I was in New Mexico, working with a VERY motivated group of teachers at a small school. Our topic was Depth of Knowledge – what it is and how it affects test scores. One activity that teachers did was to identify the terms in each of the four levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge that they use frequently, terms they use synonmys for, terms they may want to use more frequently and terms that would LOVE the grade level preceding them to foot-stomp. Teachers examined their practices and thought about the last round of testing, monitoring students taking the test, watching students give an incorrect answer and knowing that the student did know it – AAAHHH! Is it possible the student missed it because they didn’t know the vocabulary – the test said to cite evidence and the teacher had been using show me in the text? Did it say tabulate and the teacher had been using figure? Had the teacher been using a synonym? Hmmm. Something to ponder. Today (Friday), we will be going back to our December work with our prioritized, differentiated core standards and determining what DOK level is expected by the core and then infusing DOK levels into our Learning Targets. It’s going to be an intense – hard and deep thinking day! Just the kind I really love – with (as I said previously) a VERY motivated group of teaches!
Day Two (Wednesday) with the Utah Instructional Coaches was a fabulous learning experience! Our topic this day was consulting and coaching new and/or struggling teachers. We took coaches into area schools to practice doing non-evaluative observations and determining the next steps an instructional coach would take.
The big “take-aways” from my group were:
Focused and Engaged are very different things. Focused means students are sitting where they are supposed to be, looking the right direction, not bothering anyone else. Engaged means students are actually responding – I can see and/or hear them doing something – they are actively participating.
Proximity for the purposes of assessment and assistance and behavior (both redirecting off-task behavior and cueing positive behaviors) is a very powerful tool. The element that make it even more powerful is when the teacher (during proximity) is “coaching” individuals or small groups of students asking them strategic level questions.
Even super good teachers benefit from a coach – someone asking them questions to help them reflect on their own practices.
Practice makes perfect!
At this very moment, Ellen and I are having the totally delightful experience of working with 35 coaches from throughout the state of Utah.
What an amazing group of people! Our topic today is deepening your coaching skills. We are focusing on the three P’s: Pause, Paraphrase and Probe. Are you an instructional coach – read on!
First ponder, what is the difference between a coaching conversation and an interrogation – other than the dangling lightbulb : ) ?
The difference revolves around paraphrasing – restating (NOT parroting) what someone said so that they know you are truly listening – truly attempting to understand. Here are some sample paraphrase stems for you to try:
-Just to be clear in my own mind…
-It sounds like…
-You’re wondering if…
-So, your experience…
-Your perception of the problem is…
Tomorrow, we will be with these same fabulous coaches headed into local schools to practice data collection from a non-evaluative stance.
I’m back at Starbucks in sunny St. Georg enjoying a soy latte and anticipating a great day with Learning Walks. These Learning Walks are going to focus on Tasking and Depth of Knowledge. This work has been built over time to this phase. I am so excited to work with this group of amazing teachers as they are comfortable being observed by their peers and learning from their peers as well.
Where did this work start?
1. Big 8 – Focus on foundational expectations. As all of you teachers and administrators know, if expectations are not in place the rest can not happen… The principal and I did a drop-in in every classroom – running like crazy women (my kids would say that’s normal behavior for me). I then did a PD after school, based on their data – celebrating the high data points and simply making teachers’ lives easier by giving them a few pointers.
2. We then focused on Tasking (whole group). I did demo lessons while teachers collected data on what I was doing and how the students were actively engaged. Life is indeed GREAT when I get to teach kids. I love you tall people – but… kids are super fun. I learned I was pretty, that I did not look as good in the shirt I was wearing, and that yes, kindergarten students do hope for their mothers to give birth to kittens… : )
3. We then moved into observing teachers student engagement – tracking open/assessment/engagement. Let me pause and explain those terms. Ponder what kinds of questions you rely on… Open – kinda like a fishing expedition. You throw the question out and some kid calls out or raises their hand or you say the question again or you answer it yourself or a child hollars out when is lunch, etc… You actually already know who is going to answer even before you ask the question. Assessment – calling on one student. To quote my good friend Ellen, “What are the other 24 students doing?” Engagement Requests – or The All Student Response System. Basically you get rid of the question mark. Instead of “Who is the main character?” (open) or “Gary, who is the main character?” (assessment), you phrase a request – a command. Whisper to your partner who the main character is. Write the main character’s name in the air. On the count of three, when I lower my hand, tell me the main character.
4. We then focused on student to student engagement and Depth of Knowledge. One of the instructional coaches at the school taught two lessons with the upper grade teachers as students. The first lesson was pure text book with me stopping the lesson constantly asking, “What is the missed opportunity.” The instructional coach then taught the same Learning Target – but perfectly! Student to student engagement – depth of knowledge – etc… It was fascinating to watch even adults be off task the first lesson and totally 100% engaged the second lesson.
So, here we are today – Learning Walks for Depth of Knowledge and Tasking. I have to go now as one of the coaches wants a hot chocolate, the other an orange mango smoothy…
I’ll check in tomorrow (from the same Starbucks) and let you know how the day went and also I want to tell you what to do with kids who can’t or won’t partner share or work in a small group.
Have a Great day!