Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Engaging Activities for Faculty Development Using 'The Seven Laws of Teaching'

Link to: Engaging Activities for Faculty Development Using The Seven Laws of Teaching 

Experienced teachers recognize in John Milton Gregory’s The Seven Laws of Teaching a thorough and challenging explanation of the many facets of the art of teaching. Like any great work, a Gregory rewards careful reading and discussion. And, of course, frequent re-reading reveals wisdom missed or underappreciated in previous readings. Gregory’s work deserves a featured place in the on-going professional development of teachers.

These exercises are meant to make the limited time schools have for faculty development engaging and practical. The exercises assume a 30-45 minute window of time committed to discussion of the principles and possible applications in individual teachers’ classrooms.

Because most schools will be doing this kind of training in after-school meetings the sessions are meant to encourage a high degree of active participation and to be lead from the ‘back of the room’ by the facilitator. This, of course, models what we want our teachers to be doing in their classrooms. Too often faculty professional development is done in a manner that we would not want teachers using in their own classrooms, with teachers passively listening to a presentation.

So, the following activities are designed to engage teachers and to model good classroom instruction at the same time. These activities are ‘field-tested’—that is, they being used successfully with actual K-12 classroom teachers in actual faculty meetings.

In addition, as much as possible the exercises are designed to follow or mirror the particular law being discussed. For example, for the Law of the Learner, which emphasizes attracted attention as the result of engaging, thoughtful questions, the exercise involves two broad questions. The selected passages from Gregory include questions and tasks meant to ‘shake the shoulder’ (in Gregory’s phrase) of the learner and to attract their attention to the problem.

If these sessions in some way help individual teachers, and their schools, to grow in the understanding and application of the art of teaching they will have fulfilled their purpose.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Seven Laws of Bad Teaching

In a recent faculty meeting we began our year-long review of Gregory's The Seven Laws of Teaching. I asked teachers in small groups to create a list that turned the seven laws around, as if they were offering advice to undermine a new teacher. Below are a few of those lists of the seven laws of teaching badly. 

1.       Don’t bother internalizing your material before teaching

2.       Stick to your lesson regardless of student attention

3.       Impress them with technical jargon

4.       Kids like surprises!

5.       Explain everything

6.       Keep moving

7.       Review takes too much time



1.       Wing each lesson—let it flow naturally

2.       Teach to those who are listening—others just miss out

3.       Use confusing academic language—make the students work harder

4.       Stick to unknowns—make them figure it out

5.       Lecture only—hopefully they can keep up

6.       Teach the facts—Regurgitation works

7.       Don’t review—it’s a waste of time, children are sponges


1.       Just wing it. It doesn’t matter if you know the lesson

2.       Start on time no matter what the students are doing, just keep talking

3.       Use challenging words to grow students’ vocabulary. Hope they understand

4.       Don’t check for prior knowledge, just begin teaching. Novelty is flashy.

5.       Do everything for your students and fill the vessel. Don’t make them work. Talk continuously.

6.       Just get your students to say the right answer. Understanding doesn’t matter.

7.       Don’t revisit past learning. Just keep going on to something new. 

A sample from one of the groups: 

An Introduction to the Progymnasmata

 The link below is to a document (31 pages) which introduces the progymnasmata exercises to teachers in a brief, easily adapted format. 

It's not meant as an exhaustive treatment of the progymnasmata. Each exercise is briefly explained and an outline for working through the parts of the exercise is provided. 

An Introduction to the Progymnasmata:

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Formative Assessment: 'Pride and Prejudice' Relationships and Character Chart Using Stickies

 Early in our reading of Pride and Prejudice in Humane Letters 11 we used this activity to both help students solidify their understanding of the characters and their relationships, but also as a means of formative assessment—checking for understanding. (Total time: about 15 minutes)

As a formative assessment, this activity provided opportunity to observe individual responses on all characters, as well as to observe the paired discussions. The full group discussion gave us opportunities to defend positions and for cold calling. Students could volunteer, as well, of course. 

1.       Students first individually filled in the graphic organizer below. Then, they paired up and were assigned one character.

