Learning from Teaching
As teachers, how do we learn in and from practice?
One way is to study practice, both our own practice and that of others. In this blog series, I’ll share some of the ways I learn in and from practice, focusing on student learning and the intersection between teaching and learning. Centered in my work as an elementary teacher and math coordinator, I’ll write, and sometimes co-write with colleagues — this week with Nick — about some of the experiences I’ve found most useful for my own learning and practice. Each blog post will include a framework or questions to engage and support others in implementing these ideas and inviting ongoing collaboration.
Professional Conversations Around a Tch Video Clip
Have you ever really thought about how watching a Teaching Channel video can contribute to your professional learning?
In our work together as colleagues, we often use video to dive into the details of children’s thinking and to explore teachers’ in-the-moment decision making. Nick and I recently watched a Tch video clip that features a kindergarten class engaging in a true/false routine. As we watched the clip together, we thought about some of the different ways we saw students participating, what we learned about their thinking, what we wondered about, and we reflected on how the teacher supported the conversation.
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The noisy environment is filled with excitement and questioning. Designers create, collaborate, and redesign their models based on new information. Engineers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their designs. Scientists conduct and evaluate experiments.
Sound like a wonderful place to work?
Well… it is!
Welcome to my first grade classroom, where six-year-olds make science and engineering seamless, and their teacher is learning so much along the way.
Last year, I used video to reflect on my practice and to grow as a teacher of science. I chose to record my students during a series of explorations that culminated in an engineering challenge.
This is a bittersweet post, as it marks the final set of videos from my Math Routines video series from this past school year. I learned so much over the course of the year while filming and working with teachers and students across grades K-4 on these Number Routines:
As I watched each filmed class routine, I reflected a lot on the types of questions I asked students, the way I structured the problem(s), the math the students knew, and the many interesting student ideas I didn’t anticipate in my planning. This process was an incredible experience in professional growth.
Over the past few weeks, Teaching Channel has been offering up ideas for getting better at something this summer to prepare for the next school year. We’ve given you suggestions for learning about classroom organization, growth mindset, classroom management, and social emotional learning. This week, we’re offering you ideas for learning alongside other educators in the Tch Video Lounge.
If you’ve never visited the lounge before, summer is the perfect time to join us in our redesigned space! We now have 30 interactive videos for learning, organized by topic area. Each video is layered with prompts to focus your thinking and inspire you to share your ideas with other educators.
Seeing math routines through the lens of every grade level has been such an amazing experience. While I’ve remained fairly consistent in the types of routines filmed in the kindergarten, third, and fourth grade classrooms, I’ve introduced a new routine to this first grade collection called Choral Counting.
Choral Counting is an activity in which students count together by a given number as the teacher records the count on the board. The purpose of a choral count is not just to practice rote counting, but to engage students in reasoning, predicting, looking for patterns, and justifying things they notice in the count.
I’m always fascinated by math in the early grades. In kindergarten especially, it can be so challenging for teachers when students come into school with varying exposures to both language and mathematics, yet all of their ideas are incredibly intuitive, informal, complex, and foundational to the math they will encounter in later grades.
After reading a great deal of work by Doug Clements and this research study by Greg Duncan — indicating that early math skills are one of the best predictors of later success in both math and literacy — I really began to wonder… what is it about early math that makes it such a powerful predictor?
I felt the blood rushing to my face. I was standing in front of a group of teachers presenting on a topic I was very familiar with and all of the sudden, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was saying. The teachers were very gracious, but I was cringing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have the strategies to make my next move. I sure could’ve used some coaching in that moment.
I often have the opportunity to work with teachers as a professional learning provider or coach around the implementation and assessment of the three-dimensional learning expected from the Next Generation Science Standards. In this work, I’m expected to be the “expert” and the collaborator, but sometimes I need coaching too.
Do you ever wonder how you get yourself into some things?
That’s exactly what I was thinking when I stepped in front of 21 kindergartners to teach a lesson I developed with the video camera rolling. I planned on challenging myself and embracing my year of growth mindset and learning from taking risks. I was both excited and terrified by the opportunity to bring my love of STEM to the small scientists.
Did I mention that I have NEVER taught kindergarten before?
Did I just say that… and do I really sound like that?
I’ve always been told I look and sound exactly like my younger sister, just with darker hair. I’m still not convinced we look alike, but after listening to my most recent presentation, it easily could’ve been my sister speaking. Scary!
Even more frightening is the wording I chose and the stammering that occurred throughout my delivery of the professional learning.
Those poor teachers.
Without the close vetting of this “unwanted” video, I’d never have realized how much I needed to improve. Sometimes “looking in the mirror” can hurt.
To be 100% truthful, I’m considered the “face” of our school district and I conduct numerous interviews that are then streamed on our local cable channel and on our district YouTube channel. How many of those interviews have I watched to see how I can improve on the next, you ask? ZERO!
It’s time to change my paradigm and realize that video self-reflection can be one of the most valuable tools we have as educators. Here’s my most recent glimpse of my reflection.