Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

06.02.22How Erin Magliozzi’s Classroom maximizes belonging and learning at the same time

The challenge of post-pandemic schooling in a nutshell:


  • Students face the biggest learning crisis in generation as a result of a year and a half of suboptimal schooling- despite the often heroic efforts of teachers.
  • Many students are struggling emotionally at the same time. Isolation, anxiety, loneliness and depression have spiked at historic rates and are at an all-time high. [Side note: much of that is caused by a social media epidemic that overlapped with and exacerbates the effects of pandemic].


What to do?


In September, The TLAC team’s new book about responding to these challenges will drop. It’s called Reconnect. In it the authors–Doug Lemov, Denarius Frazier, Hilary Lewis, and Darryl Williams—argue that effective classrooms have to magnify the signals of belonging students perceive while at the same time maximizing learning.


Fortunately we don’t think these goals conflict. In fact we think there’s synergy between them.


This video of Erin Magliozzi’s Science classroom at Memphis Rise Academy in Memphis, TN is a good example. We think it’s a model of how a great classroom can maximize belonging and learning at the same time.


In Reconnect we talk about how important the eye contact between students is. When you speak in her classroom your peers are always reminding you that your words matter. So too the snapping and sending of shine. Her students are reminded when they share their thinking that their classmates approve of and support their efforts and will support them even if they struggle. It’s a room full of constant signals of belonging.


But there are other details as well. Here are a few of the things members of the TLAC Team noticed.



Jaimie Brillante


One of the ways Erin creates a sense of belonging is in her Active Observation. To belong somewhere is to be seen individually AND as part of the larger group and Erin uses the time when she circulates to ensure her students feel seen and known. For example, she pauses at a student’s desk and asks, “Did you figure out your mistake on number 3?”  This reminds the student that Erin sees his progress. She remembers where he is and how he’s doing.


One could argue she is constantly reminding students that she sees them and is aware of how they’re doing. There’s the positive narration with student names, the recording of individual student names on her tracker when circulating, the cold call and pre-call driven by data on the tracker.  She’s always saying: I see you; I see your work. The fact that she is always taking notes on student work as she circulates helps her to do this.


John Costello


As Erin Circulates, she reads two student responses she wants to share with the class:

“Jackie,” she says to the second student, “I’m going to call on you to share that difference.” But then she adds a bit of clarification: “Instead of saying ‘one’ has can you tell us which one has…”

I loved this moment. She’s going to let Jackie shine (and make a cold call seem like a great thing), but Erin notes the pre-call down into her plan so she doesn’t forget, and gives Jackie’s answer and give her a tiny bit of feedback so she can make her response even clearer and more precise.

Because Erin offers Jackie private feedback on how to give the best possible answer before she shares publicly, she can be working on it in advance and this will help her feel doubly successful in front of her peers. Since one of the best ways to strengthen classroom relationships is to help students feel as successful as possible, she’s taken the pre-call from good to great.



Sarah Engstrom:


I was struck by the tiny moment when Erin says to one of her students, “If you need help, give me a peace sign. That’s our secret code.”


When Erin makes this quick, private offer of support she communicates that she supports him even if he struggles. There’s also a “special” symbol al his own. This allows him to keep his communication private but also reminds him of how important he is. Now he knows he can get the help they needs simply and easily.


Colleen Driggs


Before Erin opens discussion, she celebrates “the phenomenal job” that her students did in making their observations. After choosing Corey for a pre-call she tells him: “Corey, I’m going to come to you for the first one. Thank you.” Then realizing it will be helpful if Corey knows exactly which part of his answer to share, Erin adds, “That first similarity that you have.” Again she wants to help him shine. When she calls on him she asks Corey to share “a really important similarity” once again signaling that the idea Corey named is critical.


Beth Verrilli


One way Erin maintains the sense of community in her classroom is her use of “we” language: we are a community, we learn together. This happens continuously throughout her lesson, but let’s dive into a couple of notable examples.

First, Erin launches a moment of notetaking with this phrase: “Let’s write that down just to make sure we’re all with it.” There are many valid reasons for writing things down: the process of writing encodes knowledge in our brains; writing preserves information students need to reference for nightly homework or next week’s quiz; reminding students to write builds notetaking habits they will rely on more and more as they move into upper grades. But Erin chooses to highlight another purpose: “so we’re all with it.” She’s reminding them that they all succeed together.

When Erin asks students to turn the page of their packet—in unison—she tells them “We get to explore a weather event called a front.” Again, her language signals that the excitement of exploring and uncovering new knowledge is shared by everyone in the class. And indeed, Erin takes this moment to launch a partner activity, solidifying community as her kids both help and rely on their partners to apply their new knowledge.




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