EX1: Building Knowledge of Students

4a: Reflecting on Teaching
Through interaction and data collection, teachers will build a greater understanding of student abilities and backgrounds, creating an opportunity for stronger relationships and rapport in the classroom.

 

Educator: Ivy Bowler [Email Ivy]
School: Nicholas J. Begich Middle School in Anchorage

Appropriate for Grade Levels: All
Content area(s): All

How does this lesson or technique improve student learning?

During the lesson, the teacher write specific answers to who is engaged or not engaged as well as what is working and not working in the lesson. The gathering of the information provides improvements to the lesson at hand and sharpens the teacher’s ability to accurately capture what is happening in their classroom. Using the form later, allows a teacher to make adjustments when the same lesson or similar lessons are used in the future. By listing other teachers who can provide help, the teacher increases their own repertoire of alternative strategies.

What does it look like in my classroom?

Timeline: Daily

I begin my year with the goal of learning names within the first three days of class. Knowing a child’s name can make the biggest difference, as we all know. I like to carry what I call ‘the list’ while I monitor my students’ work after direct instruction. ‘The list’ is a blue clipboard with some basic questions, sometimes just a roster, which I write little observations on. Sometimes, these are things I’d like to be done differently, sometimes things I saw behaviorally that I want to correct, sometimes academic or social-emotional achievements I want to recognize. The students know that sometimes ‘the list’ means I might be writing down something they don’t want me to be writing down, which in itself is motivating, but usually that feature simply acts as a tool to quiet the classroom so the real interactions and positive work can be done. This is obviously a place to put my own reflections about my lessons as well. What worked? What didn’t? What do I want to do different for this class, or maybe for next period? What can I share with colleagues? What information can I get from them that would help? At a later time, I take these observations and add them to my teaching journal where I can either just jot down information or elaborate for further reflection.

The key to this activity (why it works so well for this component):

My favorite part about this data-collecting/journaling activity is that the reflection is ongoing. Ongoing reflection is one of the best ways to drive our instructional practices and successes in the classroom. I love it because for me, my creative outlet is writing, so it is the best way for me to reflect on what is happening every day and over time. It is also an excuse for me to buy new journals.

Supporting materials

List Questions

Artifacts to gather for evaluation

  • The daily observation list/teaching journal
  • Observing student engagement over time

The Danielson Connection

Knowledge about the students in our classrooms and reflections on teaching go hand in hand. Without key information about our students’ academic levels, cultural backgrounds, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and individual personalities we can only hope to scratch the surface in determining how to best reach them with our lessons. In every school setting, a strong rapport with students is necessary and this knowledge and information guides our relationships as well as our teaching methodology, lessons, and subsequently, our reflection on those lessons. In order to guide future instruction as well as professional conversation and development with and through collaboration with colleagues, the teacher reflection journal offers a place to get thoughts and observations down, to jot down facts and things to remember about particular students and to record successes and failures and reflect on them. Furthermore, the teacher reflection journal is one way in which we as educators can achieve a vital restorative outlet that we need in the difficult day-to-day work that we do while still working to improve ourselves as professionals.