I am the type of person who would love to go in and observe other classrooms – the problem is, very few actually want you there. I believe other teachers are our most valuable resource in making our own classroom better. Listening to them – observing how they interact with students, how they present content, how students respond to different strategies – and reflecting on how their ideas / structure can help make my classroom a better place of learning for my students.
Its been homecoming week – on Friday each year, we have a “cook-out” at the end of the school day – with powder puff football and an anything-goes pep rally. While outside, you get the opportunity to see and talk with several former students. One in particular yesterday shared they were really struggling in math this year, I’ll call this student H. H was a hard one to win over last year – but by 2nd semester – H was experiencing success in math class.
Let me first say – when students start to make a statement that seems to blame the teacher – I redirect to what they are doing to improve their own situation. H commented the teacher rushed through a couple of examples, then gave them time to work on the material; but that it was impossible to work on the assignment without understanding first how to do it. So, I redirect by asking H – have you asked the teacher to help you? Have you raised your hand during the discussion / lecture and asked them to clarify OR even go through another example? Have you politely explained to the teacher that your are not “getting it” and asked them to slow down to help you understand? I always ask – are you giving YOUR BEST EFFORT? Almost always – students will respond – “No, I could do better.”
As teachers, we all have our own styles – but it was a comment from another student that stuck with me throughout the afternoon “That’s what makes Mrs. Wilson different, she makes sure everyone gets it before moving on.” I took that as a compliment, but I also wondered – although we may teach differently, shouldn’t this be a commonality in every classroom?
The scenario described by H could have just as easily been me on any given day. In fact, throughout all my years – I hate to admit – but I’ve probably been the sage on the stage more often than not.
It was @maxmathforum’s tweet late in the afternoon that reminded me – we MUST pause and give students the chance to respond and we MUST listen TO THEM! Sadly, I think many of us have been guilty of “trying to get the content covered.”
I do. We do. You do. is a strategy I’ve used for several years – but didn’t know it had a name until about 4 years ago. My amazing curriculum specialist pointed out what I was doing after an observation and shared a bit of research supporting this easy-to-implement format of direct instruction. Its one of those things you may or may not pay attention to in your Ed classes – guided practice / independent practice… I know I’ve mentioned it in previous blogs – but its always a strategy students list as helpful in their teacher evaluations. I struggle using it at times – because I would much rather students figure out their own way of doing – but for a certain group of students – direct instruction can be most effective.
1. I do. Stop what you’re doing. Eyes & ears up here.
Students put down pencils. You want their full attention. When they try to listen, watch and write all at the same time, they often miss out on something. Explain you’ll give them an example for their notes – you promise! You know you have those kiddos who want to write EVERYTHING down! You model the problem, talking through your thinking / strategies, choices for your steps. You can most definitely ask for student input – the key is, they are not “doing” anything else – they are with your example/discussion.
2. We do. Students pick up pencils and work through an example with you.
Engage them by asking quesitons and letting them respond with the next steps / explanation of why. Its imperative you implement WAIT TIME – those 3 seconds that all everyone to at least process, then call on specific students. I find using a set of index cards with their names on them allows me to include everyone – not just those eager volunteers. Most definitely – search for different strategies – input from students.
A moment for any questions – allows them the chance to ask for clarification. Sure you’ll have classes / students who would never ask a question, so that’s when I find it even more helpful to call on specific students and ask them why / how. Then another student – asking them if they agree / disagree with that reasoning.
3. You do. A chance to practice on their own – this confirms their ability to do a given skill / use a concept successfully.
Beginning with one problem. They practice independently. The KEY is that you are moving around the room – looking at THEIR work – looking for common errors / misconceptions / confirming their correct work. A simple yes / no / take another look at this step. When they’ve had time to complete – ask questions / redirection – I go back up front and share what I’ve seen on their papers. I intentionally make a mistake (similar to “MY FAVORITE NO”) and call on students to see if they can explain why it wasn’t the correct choice.
This is also the time when I call on students who used a not-so-obvious strategy. (Probably one of my favorite moments is when I get to highlight the quiet student’s strategy! This is my chance to win them over to the wonderful world of math – they see they CAN do it!)
If I have several who are struggling – I give another “you do.” When I see most are on track – I give a “Worst-Case Scenario” – something similar to the problem in the HW/practice that will give them the most trouble. This allows them to ask the questions while I’m there to help.
Though this is not an orginal concept – it can provide teachers with an easy structure that will allow them to slow-down/pause – giving students time to process, ask questions or even feel successful. It provides you with an opportunity to “LISTEN 2 STUDENTS.” I have found the times I use this method – I will have more students attempt/complete a practice assignment than when I rush them out the door without confirming their ability to complete a task successfully.
Let me know how it goes or please share suggestions on how I can improve it!