Skip to main content

Observing Students

Today I was reminded of the importance of taking a step back to observe students. Yetta Goodman calls it kid watching. Others may call it listening in. Whatever you call it make sure to take a few minutes every day to observe and record your observations while students are working and interacting with each other. You will discover things you had not noticed before and you will get insights that will help your teaching go more smoothly giving you the perspective you need to be a better teacher.

Today I watched my class interacting with our artist-in-residence. I was particularly interested in one student who often has a difficult time controlling his responses when we are working in a whole group setting. I rarely get to finish what I am saying before this child will interrupt with a comment of his own. Often these comments are funny or silly and they don't contribute to our collective learning process. When he is not interrupting, he is off to the side seemingly withdrawn. Today as I watched I noticed how this child's attention was controlled by his own running commentary on everything the artist was saying. These comments were often accompanied by gestures and sounds that oddly enough did not distract the rest of the class from focusing on the artist's lesson.

After the children sat down this student was able to complete the art assignment as well as anybody else in the class. The artist, who has worked at our school for a number of years, commented that he thought this child was a good artist despite a comment early on by him that his illustration was "terrible".

Later in the day I decided to ignore the interruptions of my student and to keep going with the lesson. Surprise! Everyone was focused on what we were doing and I wasn't distracted by correcting this child every two minutes. In the end, he did no better and no worse than anybody else in the practice part of the lesson. I also noticed how focused he is during our writing workshop. He can stay with one story over a few days and is always proud of what he has done.

Although I know that ignoring isn't always the best solution, and certainly not the only solution with this child, I have learned that his interruptions may be his way of dealing with school. There are times when my student is focused and on task and produces wonderful work. This was important for me to affirm since I have been focusing too much on the negatives and not enough on the positives.

After the children had gone home and a colleague asked me how my day had gone I could honestly say, "Great!"
2 comments

Popular posts from this blog

Students Plan for a Day of Learning

This is the third in a series of blog posts about strategies I use to help my students take ownership of their learning. The first post was about class meetingsThe second post was about giving kids opportunities todetermine their own writing and reading plansevery Friday afternoon. (Coming soon is the fourth post in this series about using student surveys to provide feedback about the classroom.)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Yesterday I felt more independent than ever because I had to tell myself what to do." - 5th grade boy
It did not come as a surprise that my students embraced the idea of planning their learning for an entire day. That is what being autonomous and self-directed is all about and what we all desire to be in our day-to-day experiences. Allowing students to create their own schedules for learning, albeit conditioned by specific parameters (reading, writing, math, sc…

The Teacher I Want to Be

The
I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal. 

I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don't like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I'm looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. 
Teacher
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was as…

Searching for Balance

I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the last couple of days. 
And, I've come to the conclusion that I must change my attitude - shift my stance - so I can assume a new perspective. So that I am more aligned with what's important and may add value to my life.  
Focusing on the negative is not making me stronger or healthier. In fact, I am often stressed because I worry a lot about unimportant things. I obsess over situations out of my control. I dismiss positive experiences that would help lift my spirits and align my focus towards what's important. 
I need a distraction from my own thoughts.
I need balance in my life. Not because I work hard to prepare my classes. Not because I read a lot of professional literature. Not because I wrote a lot this summer and will continue to do so now that school has started. But because I have been obsessing on the wrong things. Mostly, I obsess about what someone said or did and what it says about me as a teacher. I obsess about …