Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Learning Boosts

As teachers, we all need a lift at some time or another. Sometimes we attend a conference, sometimes we read a book, sometimes we collaborate with colleagues, but sometimes, none of that is practical. We’re busy; but yet, our teaching needs a boost.

Whenever I feel I need a lift and there’s no professional development on tap, I take out my tape recorder and press record as I teach. Long after the lesson is over, I play back the recording and transcribe what transpired verbatim. As I type, I relive the lesson in slow motion. Sometimes I cringe at my words. “What was I thinking?” I wonder aloud. But sometimes I find myself saying, “Wow, I can’t believe what happened there.”

My transcribing sessions of late have helped me realize some important things about my teaching including:
• When pushing kids to go deeper into their reading, they need time to think. Most of them don’t say profound things when I ask one question. They need time to think.
• Most kids need to summarize the text before they are able to reflect on the themes highlighted in a text.
• When I take the time to say, “Can you say more about that?” kids rise to the occasion. They seem to always reach deeper to find something new to say. That surprises me.

When we understand what works well in our teaching, we can duplicate it over and over again. When we understand what isn’t working, we can steer clear of the obstacles. If you feel like your teaching needs a boost, take out a tape recorder. You, too, may be surprised at what taking time to reflect might teach you about being a better teacher.

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