 2.       They were given two yellow sticky notes to identify character traits and two blue sticky notes to describe the relationship between that character and another. When they agreed on the best descriptions of each they wrote them on the stickies and put them on the board.

 3.       After they had placed their stickies on the board, the class discussed the words used and any changes or additions, etc. We filled in as a group certain areas that the small groups hadn’t been assigned.




































Friday, January 15, 2021

Four Year Teacher Training Curriculum for Administrators

The link below is to a new resource for administrators. It's the first two years of a planned four year curriculum for teacher training using the Four Foundations of Great Teaching  booklet. 

Four Year Teacher Training Curriculum for Administrators (Year 1 and Year 2 included as of 1/15/2021)

From the introduction:

For classical, Christian schools the mission is always central. School culture and the formation of graduates who love God and love their neighbors should be the consistent focus of what our schools are doing. Along with these important goals, schools have a curriculum of academic skills, tools, and subject content that teachers are responsible to pass on to their students. It is classroom teachers who deliver the mission, both the spiritual and the academic curriculum. This guide is meant to assist administrators as they work with teachers to grow very effective faculties, by focusing on key habits that all great teachers have.

Those habits are:

·         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

·         give frequent feedback to students that is specific and descriptive

·         plan activities that require full involvement of all students

·         use models of strong and weak work frequently

·         make sure that students talk more than the teacher does

·         be clear about expectations for transitions and other routines


This guide includes lesson plans for thirty sessions, assuming 30-45 minutes each. The plan below spreads this out over a cycle of four years, but of course they could be done more quickly, or more slowly, depending on the needs of the group. While the concepts build on each other, it is not necessary for all of the lessons to be done in order for future lessons to be valuable. Administrators may find it useful to add their own topics and materials, as well, to fit their particular school situation. This may be especially true with the lessons on classroom culture and management, as each school will have its own emphases and procedures to focus on.

These lessons were developed in actual teacher training in an ACCS school, with teachers K-12. The topics are universal to good teaching regardless of grade level, and teachers will readily adapt them to their individual situations during the lessons and discussions.

The lessons are designed to be highly engaging, with a minimum of presentation from an administrator. This is meant to ensure that teachers actively participate in the learning, and to also model the kind of engaged teaching process that should be the norm in teachers’ classrooms. Administrators rightly expect teachers to have their students actively engaged in their learning—teacher training should model this.

These thirty lessons are only a beginning, of course. Excellence in teaching is a never-ending but deeply satisfying pursuit, for individual teachers and for schools. And since excellent teachers are the key to excellent schools, it is one we must continually attend to.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Lesson Plan Assessment

 For our All-Faculty meeting for December, we'll be looking over the following (fictitious) lesson plan. 

We'll use part of Teacher Observation Form to guide our assessment and discussion. 

We'll do this individually and in small teacher groups, then as a faculty as a whole. 

Classical Christian Academy

Mr. Johnson

Subject:  5th Grade History

Time: Tuesday, 11:00-11:30








French Revolution: Causes




Causes of the French Revolution







Formative Assessment

Quiz on Friday








1.           Pray

2.       Project a cartoon image of guillotine from French Revolution; tell students what it is and who invented it

3.       Teacher to write the ten causes of the FR on the board and tell a bit about each one

4.       Students write them down

on notebook paper, in their composition book, or  on the back of the map we did yesterday in class

5.       Students start to write a story about themselves during the French Revolution: Imagine you’re a child in France during the revolution. Write a story about your feelings about the revolution.

6.       Students work ten minutes on story, then move to grammar lesson



Live Mini-Lessons for Teacher Professional Development

During our curriculum day time, teachers will be presenting twenty-minute live mini-lessons, with other teachers as the 'class' and audience. Critique and discussion to follow. 

Here's a link to the packet for the day:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Lesson Planning Using The Wheel

The document linked here:

combines Bloom's taxonomy with methods of checking for understanding, as well as with activities designed to fully engage students. 

The form is a kind of worksheet that I've used it mainly for daily lesson plans in my 11th grade Humane Letters classes. We use Planbook which is where our more detailed lesson plans are found. 

