Saturday, January 5, 2013

Observing Other Teachers

Hi Guys!

I hope you had a terrific vacation - if you were lucky enough to have this whole past week off, are you ready to get back at it on Monday?  We went back on Thursday - while I didn't really feel ready to give up my spot on the couch, in front of the fire, it was nice to come back to a two day week.  I swear my students grew two inches when they were gone...we hardly fit on the carpet!!!!

By far, my favorite professional development is observing other teachers at work.  I love looking at their classrooms, listening to their instruction and just absorbing it all.  This coming week I'm hosting a group of teachers in my classroom during Daily 5 and the next day I get to observe my pal, Barb, in action.  Let's just say I'm a little more excited about being the observer than the observed.

I could think of something wild and crazy and wow-ful but I decided to go with business as usual.  That just feels more natural and I think we'll all get more out of the experience if that's the way I approach this little slice of fun...

We're working on using our schema to make connections - right now we're focusing on text-to-self connections.  If you're using the common core standards you may be thinking "Hmm, nowhere in the core does it mention text-to-self connections, or nowhere does it talk about activating prior knowledge" - I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this news.  I can't imagine teaching reading comprehension without activating prior knowledge and cannot imagine leaving out how using your schema as you read helps you relate to and understand the story better - so if you'd like to chime in below in my comments with your opinion or understanding of this I would LOVE to hear from you...I'm open, but currently standing firm{ish}...

So, my students know what schema is and have just started learning about using it to make text-to-self connections. They've put little sticky notes on their pages to notate where they've made a connection and have even taken the plunge and shared their thinking with their reading partners during read-to-someone and during our sharing after workshop. 

We made an anchor chart that explained how they'll know they've made a text-to-self connection - I wish I had a picture of it.  Essentially we noticed that when you make a t-t-s connection you usually say or think the words "It reminds ME of" or "I remember a time when" or "One time I..." the key words being "I" or "Me". 

My next step {Early next week} is from Debbie Miller's book Reading With Meaning where we will  read a story, make connections, jot them down on chart paper and then go through each one and discuss which ones are helpful to us as readers...helpful connections help us understand the story better and typically they help us understand the feelings of a character. They also take us back into the text rather than away from it. 

I found this anchor chart on Pinterest that I just love...

This happens to be from one of my bloggy friends, Kim, over at Joy in 6th - LOVE!

So, when  my teaching pals come visit on Thursday we'll be ready to talk about this anchor chart by connecting it with our thinking the day before {where we decided which connections help us to comprehend the story better}.

I can't wait to see how ready my kids are to understand this BIG thinking...I have faith in their big, busy brains!

What I love about how our literacy coach organizes these observations is that she has the teacher who is being observed meet with the teachers who will be in her classroom before the observation - we talk about the lesson and the observed teacher can share with the others what they would like the others to cue into.  I'm thinking I'm going to want them to walk around and talk with the kids about their connections and whether or not they feel the connections they've made have helped them understand the story better and HOW.  That's some big thinkin'!

After the lesson, we get a chance to debrief, which I love too!!!!  I get feedback from the teachers and find myself growing the most during these conversations...

I'm curious if other districts afford their teachers the opportunity to observe their colleagues...please share!!!!

On a different note, my friend Megan, over at Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade is hosting a great giveaway in celebration of her birthday...head over and enter!!!!

Have a great weekend!!!!


  1. In my district we are allowed to visit and observe other teachers too. I would love to observe other teachers so I can learn and improve my own instruction, but I absolutely cannot fathom having others observe me. It truly petrifies me! It's a phobia. Last year, my principal asked me if an entire team of first grade teachers from another school, could come observe me. I told her I was uncomfortable with the idea, but I didn't really say no. I didn't want to disappoint her. About three days before they were supposed to observe me, I woke up at midnight breaking out in hives. I couldn't go back to sleep. I ended up having to back out. I'm pretty sure my principal was disappointed in me after all. I don't know how else to describe how intense my fear is except like this: It would be like asking someone that is afraid of dogs stay in a caged in area with a bunch of Rottweillers. I like helping and sharing with other teachers but I just don't know how to get past this anxiety. I'm envious of other teachers that are comfortable in "their own skin." Good luck! Let us know how the lesson goes.

    1. Oh Corinna - I can relate! I used to get REALLY REALLY nervous to do any "public speaking" but I'm better. I was observed earlier in the year and was BEYOND nervous for that...but it went so well, I decided to do it again. Getting over the hump is the hardest...but I can completely understand where you're coming from!!!!

    2. The sad thing is I have people in and out of my room all the time. I have an inclusion classroom. I parallel teach at times throughout my day when the inclusion teacher comes in, but it never gets any easier for me. I'm a nervous wreck. I wish I could shake it off. I have nothing to hide and I really don't do anything different when they are in the room than when they are not. It truly is anxiety. I can't do public speaking either. YIKES!

