Sunday, October 28, 2012

Slicing Before The Storm

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.  There is this storm looming large for those on the east coast, so today is the slicing day for any who'd like to share. Thank you Stacey for doing early!
       I hope all the talk turns out to be much less than predicted for all of you.  It is difficult to be serious about any other topic when so much seems to be happening in the east.  We are hearing about it constantly here in the west too, and keeping you all in our prayers and thoughts.  


What did the teacher say to help this student know what to do?




















            I am working with three interns this year who are working for an Alternative Licensing program that is at another independent school nearby.  They are teacher assistants at our school, work with the teachers in the classrooms as their mentors, and I advise all six.  I have done this in the past and loved it.   It helps keep my teaching growing too.  It is wonderful to see young people learning about teaching and they work very hard, doing their jobs here at our school and completing other expectations for the program.  One of the threads that continues to need support through all the interns with whom I've worked is what I call self-talk.  I'm interested in knowing if you remember when you learned it was needed before teaching a lesson, or when you remember starting?


When the intern and I talk through a lesson (after teaching), this is one thing that I advise, the self-talk, or internal rehearsal before teaching.  


Did the teacher mentally practice first?

I mentally review the words I want to be sure I say, sometimes even writing notes to myself, but mostly I think about it.  I think on the way to school, I think the minutes before a lesson, I think when I'm planning content.  How will I present this particular concept, book, assignment, etc.?   

One of the aspects of this is to know where I want to go with students, then back up to be sure I know the path I will use to get there.  And another might also be words to use that imply more choice, support for students when asking them to take on bigger challenges.  I imagine what those words will be, or imagine what students will ask during the lesson and the words I could use.  

And I want to emphasize that I know that the Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston are important, but I am asking about the mental rehearsal that happens.  Do you do it?  How do you ensure that how you do it helps improve your teaching?  

23 comments:

  1. First I am so happy I got onto your blog tonight without a malware warning. Second I am glad I saw that we are slicing early. And third I wish I could be your intern! It seems that Sunday nights are made for my "self talk" because just before I read your post that is just what I was doing...now and on the way to work in the morning:) Happy Sunday Linda!
    Tammy

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    1. Great to hear from you, too, Tammy. Looking toward the week & what will happen, or what I want to happen is just the thing, isn't it? Sorry about the malware stuff. I wrote blogger & something changed. Who knows? Some used a different search engine than Google Chrome. I just don't know. But it is better. Thanks!

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  2. Great post Linda. So true - self talk and self reflection are key to lessons, I think. This is my eighth year in teaching and my fifth year in a classroom. I think I self talk a lot. I wonder if people to it less with time? (does it become innate?)

    I find that often, even if I haven't written out a lesson in detail, I have thought about it frequently (some lessons quite a bit more than others). It helps me to anticipate what challenges may occur in the lesson, it helps me to sequence my lesson better and think about timing, it helps me to prepare materials that I would have otherwise forgotten, it helps me think about which parts I will teach, which I will guide, and which I will ask students to do independently. I don't do well off the cuff. I have to self talk. Sometimes I even write out my thinking (what I think I'll say) and then when I get to a lesson, I don't use those written notes because I have already gone through them and know what to do.

    With 7-10 preps a day being typical for specialists in our building, it is becoming harder to have self talk on all of my lessons and I have found myself prioritizing which ones to focus on during specific days or weeks. Others have become more "on the fly" talk than I would like them to be at times.

    What I think is really important too is the self talk after the lesson (the reflection) on what went well and what to do different and this is often the part that in the rush of the day can get lost and that I have to be more aware of.

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    1. Thanks for the details; I appreciate it very much, plus I love that last part. Of course, we do it then too, but I hadn't thought to talk about that part directly with the interns. See, I knew if I put it out there, someone would have a great reply!

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  3. I like what you said about knowing where you want to go, then back tracking to see if the path you chose will get you there. That's how I know which words and phrases I need to make sure I use in the lesson.
    And I agree with Dana about reflecting after the lesson. I must look like a lunatic on my drive home as I run through conversations and think through ways to continue with what went well or to return to a topic in a different way for things that didn't go well. I just hope people think I'm on the phone.
    I am a pretty comfortable speaker and teacher, but I started rehearsing to myself back when I was a tour guide at a historic house. I never followed a "script" then, and I don't as a teacher, but practicing some different ways to present material makes for a smoother presentation.
    Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

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    1. You gave me a funny picture of you driving along, talking away. I know just what you mean! And I certainly don't me 'script' either, but just the basic words, what examples I might say, where to start, and so on. I think as Dana speculated, it does become innate, but still, if new, I do the prep mentally along with everything else. Thanks Laura.

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  4. Love the self talk phrase. In the beginning of teaching I would write out ( script) lessons all the time. Now after way to many years teaching I just review in my head and write down key words or phrases. I am always seeking the vocabulary that I want to stand out in the lesson. I review my lead question or I can statements so I keep my lessons focused.

