From the Desk of John Walsh
If you agree that classroom walk-throughs should provide you with the necessary data to help you assist your teachers in improving their classroom practices but you find yourself short on data, here are some tools to help. You should observe these key activities on a daily basis in your classrooms.
Five Keys to Effective Instruction
- Clear and written objectives
- Flexible Grouping with purposeful tasks
- Teacher serving as facilitator
- Frequent assessment
- Ticket out the door
Clear and Written Objectives
The students’ expectations should be written in student friendly language in a designated location within the classroom. Within the student expectations, the nouns should identify what the student will be working on and the verbs should identify the level of Bloom’s they will be working at. You should hear the teacher reference these nouns and verbs several times throughout the instructional period. Every student should walk away from instruction clearly understanding what is required of them and to what level they are required to work.
Flexible Grouping with Purposeful Tasks
Students should be working in an assortment of groupings ranging from whole group when new concepts are being introduced to small groups of two to five students when ideas are being shared and problem solving is occurring. When in groups, question stems should be provided by the teacher to guide the discussions. Because each group works at a different pace, question stems should be in a written format for ease of accessibility.
Teacher Serving as Facilitator
During instruction the teachers should position themselves amongst the student group. When small group work is going on, this positioning allows the teacher to hear conversations taking place, which helps the teacher know when to provide guidance to students. During this time you should hear more “student talk” than “teacher talk.” When whole group instruction is taking place, the teacher will be able to see notes being taken and will be better able to judge pacing of the lesson. Anytime a teacher is struggling with classroom management, teacher positioning within the classroom is usually the culprit. Where the teacher is located as I enter the classroom is what I record rather than where they move to because I have entered the room. Teaching is an activity that requires teachers to be on their toes, literally.
Frequent Assessment of All Individuals
During transitional periods between activities, you should observe teachers using assessments for all students to determine if they are ready to move to the next phase of instruction. Response cards, thumbs up/down, white erase boards, online polls such as Poll Everywhere, CPS eInstruction clickers… are all goods tools to use during these transitions. So often when teachers ask questions of a few individuals, this in turn leads them to believe that the whole class understands a concept. Quite often, the reality is those individuals of whom the question was asked understood, but the majority of the class was not ready to move forward. The power in using the above mentioned tools is that for each question asked, the teachers know where every student stands. This allows for re-teaching or clearing up any misunderstandings before moving on to the next phase of instruction.
Ticket Out the Door
Every day instruction should end with a ticket out the door. This is a written, informal assessment to check the students’ understanding of the overall concept that was taught. This key question should be written on the board close to or just beneath the objective. The teacher should review this key question during the introduction so that the students will process the question as they participate in the activities. That will reinforce the students’ understanding of this learning. The last five minutes of class can be used as closure by students writing a response as their ticket out the door. Writing will help cement the concept in the students’ minds.
These are the five things I look for when performing a three-minute walk-through. You may choose these or you may have a list of your own. The key is that the teachers know exactly what you’re looking to see when you walk into their classrooms. “Inspect what you expect” and you will transform your school.