Friday, October 9, 2009

Good vs. Great Instruction

This week when I visited a teacher to do a demonstration lesson in reading workshop, the teacher said, “I love it when you come in because it gives me time to watch my students. When you teach, I notice things about how they respond and how they think that I never noticed before.”

This conversation continued and we talked about how those noticings influence our teaching decisions. Who needs to learn what? How should I group them? Who’s getting it? Who needs follow-up?

Our jobs as teachers demand a lot from us. At the end of each day, we are all worn pretty thin from teaching seven different lessons, managing behavior, and ushering students to and from the far corners of the buildings we work in. There barely seems to be enough time to get through the plans we made for our immediate day let alone making time to reflect on them.

But I can’t help but remember what my colleague said, “I notice things about how they respond and think.” These revelations help us to plan instruction that makes a difference in children’s learning. Granted, it is easier to turn to the teacher manual and deliver the lesson that comes up next in the program but can we neglect to factor in what our observations and experiences tell us about what children need to know?

Teaching is a frenetic business and while I hate to add one more thing to an already full plate of things to do, I ask you to think about making time to reflect. What we learn might be the difference between good and great instruction.

Our lives as teachers are busy. Very busy. We know that good instruction relies on us reflecting on what our students need as readers and writers; however, when do we do that? On our prep? During lunch? In the car on the way to and from school? It seems like everything needs to fit into the cracks if it is going to get a check on the list of things to do.

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