Last week I wrote about how I approach instructional coaching. On Thursday I was lucky enough to put this process into practice when I worked with lovely colleagues from a maths department in the Midlands. I thought it would be useful to share what I worked on with two colleagues in case they resonate with your own teaching practice.
Case Study #1
One colleague wanted to work on questioning during the starter (or Do Now) phase of his lesson. Students were given the following set of questions to work on during the first 10 minutes of the lesson:
The problem was that during this time students were also expected to get their books and pens out, and copy down the date and title… and we all know how long some students can drag such activities out.
My hypothesis during those first 10 minutes was that by the time the teacher started going through the answers, many of the students would not have thought about some, or even any, of the questions. My critical evidence was books like this, where after 10 minutes the date was copied down and nothing more.
During the coaching session, we worked on a different model for the Do Now. Students would be given 3 minutes to get their books and pens out, and copy the date and title (there would be a timer on the board for added impetus). After the 3 minutes were up, the teacher would begin the Do Now, but only project one question on the board. Students would be given, say, 20 seconds to think of the answer and write it on their mini-whiteboards ready to share when told.
This gives a whole-class check for both effort and understanding and is the kind of pacier Do Now where students cannot get away with doing nothing. Having gauged understanding, the teacher could respond accordingly, either by moving on, calling upon students to explain their reasoning, or modelling and providing a subsequent follow-up question.
Case Study #2
Another colleague wanted support with explanations for his low-attaining Year 7 class. He was concerned that students didn’t seem to understand much of what he said.
I watched an explanation on generating terms of linear sequences that lasted about five minutes and quickly concluded that many students were not listening. Some were looking out of the window, others were doodling in their books. My hypothesis was that students would not be able to complete the question that followed the explanation.
Here is the critical evidence I gained from one student:
During the coaching session, we discussed breaking explanations down into much shorter chunks, and following each chunk up with a check for effort and understanding. This check could be a Cold Call directed at a specific student, or it could be a whole-class check using mini-whiteboards.
We scripted and rehearsed the explanation he was going to use in the next lesson:
Teacher: 5n means 5 multiplied by n… what does 5n mean… Tom?
Tom: 5 multiplied by n
Teacher: Good. All of you, on your whiteboards, write down what 3n means, hover when ready… 3, 2, 1…Teacher: Good. So, 3n means 3 multiplied by n. Now, if n equals 2, what does 3n equal… Alisha?
Alisha: No idea
Teacher: Okay, listen carefully to my explanation, and then I am going to ask you to repeat it back to me, and then I am going to ask you another question…
The teacher was excited to put this into practice the next day.