  2. I am a beginning teacher 2nd year and teaching 2nd grade... so of course I have LOTS of observations and one of them is by a peer.. Corinna I am like you.. not that I am doing anything wrong , which I am not, just not a fan of someone else watching me. Holly you are also correct and this Common Core has many flaws, the idea behind it seems good enough but I'm not quite sold on it either.

  3. Working in a school that had the Reading First grant fixed me of my fear of having others observe me. Our coach was in our rooms every day during reading and interventions. The principal did daily walk-throughs. At times, the school coach, principal, superintendent, and 3-4 state people would observe the reading instruction.

    It's definitely not that intense anymore, but I really don't mind people watching me.
    Usually the newer teachers will come in to observe now. Or if we are a mentor, our mentee will come in to observe. I actually am having a K teacher come in this week. Love sharing!

  4. We have aa literacy consultant who works closely with us. We have labs for readers workshop and writers workshop, where we go and observe a teacher multiple times a year and dig deeper into methods. I hosted teachers at the start of the year for Words Their Way. I was a wreck, but my kids were champs. They even enjoyed when I was being video-taped for the disctrict web site.

    Observations are by-far my favorite way to learn. I've lerned more this way than from any professional conference!

    Good luck!
    New Adventures in First Grade

  5. Just this year, I started having groups of teachers in to watch my Daily 5. I've finally started to be comfortable with being observed during Daily 5 but any other time I would have major anxiety! Just before break, I was asked if the teachers could video when they were in. I said sure. I was thinking it would be a small flip camera or something. Oh, no! An official videographer from the District came with them. He had a huge news camera!I was mic'd and everything. Talk about pressure!It was probably better I didn't know!

    As far as connections, I think students need to know how to make connections to themselves first before they can make connections describing two events etc which is a Commomn Core standard. That's my rationale and I'm sticking to it!
    Sample’s Superstars

  6. I want to come watch your daily 5!! This is my first year teaching it and I loooove it! My kids have made such big growth in reading because of it!! I also love the small group time I have now!! You will be great Holly!!!

  7. I love Reading With's one of my all time faves! Good luck with your observation...I'm sure you'll rock it! :)

  8. We get two "observation days" per year per our contract. I have only used them once but I used to be demonstration teacher which meant others came to watch me teaching. Ideally we'd have that before/after conferring time with the observers but it was all done by my coach at the time (who SUCKED) so it wasn't what it could have been. I love having people come in and watch me...I've let college kids do it when they need observation hours and I always ask them to give me feedback on what they noticed. It is a great experience.

  9. At my school, we used to go visit each other teaching years ago. I guess too many teachers felt uncomfortable with it so my principal stopped having us do that. Now, for new teacher training, they bring groups of new teachers around to watch us teach for about 30 minutes once or twice a year. I miss watching other teachers teach! It is such a valuable tool for inspiration and for self-reflection of your own lessons! Thanks for sharing this, Holly! (I've missed you! I am finally back in the blogging world again! Yeah!)

    Teaching First

  10. Observing other teachers is my favorite thing to do...however we don't often get the chance to do it. Blog-land is kind of like being in other teacher's classrooms.

    Chickadee Jubilee

  11. Here is my two cents on Common Core not having anything to do with schema and everything to do with text evidence. I agree text evidence is important, but all it does is have the students regurgitate what the text is saying. It does not allow for students to think about how the book, character feelings, problems, etc. apply to them, their surroundings and the world. I think schema and connections are a vital part of reading, it is the part that encourages, creates, and nurtures the love of reading and ultimately isn't that what we want, students that love to read, as opposed to students that can look in a book and find an answer. Like I said just my two cents.
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

    1. Shawna,

      That's I how I look at it too. We've been asked to fill some holes in CCSS math, and we are just now getting our feet wet with CCSS ELA....I'm guessing once we delve more into it, we'll consider this to be another hole and will hold onto teaching reading with schema and connections. For now, I'll combine the two {connections & text evidence}...

      Thanks for your two cents, I appreciate it!

  12. Our district allows for peer observations, as needed. I LOVE being able to visit other teacher's classrooms to get new ideas and see things taught from a different perspective, but there's not a dedicated time for it to happen. I don't mind being observed at all.

    After helping to implement a new curriculum and having to teach with EVERY elementary principal {at the same time} observing in my room, having anybody else come in has been a snap! I tell my kids that people coming into our room our coming to see my rock stars because I talk about how awesome they are all the time, lol! And they love they work really hard to show visitors how fun learning can be in 1st grade. I love my firsties!

    A+ Firsties


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