The first image below gives the general (though unfortunately a bit fuzzy) idea, and the second image is a photo of an example from my class. 

The wheel starts in the center with the learning target language--knowledge, analysis, evaluation, etc. 

This helps to focus my planning on the 'bulls-eye' of the learning: the learning objective. Effective planning must start with the target. What will students learn? What is the point of the lesson? 

Across the center line I complete my learning target for the lesson: TSWBAT analyze "immediate & long-range causes of the F.[rench] R.[evolution]."

From there, the wheel moves out to formative assessment (checking for understanding). In my planning I want to move from learning target to formative assessment, that is, how I will check student understanding of the target. 

Finally, the outer circle includes some (but by no means all!) specific activities appropriate for that learning target area. These are meant to make sure that all students are as engaged as possible. 

For this class, I've circled 'analyze' as my learning target. From there, I've selected an exit pass to check for understanding. Finally, for the student activity I used a graphic organizer and pair-share. 

This form also includes spaces for other information--steps in the lesson, notes, etc. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #10

Last on the 'top ten' list of habits of great teaching is #10:

"I make it a habit to be clear about expectations for transitions and other routines."

Creating a classroom culture that is both supportive and predictable is a priority for excellent teachers. Great teachers take the time to think through in advance, and clearly communicate to students, the expectations for movements between activities, actions, and daily routines. 

Emphasis on clarity of routines, and even practice of the routines, early in the school year is a characteristic of well-managed classrooms. The goal is to create a classroom where the focus is on learning and where that very precious resource--time--is used most effectively. 

Some characteristics of effective classrooms: 
-Students are ready when the lesson starts 
-Quick transitions 
-Routines are completed independently without distracting other students 
-Succinct, consistent instructions 

Some characteristics of less effective classrooms: 
-Students are dependent on the teacher for repeated routines 
-The teacher often reminds 
-Teaching without attention 
-'What do I do now?’ is heard frequently in the classroom from students   

Here again are the Four Foundations Top Ten Habits: 

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

...give frequent feedback to students that is specific and descriptive

...plan activities that require full involvement of all students

...use models of strong and weak work frequently

...make sure that students talk more than I do clear about expectations for transitions and other routines

For more on the 'Four Foundations', see The Four Foundations of Great Teaching booklet. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #9

Next on the 'top ten' of great teaching is #9:

"I make it a habit to make sure that students talk more than I do."

It's important for teachers to make sure that students are doing most of the thinking and the talking in class. Teachers who talk too much, or who tell rather than ask, short-change their students. Great teachers pay attention to the ratio of teacher to student talk. Instead of merely telling, great teachers use a variety of strategies to deepen student thinking and to require student talk. Cold call, follow-up questions, open-ended questions, and asking for student summaries are some ways to do this. Great teachers employ wait time effectively.

John Milton Gregory, in The Seven Laws of Teaching, writes about the law of the teaching process:

"Excite and direct the self-activities of the learner, and tell him nothings that he can learn himself."

"It is only the unskillful and self-seeking teacher who prefers to hear his own voice in endless talk, rather than watch the working of his pupil's thoughts."

"Questioning is not, therefore, merely one of the modes of teaching, it is the whole of teaching..."

Teachers should form the habit of making sure that students do the 'heavy lifting' in class. Students, and not teachers, should do most of the thinking and the talking. As Gregory writes, "...the true and only function of a teacher is to stimulate and help the learner to do what he might otherwise do by himself and without a teacher."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #8

Next in our consideration of the top ten habits of great teaching is #8:

"I make it a habit to frequently use models of strong and weak work."

Imitation is a powerful tool for teaching and learning. Models of strong and weak work help to make the elements of quality clear to students, leading them to have a similar understanding of quality that the teacher has. 

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Use anonymous examples of previous student work, or create them as needed. (Start collecting samples now for use next year.)
  • Working individually or in small groups have students apply rubrics to sample work. Have them group the work into general categories ('stronger', 'weaker'), then hold a class discussion to assign a specific rubric score or placement. 
  • Have students occasionally assist in creating rubrics, as appropriate. This will build deeper understanding in students and will focus them on the learning rather than the activity. 

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. 

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