Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

05.31.17Insights Into Teaching from Ziyanique and Ayianna

Washington Park HS Students

Ziyanique and Ayianna- Future teachers (we hope!) analyzing video and inspiring us!


Every week at TLAC Towers we watch and analyze video of teachers. This week, though, we did something that we’ve never done before.  We watched video with students–Ziyanique Wells and Ayianna Texidor, two inspiring scholars at North Star’s Washington Park High School in Newark.

Ziyanique and Ayianna are interested in teaching so English teacher Ashling Coffey designed a  program for them where they received training and then worked as Teaching Assistants one day per week. The teaching assistants develop their craft, meet with Ms. Coffey to develop their skills, review previous lessons, and prepare for upcoming lessons.

As part of their training, Ziyanique and Ayianna sat in with the TLAC team as we analyzed video. To be honest, they completely blew us away. They were insightful and impeccably prepared and confident. And–our team was unanimous on this–they pushed our thinking in positive ways.

One clip we studied was a montage of teachers using Positive Framing to inspire and motivate students. The montage focused specifically on the “challenge” sub-technique and our guests helped us to identify teachers whose warmth and positivity shone through–they were emphatic about how important it was and had a great ear for the details, with Ziyanique pointing out how important it was when teachers signaled that they “had faith in their students” and in their ability to rise to the occasion. In fact Ziyanique and Ayianna also caused us to drop one clip–of a teacher who challenged her students to do their best on a challenging problem.  “This is a tricky one,” the teacher said. “Only two scholars in my previous class got it right.  Let’s see how many in this class can get it right….”

Most of the adults in the room were inclined to like this framing.  It was a challenge to overcome and it would make students feel proud to do something hard. But the students felt less sanguine: “It would make me anxious,” they noted.  It might make students feel like they were competing with the other class. Maybe even in a tense way.  They didn’t like the clip as much and they convinced us to drop it.

We also watched a clip of Williamsburg Collegiate‘s Allison Dungey doing Show Call and Turn and Talk:

WC-233.Dungey.GR6.ShowCall.TT.CC.V2 from TLAC Blog on Vimeo.

Here they again blew us away.  Ayianna noticed the moment at 40:08 when Allison prompted her student to explain a strong answer more fully, saying, “I love that you used the word suitable. That’s not even a word that I thought of. Can you … add why?”

“She had clearly planned what an exemplar answer looked like in advance,” Ayianna pointed out. “She knew what a good answer should look like so when she found something good in his answer she could prompt him to improve it in a way that would let her show it off.”  None of us had caught this brief feedback loop before the Show Call when Allison improved the best first-round effort in the room and so set the bar high for students and accelerated their learning. She had planned for excellence and then primed the pump to make her Show Call even more rigorous. Honestly, it was kind of a show stopper to hear that level of analysis from a student.

Suddenly we realized we needed to include students more often in watching video–especially students who, like Ziyanique and Ayianna, had one foot on the student side of the classroom and one foot on the teacher side. They could see both worlds and they did so with insight that infused us with optimism for the future of the teaching profession.

Also thanks to Allison for the great clip! We loved it and plan to use it in a future workshop.

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