Monday, January 16, 2012

Student Teacher: Who is that Student in the Window?

How much is that puppy in the window? Priceless, Spot, I know.  New puppies, like new teachers need to be nurtured, celebrated and allowed to grow. In today's market that's a pretty tall order, though. How many great talents live on the other side of the window looking in?

Right now, I'm enjoying my time with my student teacher. She's full of ideas and loaded with intuitive skill. I try to be sure to let her know that all the time. Mostly because she, like me so many years before, is plagued with doubt at times. That is the quality of good teaching that just is so totally unavoidable.

Here's a slice of what we're working on right now:

Notice What You Notice: Expostiory Writing is Teaching/Scaffolding an Idea Right from the Start

My yoga instructor uses the phrase, "Notice what you notice," all the time. In yoga, it means, notice what aches/pains, trials/successes your body is having when you're in that pose. Look at the response and make changes. In teaching, it means monitor your learners, the terms of responses or in terms of what they put on the page. Some might call it 'modifying and adapting,' but it's just so much more than that.

The other day I was teaching a writing lesson, and I was listening to students respond with questions just before they went off to write. Right at that point, I realized that half the reason kids have trouble revising their writing comes from the fact that they never have to meet the reader half way. It dawned on me that they don't get to study their reader's reaction or hear their questions like I do everyday in my teaching. I responded to the students' questions, then brought this up later in the group. I showed them all how I added and enhanced what I'd taught them by adding more key information to clear up misunderstanding along the way.

Now my biggest question to my students is what do you want the reader to know most? And why?
Students are now asked to check in with their peers, and check in with adults to insure proper understanding, because they, like me and like my student teacher all need to be on board in understanding...thinking in the mind of the reader and then processing all that information in order to make their expository piece keep its feet on the ground.

This week, the teacher will be sitting back, conferencing with kids...with the student teacher, and watching the great levels of learning unfold! The art of truly the art of constantly chasing the learning that lies underneath!

Personal Connection Gone Wrong: How kids talk to one another around books can either deepen or worsen their reading practice.

The other day, we were conferencing with our 'book club communities,' small groups we've organized around student book choice. Kids are reading a variety of books leveled specifically for them such as Lemonade Wars, The Wednesday Wars, The Thing About Georgie and The Landry News. We both noticed the quality of discussion was lacking and realized kids were 1) not getting the connection to the assigned journal responses in their discussion and 2) were minimalists and limited in their conversational skills.

So...we read The Man that Walked Between the Towers, with each other first...and no discussion between us. And then, I read it aloud to the group. Then we told the kids we were going to set up three talking points each on our chart (set up in a T chart) and these three points were not discussed prior to the kids coming into the class. This was all authentic and all done right in front of them.

Our ideas/talking points (which were our reactions/connections to the story) were totally different. She focused on an experience with Cirque de Soleil, and I saw this as a boy with a dream and talked about my dream to become a teacher and the journey that brought me there. We modeled eye contact and attentiveness, but we also modeled the key component to good human communication, listening in order to be transformed/bonded to one another in thought. That's what a good author wants. That's what a great reader gets.

I love having a second pair of eyes and ears in the room. Teaching can be a lonely job...opening up and sharing with others is what keeps it a passionate pursuit for me!


  1. Reading your post completely warmed me up on this cold morning! Each day I learn incredible things from you...instructional strategies, how to craft lessons that engage and motivate, to be flexible in planning and implementing instruction, but more than anything else, how to really bring humanity to teaching. I think that's what it's all about. We are in a microcosm of society each day with these students, and you are setting them up to be successful, culturally-sensitive, compassionate, bright future citizens. Couldn't ask for a better experience!

  2. And lucky am I to have someone who not only shares the same values, but is so motivated and inspiring to students right away?! You're a natural...the learning is going both ways! What a great experience for us both!