Monday, June 24, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #7

Next on the list of practices of great teachers is #7:

"I make it a habit to plan activities that require full involvement of all students."

Effective teachers make sure that all classroom activities engage all students. There are some students in every class who would love to answer every question and do every demonstration, and others who would be content to let them. Instead, teachers should set up all activities in such a way that all students must participate. 

It's important to avoid ‘batting practice’, or a situation where one student works and others merely observe (observation can be valuable, as long as students know that they will need to account for their observations in some way). This can be challenging during whole-class teaching or presentations. Here are a just a few ideas for making sure everyone stays involved in the learning:
  • Rather than just ‘follow along’ or watch others at work, students fill in a study guide or graphic organizer, or correct their own work.
  • During presentations or speeches, students use a grading sheet or rubric to assess student presentations.
  • During teacher presentations (which should be rare!) stop frequently and have students write three questions they have, briefly summarize the main point, or have them tell how they did the process differently.
  • Stop and have students engage in ‘mini-discussions’ with a partner on a specific question. Have one partner report to the class.   
For more on this very important habit, take a look at pages 19-25 in Four Foundations of Great Teaching

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #6

We've considered five of the Four Foundations Top Ten habits so far:
-plan unit and daily lesson learning targets before planning activities
-write clear, student-learning-focused learning targets
-share the learning targets with students
-plan frequent formative assessments to check for understanding during lessons
-be sure that formative assessments are involuntary and all-inclusive

Next on the FF Top Ten is #6:
"I make it a habit to give frequent feedback to students that is specific and descriptive." 

Students need frequent feedback from teachers in order for them to know how they are doing in achieving the learning targets we have set for them. This feedback should be consciously connected to specific aspects of the learning, and it should be descriptive. Feedback that merely praises (e.g. "good job!") doesn't communicate to students what they are doing that is working well (and what is not), and how they can improve. Worse, it may ingrain a fixed mindset, even in stronger students, leading them to focus on maintaining their 'excellent' standing rather than on learning.  Giving specific, descriptive feedback helps to shift the responsibility for learning increasingly onto the student--which is where we want it to be. 

See The Four Foundations of Great Teaching, page 12, for more on this topic. 

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Developing great classroom habits is critical to our success as teachers, that is, our students' learning. According to research, it takes an average of 66 days to develop an automatic behavior--a habit. As teachers, we want the excellent practices described in the 'top ten' to become second nature, to be so natural and integrated into our classrooms that they are virtually habitual. We shouldn't just do them unthinkingly, of course, but certainly we want them to be so much a part of our classroom routine that something would seem out of place if we didn't do them. 

So, I encourage you to make it a goal to establish these practices as habits in your classroom. Put them deliberately into your daily plans for the next quarter and see if they don't become an important, nearly automatic, part of your daily teaching. Your students will benefit tremendously!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Formative Assessment Packet for 2019 ACCS Conference

The link below is for a 23 page packet I'll be using in my presentation on formative assessment at the ACCS Conference in Atlanta next week.

Formative Assessment Packet B Lynch 2019 ACCS Conference

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #5


Number five on the Four Foundations Top Ten list is:

"I make it a habit to be sure that formative assessments are involuntary and all-inclusive."

This habit was mentioned in the previous post, but it's so important that a review is in order. 

Checking for understanding should occur frequently during the learning, and we need to plan to check all students and not only the eager volunteers. 

In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that we should rarely call on students with their hands up. We should check the entire class often, and when we do call on individuals it should be with targeted cold calls rather than responding to volunteers. We may want to take volunteers occasionally as a way to encourage students, but normal procedure for checking for understanding should be involuntary and 'all-play'. 

There's more on formative assessment in Four Foundations of Great Teaching (pp 10-16).

Friday, April 5, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #4

My previous three posts highlighted the importance of some fundamental teaching practices that we implement in our classrooms at Veritas:
-planning unit and daily lessons with the end in mind, before planning activities
-writing clear, student-learning-focused learning targets
-sharing learning targets with students

As we continue to review the Four Foundations 'Top Ten', we come to #4: 

"I make it a habit to plan frequent formative assessments to check for understanding during lessons."

Formative assessment, or checking for understanding during learning well before any tests or grade-book scores are taken, is an essential practice that great teachers use routinely. Teachers need to know how close students are to grasping the learning target, and students need this feedback, as well.

To be effective, checking for understanding must be frequent, involuntary, and all-inclusive. All students need to be checked frequently. Just  calling on eager volunteers who raise their hands gives both the teacher and the other students a potentially false read on the understanding of all the class. 

Formative assessments should, of course, be connected to the learning targets. This connection not only guides what is asked but can also influence the means. For example, a learning target that calls for students to "recall" or "list" will be easily checked by an exit pass. A target of "evaluate" will require something more--some kind of discussion or extended written assessment will be needed. 

For more on checking for understanding, see The Four Foundations of Great Teaching (pages 10-15).


Friday, January 18, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #3

Making learning targets clear and sharing them with students is fundamental to good teaching. Students who understand what the learning is about are more engaged and better focused on the learning (as opposed to the activity or the grade) than those students who are not clear about the goal or target for the learning. 

Next on the Four Foundations 'top ten' list is:

"I make it a habit to share the learning targets with students."

Sharing the learning target must become a reflex, a habitual practice. As teachers, we should feel uncomfortable with proceeding with the lesson until we have posted (at least in secondary classes) and shared the learning target.

There is room for variety in this, of course, but the principle is foundational: learning targets need to be shared with students. In elementary classrooms it may look different depending on the abilities of the students and the subject. In secondary classrooms, however, it will probably mean writing the LTs on the board and making sure students understand them before engaging in the lesson
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