Teachers SHINE!!

A resource for new teachers and mentors

Tag: Instruction

Teachers TOOT way too much!

No, I’m not talking about gas.

I spend a lot of time in  classrooms at all grade levels. As I watch both the students and the teachers, it is an all too common fact that TEACHERS WORK WAY too hard! I know this is not a shock to anyone in the classroom right now. Let me explain further…

 Teachers do way too much thinking for students.  After lesson planning,  grading, doing paperwork, attending meetings and contacting parents, we are also talking and thinking for students. Stop TOOTING teachers!

TOOT-which stands for Teacher Only One Talking  is  common in the classroom. Non-verbal expert, Michael Grinder, in his book  Envoy, coined this acronym to encourage teachers to use nonverbal cues to manage the classroom (it works). I would extend this sage advice and caution to the direct instruction component of a lesson.  Here is an summary of a lesson taught in two different ways:

The teacher plans to use an article and follow-up questions to work with students on using evidence from a  text to support answers.  He tells students to start byfirst looking at the questions . He then explains how to use a highlighter to underline evidence to support their answer to the questions.  In addition,  he reads the article out loud for students to follow along. After this, he may demonstrate and explain each step of the  answering process and  ask the students  a few questions along the way. Many or few hands are raised to respond to questions and one or two may be called upon to provide the “right” answer.  Hence…the teacher is TOOT-ing throughout the lesson.


The teacher tells the students the target of the lesson is to practice using evidence from text to support answers to questions. He asks students to first think for 15 seconds and then share with a shoulder partner what might be the first step. A few students are called upon (all should be able to answer) and the opportunity to add anything not shared already is provided. The teacher adds to student responses by sharing  thinking about why choosing to read the questions first would be a good strategy. As each of the steps are discussed based on student input, the teacher can hear the thinking behind students’ approach to the work. He can then guide them as needed. As long as the text is at an appropriate readability level, students can read silently or in partners after the teacher models reading (and  thinking) for the beginning of the passage. Together, the class can create a model of the steps to answering the questions and using evidence to support answers. Through student talking, the teacher can get a good gauge of where students are needing the most support and how much guided practice is needed before allowing students to practice independently. Teachers and student talk is distributed and student responses can guide the next steps.

The book title, Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson, captures what teachers should strive for. So much time is spent lesson planning, not to mention the many other decisions to make for learning. It is understandable that when it comes time to teach a lesson, the teacher takes the wheel and drives full speed ahead. It may also be thought that it is easier to manage the classroom when the teacher is talking and the students have to be quiet and listen.

What if teacher’s could still stay in control of the lesson, but shift more of the work to the students? What if instead of the teacher telling students exactly what to do, he or she tapped into having students do the thinking? Being a “guide, so no student can hide” instead of “sage on the stage” might lead to more energy for an after-school celebration! Students will enjoy the learning, not to mention learn more. Try talking less, and listening more. You might be surprised that you become a learner, too.

Mentors: Discuss with your mentee, “When do you notice your students least engaged?” Talk about increasing student “talk time” that is well structured and productive.  How do you teach student talk time expectations, just like any procedure or routine? How can you plan questions during lesson planning that promote student thinking?


The Voice

The reality show “The Voice” offers vocal contestants the opportunity to sing for four popular musical entertainment artists in a blind audition. The coaches’ chairs are faced towards the audience during rookie artists’ performances; those interested in an artist press their button. .

What if in education we had “the lesson?” What if there was only a auditory recording of the teacher in classroom? What would you hope to hear? Based on the words used, expression, tone, and volume-what qualities would you use to pick your teacher artist?

Use the link below to share what you would want to hear.
Share here

Entertainment, in many forms , thrives on the sensationalizing of struggle and then success. The culture of error is not always as entertaining when we are a part of it. However, feedback and learning are strongest in the presence of error. Making it safe to be wrong is one of the most powerful gifts a teacher can provide students in his or her classroom. Here is a link to an example of a classroom for which time to think, process and support errors are valued.

Culture of Error

Teachers must plan the classroom to be alert to learning failures (“error”) as soon as it begins occurring. This is why designing formative assessments toward your target and goal are critical. Like a driver using a rear-view mirror–good drivers check them every five seconds. Click here to connect to 56 examples of formative assessments. Having a plan after providing the formative assessment is important for being responsive to student errors.
Students have a part of in the culture of error process, too. They can work to hide their errors from their teacher (most are skilled at this), in which case they are much harder to see, or they can willingly expose their errors without fear of embarrassment. Knowing the learning targets and learning goal, knowing what it looks like to hit the target and having this insight to share exactly which part difficult is a a great start to creating the positive culture of error.

Mentors-Talk with your mentee about dignifying errors and helping students with think time. I like to use the acronym of 3 R’s when a student answers a question wrong-Restate the question, Reduce the question (go back a step) or help the student to Relearn. Using wait time is a skill that has to be practiced. How can students be held accountable for responding to the learning if they don’t know or are confused?


8 Minutes that Matter

The primacy and recency effect states that you remember best the first and last thing you hear. It makes sense then that opening and closing of your lessons need to be powerful to stick. How much time during lesson planning do you consider these components?

Think about a time when you were so captured by something that you didn’t realize how much time had passed. Maybe it was a book you were reading, a movie you were watching or a stimulating conversation. Maybe it was even a video game. Why did this happen? How can we create moments like this for our students? Two recent article on Edutopia provide great insight and ideas on the most 8 minute of teaching that matter most and why stimulating curiosity enhances learning.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily tasks of paperwork, meeting deadlines and assessments to lose focus on what matters most. We didn’t go into teaching for those things. We became educators to help students learn what is necessary for tomorrow,  a year from now and ten years from now. When you pursue your own learning “for fun,” it is not because a worksheet is awaiting you or for a score on a test. We as humans learn naturally because we have a purpose or are curious. We have a need to fill in the blanks (clozentrophy is the actual name for this-see Marzano.)

As you think about how you spend your time lesson planning, do you stop to consider the first four and last four minutes as critical? It can make a huge difference in student engagement and learning.

Mentors: Guiding questions to share with your mentee:

Tell me your approach to lesson planning and what you think about as you plan.

How will you “hook” students for learning in each lesson?

How will you know where students are with their learning after a lesson?

When you think about lessons that captured your attention as a student, what do you remember?

Think about a lesson that went well this year. What might be some factors? How did you know it went well?

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