Some Simple Truths About Teaching Well

The best way to be reminded of how to teach well is to be taught ourselves.  As I find myself in NYC this week being taught by professors I am once again reminded of these simple things that if in place make our teaching so much stronger.

  • State your purpose.  I spent 20 minutes being confused yesterday because I had no idea why we were doing the awesome exercise we were doing.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t listened, it simply had not been stated and so rather than pay attention to the teacher I was trying to figure it out.  You can bet I was not fully concentrated on the purpose and it showed.
  • Don’t just partner us.  We were told to partner with someone and sit on the floor.  I am shy, I had no idea who to partner with, and I wanted to melt into the floor.  When students are just getting to know each other, take the time to create the partnerships so that they don’t have to stand there by themselves hoping someone picks them. 
  • Be specific. Once I had figured out the purpose, we had already moved on to something more grand and many things were being modeled and thrown at me.  After a long stream of strategies and pretending to be 5th grader (I hate pretending to be a 5th grader) I was told to go practice.  Practice what?  The first thing?  The second thing?  All of them?  State the specific thing we need to work on, write it on the board for us visual learners and then make sure everyone knows what they are doing.  I just muddled my way through hoping I was doing the right thing.
  • Take questions.  I hate the parking lot method, I don’t want my question answered at the end when the context has been lost.  I would like it answered in the moment so I can move on.  Kids get stuck o their confusion, their wonder, or their need for an answer, take the minute it takes to answer it and we can all move on.
  • Show your supports.  My teacher had made a beautiful anchor chart on characterization and even pointed to it throughout her monologue.  The only problem was it hung on a side wall and she sat in front of it so no one could read it, yes seriously….  So if you take the time to create something, make sure it is in a place you can actually see it and use it.
  • Leave time at the end for discussion.  We all have so much to cover and get through but if we do not take the time to discuss expectations, where we are headed, and also what the homework will entail, you will leave your students feeling lost.  Writing up the homework assignment as kids head out the door without time for questions about it means you are assuming everyone gets it.  Don’t assume, slow down, manage your time and wrap up your class so everyone feels confident as they leave, not confused and like a poor student.

5 thoughts on “Some Simple Truths About Teaching Well

  1. I hate pretending to be a fifth grader or a first grader or an eighth grader, too. I'm guessing kids also hate being asked to act like adults before their age as well. I love your list here. Great thing to remember.

  2. A great list of reminders. Especially – for me – the reminder about partnering up. I also have difficulty choose a partner from people I don't know well…or to choose a new partner. But I get new insights when I have a different/unfamiliar partner. Good to remember this in connected to my kids.

  3. "State your purpose"Yes! I figured this out the hard way when I first started teaching. Never assume students will by themselves intuit the goal of the lesson.I also like how you use a list here. Lists are also good in the classroom e.g. Today we will do 1), 2), and 3) can work wonders…:)

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