Have you ever had an ‘aha’ teaching moment? A moment when you realize you want to make a change to how you’ve always done something.
And then even more exciting, have you ever made the change and then realized the potential that change could have on teachers and kids?
Let me share my most recent one….
I was having one of those perfect days with an amazing group of literacy coaches from Neptune, New Jersey. We were deepening our understanding on how to support teachers. Neptune School District uses Readers and Writers Workshop and as part of this structure, they ask teachers to use the architecture of a minilesson. I first learned about this architecture when I was lucky enough to work for Lucy Calkins at The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
I LOVE the clarity of it, which why is I have continued to use it. In a nutshell, the architecture consists of a:
- Connection where you connect what they are about to learn to prior learning
- Teach where you focus instruction on one thing
- Active Engagement where kids practice what you just taught.
- Link where you explain how the new learning connects to their ongoing work.
The coaches and I were in a 4th grade classroom and the teacher was about to conduct her minilesson, Because her district uses the architecture, we anticipated that’s what we would see. Her lesson did not unfold that way. Instead, she began by reminding the kids how much they already knew about editing. Then, rather than naming and teaching something, she handed out copies of her own writing and asked the kids to partner up and edit her work. After 2-3 minutes, she taught/demonstrated something based upon what she had just seen. Finally, she sent them off to write, reminding them to edit their work, not just today but everyday.
It was no surprise that the first thing the coaches wanted to talk about was the architecture (or lack of architecture) in her minilesson. It was in that moment that I realized I was having far too many conversations in all my schools about teaching and not enough conversations about learning. I shared that ‘aha’ with the coaches. We then switched gears and started talking about what the kids had actually learned. When we shared our notes, we realized that the kids had learned a lot and we wondered if the teacher’s alternative structure supported that learning. After much discussion, we agreed that it did.
Ever since that day, I have been more deliberate about having conversations that begin with talk about kids, not about curriculum or structures. I’ve also been more transparent about the fact that even though the architecture of the minilesson often works, your eyes should be on your kids and how you feel they will best learn. I’ve been amazed how much deeper our conversations have become, and how much more empowered teachers feel.
Kids first, curriculum second! That’s what it’s all about.
I would love to hear from you! What do you think about my ‘aha’ moment? Have you had any of your own recently? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.