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:

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

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.