period of time.

In short, pyramid learning takes place over a short, intense period of instruction and repetition. Tree learning happens through purposeful projects or tasks over time that require proper use of the skill.

Which is it? The pyramid or the tree? Which approach results in better, deeper, more sustained learning? Are different skills better suited to one model or the other?

Tree learning seems to lend itself to providing skills with purpose by teaching them in the context of a task that needs that skill instead of removed from the need. The pyramid implicitly requires the teacher to say, "I know you don't see the need to learn this skill now, but trust me, you'll need it later."

Perhaps the best solution is a mix of the two. I imagine the process of teaching children to use Google slides appropriately by giving them various projects to research and then present over the year. That process, though, is greatly supported by intense practice in the beginning. There might also be a difference here between classroom routines and skills. I initially grouped them together, but they are different. Routines have more to do with classroom management, school expectations, and learning behaviors. Skills have more to do with their individual learning and intellectual growth. Everything that I intend to "teach" to my students requires an introduction, a first encounter. Even if its not a new subject, it may be a new way to look at a concept or a tool. Maybe every new concept could benefit from a solid introduction (pyramid) followed by routine practice in context (tree).

Pyramid or tree: resolved.