    Then review after to be sure I post the new vocabulary and use again in the following days. It is a pattern I have build over years to be sure I am reaching the standards I need to reach. practice and reflect! Thanks for the post.

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    1. Yes, as we experience so much, we begin to have that rhythm down, I know. But this teaching with all sorts of different students and before different teachers is new to me so I do more of this mental preparation, am more 'aware' of doing it than when I was in the classroom. I also like that you mentioned to be sure to use the same words when you want that lesson to stick. Thanks!

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  5. I do a lot of internal rehearsal, too. Last year, I started keeping notebooks for each of the subjects areas I teach, as a way to collect these focused conversations. I read them before mini lessons and topic lectures, and add to them as I research and learn more. I've become really attached to these notebooks!

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    1. Wonderful idea, Tara. I will talk about this with others at school. We are beginning a genre study with primary teachers so perhaps it might be a way for the teachers to collect mentor texts that are meaningful to each. Of course, thinking of you & hoping for the best of news!

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  6. My self talk on Friday was "Fail! Access Denied!" as I seemed to go round and round with one of my students. Thank goodness for the weekend when I can get my self talk into a more positive train of thinking.

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    1. It does go that way too, doesn't it? Tammy wrote about a similar day, when little seemed to work. I wonder if anyone (besides teachers) know how much we think about those little glitches, just wanting to make it right again, to change to the positive, as you just said, Amelia. Thanks!

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  7. Very cool post Linda.
    I agree. I loved thinking about a lesson, often when I least expected something to hit me: driving, watching a movie, sleeping...
    A way to begin is to start at the end. That's the technique that the LDC module encourages. What do you to end with... working backward.
    What do you think?
    Bonnie

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    1. Yes, I agree & I alluded to it in my post, although I call it backing up 'after' I decide where I want to go. Absolutely, except under inquiry or exploratory circumstances, one should know the end. And of course, even with inquiry, the teacher knows much of what might happen. Thanks for pushing on that too.

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  8. I call it "mental rehearsal", and it's how I deal with almost every facet of my day. I talk myself through the events of the day, and remind myself what I need to do and say. Often, though, my best instruction comes up in last minute ideas. Maybe that's just me, though.

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    1. Yes, I know we change at the last minute, depending on the class, etc. but I imagine you still do some of your mental rehearsal even for that. Isn't it fun that we all have our names for this? Thanks, Maria.

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  9. I am consciously aware of it if I need to be prompting in Guided Reading. I need to continually say to myself that I need to let the students struggle a bit before offering my solution. I guess my biggest question would always be...does what you've just read made sense. xo nanc

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    1. And I think you've just described another 'teacher thing' that sometimes young teachers don't use. I call it the 'bite your lip' move, i.e. it's really wait time. Slow down to give time for thoughts. Don't just call on the first hand raised. Thanks for reminding about this too. It's an important part of the mental self-talk, I think.

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  10. Lot of my planning happens away from school. It helps my mind to declutter from too much school and focus on the learning that should take place. Specific phrases and keywords often go on post-it notes. Sometimes I read them before and practice in my mind, sometimes I actually keep them close to me and use during a lesson. I tend to write notes for reading and writing mini-lessons and not so much for math and unit of inquiry. The math lesson is usually the first lesson and envisioning that in more detail happens in the car on my way to school. The reflection part that Dana brought to this conversation usually happens in the car on my way home. What has changed a lot since I was an inexperienced teacher is that during earlier years I focused more on what I would do and say, but now I spend more time thinking about the students and what they will do, what opportunities they will have to be able to share their thinking, what challenges they may face. What I also have found is that no matter how well you think you can anticipate their questions or comments, you will still get surprises you are not ready for.
    Thank you for starting this conversation. I hope to read more what you do with the interns and how you help them to learn.

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    1. This thread of a conversation is so good, and I thank you for your part, too, Terje. You are right in that young teachers focus first on what they will say and do, rather than wait to see the students' response. However, one thing I have talked about with the interns is that they can, when planning the lesson, begin to imagine student response even if their thoughts do not come to fruition, it's a beginning of the imagined interaction. I do a lot of "car talk" too, as Laura also mentioned. Commutes aren't always bad!

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  11. Great post to make me think about such an important topic. I definitely thought through each and every part of my lessons early on in my career trying to anticipate any and all questions student may have, making sure my pacing was appropriate for the students in front of me and trying to be sure there was something "fun" or "enjoyable" about the lesson so I wasn't putting them to sleep ;-). I think further on in one's career we learn to relax and allow a "lesson" to take it's own path so to speak...embracing those teachable moments.

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    1. Yes, there is an easiness with experience, yet I still do some 'self talk' especially if meeting with a new group. And perhaps that's it. My time with a class long term is over, so I am continually prepping for new. It's juggling a lot of hats isn't it? Thanks Lynn.

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  12. TERJE-I CANNOT GET YOUR POST TO APPEAR! I CAN READ IT ON MY READER BUT WHEN I WANT TO LOOK AT THE FULL PAGE, IT SAYS IT'S NOT THERE.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!