Sit N' Get

Now that you have decided to read this because you think this is going to be an assault on teacher directed instruction, or one size fits all professional development,  I am actually going to propose that we do some sittin’ n’ gettin to improve our practice. Now, this is not your sit and listen to an expert tell you how it is.  I think to improve instruction, we need to have teachers spend time in each other’s classrooms. They need to see how students are attending to classroom instruction and activities.  I have been amazed by some of the data I have collected while doing classroom walkthroughs this year.  Students actually do pay attention to a lecture done right.  Cooperative learning only works if the teacher actively coaches instead of passively sitting on the sideline.  Teacher proximity makes a huge difference.  Questioning techniques can make or break a lesson.  Every effective lesson includes some sort of informal assessment.  Teachers who take the time to greet students at the door have better discipline.  A personal story from the teacher often makes the students stop everything and listen.  These are things I never noticed until I started visiting classrooms to watch what was going on.  One of the most powerful experiences I ever had as a classroom teacher was some feedback from a fellow teacher after she watched me teach.  I had no idea that 90% of my questions were asked at the knowledge based level.  I also had no idea that I always allowed the same five or six student to answer the questions because I never directed my questions directly to students.  For some reason we have failed to harness the power of these teacher to teacher visits.  Are you willing to improve your practice by watching students in another class?  You might really enjoy watching how great your neighbor is in the next room….. Go out and take advantage of Sit N’ Get!

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Picture Credit:  Dave Meister

5 comments for “Sit N' Get

  1. March 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Here is one more simple teaching strategy to add to your list: Asking higher level questions is effective ONLY if the teacher allows enough WAIT TIME before calling on a student to answer. Teachers tend to fall into the bad habit of calling on the first hand that goes up. Doing this tells the other students that they do not need to think about the question asked. Instead, teachers need to allow 3-5 seconds before calling on students to answer thus allowing all of them to process the question and then formulate an answer,

    In addition, teachers need to vary how they call on students. Sometimes they need to call on kids who do not have their hand raised. This keeps them on their toes. It forces all students to think. There are effective ways to do this so students are not embarrassed and so they all have to think for themselves. The use of electronic devices such as clickers or Promethean’s ActiveExpressions devices work great for this, too, because all students are required to provide an answer.

  2. March 26, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Brilliant. We know how important feedback is to help students learn, and yet as teachers we can go years without receiving meaningful feedback. (Here in Canada, I was assessed formally in my first year of teaching, and never again.) I said this recently in a blog post:

    “I think there needs to be a recognition that we aren’t in the ‘teaching business’, rather we are in the ‘learning business’, and if we aren’t constructing a teaching model that supports teachers in their learning then we need to redesign what a teacher’s day looks like!”

    I completely agree with you that, “we have failed to harness the power of these teacher to teacher visits.” Teachers are a valuable ‘learning resources’ that we compartmentalize (in different rooms) rather than share. To me the challenge is that if we truly value this shared ‘learning time’ then we need to embed it into the structure of a teacher’s day.

  3. Casey Allen
    March 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Im a student at USA in Mobile, Al. I was assigned your blog for my EDM310 class. I think its a great idea to allow other teachers in your classroom. I am still a student at USA and I am still learning the tricks of the trade. I am very excited about teaching and cant wait to start!

  4. March 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Dave Sherman, David Truss and Casey,

    Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Dave, wait time is one of the most critical elements of effective questioning and I am so glad you added it to this discussion. So many times teachers do not have the patience for students to fully form their response after calling on them as well. I learned to keep track of questions by marking on a seating chart as well as having a copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy always available. David T. You are so right about us needing to create time, professional time, for teachers to collaborate and share ideas as well an having mutual planning time. We are smarter together! Casey, welcome to the most fulfilling profession! There is nothing better that seeing learners grow and construct their own meaning. Good luck to you!

  5. Jill Geiser
    March 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Dave,

    You make huge points here not just about learning through peer classroom visits but also about those “little” pedagogical actions that make a difference in student engagement. I am going to add another. Recently I had a teacher work with a first-year teacher on some classroom management strategies. One of the first conversations they had was about the physical set up of the room and traffic patterns – not just about where students are seated but also about where they go in the room to address specific needs. This is a conversations we don’t always have when we talk about instruction but it was a very key conversation for this new teacher. What stays with me is the importance of looking at the classroom physical space for new teachers and the colossal benefits of learning through colleague collaboration.

    Great post!

    Jill

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