Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

11.14.23The Bug That Didn’t (Disprupt Dayla Bedford’s Lesson): A Mini Case Study

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out….


Our weekly team meeting gives us the chance to do what we love most: study great teaching. This week, we had the privilege to study Dayla Bedford of Emma Donnan Elementary School in Indianapolis, IN. Dayla joyfully and skillfully executing a phonics lesson with her first-graders. [We’ll share a longer video of Dayla’s impressive phonics instruction soon (and we are excited to share more on that in our upcoming remote Foundational Literacy Workshop)] But we couldn’t pass up the chance in the meantime to share how Dayla handled a special visitor to her classroom: a bug! TLAC team-member Dillon Fisher shared her notes:


You may be thinking: What can a bug show me about great teaching?! But with Ms. Bedford at the helm, the answer is: a lot! Check out the moment below:


Here are a few lessons we can take from Dayla’s savvy response:

  • Reactions Matter: Dayla’s first-graders are deep in their routine when the visitor appears. When one student notices the bug, Dayla is  exemplifies Firm Calm Finesse“Oh, is there a bug? That’s okay, Ms. Bedford’s got it.”  With a smile…a bit of what we call bright face… Dayla scoops up the bug with a tissue. Her Economy of Language is also key. She doesn’t overtalk the bug, or explain that sometimes-we-get-bugs-and-bugs-are-not-a-problem-and-we-don’t-need-to-freak-out.  She models calmness; says less, and avoids giving it more attention than is warranted. 
  • Lean on Routines when the Unexpected Happens: Dayla has installed routines into every part of her phonics lesson: students know how to respond and when, how to celebrate and support their peers, and how to transition to a new section of practice. A routine is in short a procedure everyone knows to the point of habit. Which means they can all complete a simple task on cue with out needing further directions.  To do something is to be distracted from something else. To do something familiar is to be reminded that everything is fine. So Dayla uses on her routines to help her students transition. Dayla gives her students a clear What To Do Direction to cue a familiar cheer–something they say when a classmate makes a mistake–to transition from strange event to normal. “Everybody say: that’s okay! That’s okay!” … and all of a sudden, it is. 
  • Use the What To Do Cycle  to refocus attention: In less than 15 seconds, almost all of Dayla’s students are sending shine and Mason is back to decoding. But Dayla notices a few students who need a bit more support rejoining the lesson. She responds, “Look at the word. Ooh, Josh is ready, voices ready.” It’s a warm, but important register shift, (an important component of Strong Voice). She drops her volume slightly, her ‘ooh’ signals student attention, and she goes slightly more formal with her body language (standing up straight and using her pointer to focus attention on the words) before giving a clear What To Do Direction: ‘Look at the word… Voices ready’. Dayla engages everyone in the next word decoding and they’re back to learning.


We never imagined that a bug would lead to such team critter-chatter (couldn’t help myself), but, thanks to Dayla, we are grateful that it did. This clip reminds us the value in staying ‘steady at the helm’ in all circumstances and in leaning on clear What To Do Directions to help students navigate the unexpected with as much confidence and joy as her first-graders did. 


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One Response to “The Bug That Didn’t (Disprupt Dayla Bedford’s Lesson): A Mini Case Study”

  1. Dan Ausbury
    November 23, 2023 at 11:01 am

    So funny! The day that I read this, the same thing happened in my middle school band class with a cockroach. Yes, I was inspired to get rid of bug ASAP and get back to music.

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