Seeing It All Come Together

While reading Mike Anderson’s series of posts about strategies for keeping students active and engaged, I kept thinking about a second grade classroom I visited recently. I was lucky enough to watch the teacher use many of the strategies Mike suggests in a skillful, seamless way.

The effect was almost magical. I saw no “discipline issues” in a class that allegedly has quite a few students who struggle with behavior. More importantly, the children were eager and passionate about what they were learning for the duration of the lesson.

The teacher was teaching about visualizing as one reads. She used that “golden first minute” that Mike talked about to give a second-grade-friendly definition of visualizing, along with an appropriate visual representation of the strategy in action. Then she projected the title of the book she was about to read on a screen and did a quick think-aloud about what she visualized when she read the title.

Then she displayed the first page of the book without the pictures. She asked students to close their eyes and make their own mental pictures as she read the text. Afterwards, she directed them to turn and talk with a partner (the partners were already pre-assigned somehow) about what they had visualized. The students eagerly talked with their partners about what they had visualized—it was obvious that they had practiced “turn and talk” quite a bit. The teacher then rapidly called on a series of students to share what they had discussed with their partners and recorded a few of their ideas on the board.

Next, she revealed the picture, and the class was incredibly excited to see some of their ideas encapsulated in it. Their “ooohs” were audible signs of their engagement. She asked them an interesting question—”Do you think it is okay that some things you visualized were different from the illustration? Why?” Children turned and chatted with partners again—many excitedly defending their rights to their own opinions, as long as, as one child put it, “they made sense.”

The teacher brought their attention back to the book. As she read, rather than having students visualize every page, she read a few pages with pictures visible and then showed a page without images. For those (there were two), she repeated the “close eyes, visualize, partner chat, and share out” format. Every child was focused and excited.

By then the students had been in the same place for about fifteen minutes, so even though they were not yet squirming, the teacher led them in a quick chanting and clapping song before giving directions for their transition. They sang, moved, and sat back down, ready to listen to what to do next.

The teacher then sent students to gather their snacks and reading bags, choose a spot to read in the room, and practice visualizing as they read. The children were visibly excited about getting started, and this transition was amazingly quick. Students were settled on floor mats, at tables, on special seats around the room in virtually no time. There was an unmistakable air of productivity in the room.

This teacher’s thoughtful lesson design, skillful pacing, and understanding of what her students needed powerfully demonstrated the connection between discipline and engaged learning. While having well-designed engaging lessons in which students can move and interact with others will not eliminate all behavior challenges, it can go a long way towards doing so!

Here are links to the  posts I referred to, in which Mike Anderson gives suggestions for adding more movement to students’ school days:

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Engaging Academics, Getting Started with RC, Joyful Classrooms