Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Finding a Connection #SOL17
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Slice of Life: Finding a Connection #SOL17


I was joining a first grade team for writer’s workshop the next day.  They asked me to work on writing reviews with their students.  I live a good distance from this school and this was my first time teaching this particular group of students.  I wanted to find a topic to review that would connect with them.

I know how important it is to connect with your topic when writing a review.  I wanted to engage these students in the lesson.  The team identified that these writers need to work on using reasons and examples to support their opinion.  They provided student writing samples to show me that students need to learn how to back up their idea with specific examples.  I looked through some of the games, toys and DVDs I have at home.  I did not know what these students liked and I wanted to use something most of the students were familiar with so they could try adding reasons and examples.  It is difficult to provide reasons or examples if you are not familiar with something. I decided to pack a lot of things in hopes that something would work.

Later that night I was organizing for the next morning and googled my destination to determine my departure time.  As soon as the map popped up I discovered the perfect topic for reviews:


This is a small town and these are two places all students know well.  I even found some reviews online I could use as models.

It seems small but I felt so much better knowing I would connect with these students.  I knew how to teach the content of this lesson – I have taught it countless times.  The teachers provided me with assessment data to identify the specific needs of the students.  I adjusted the anchor lesson to focus on their instructional needs.  I had mentor texts from other students and a review of my own to share.  Somehow, I still did not feel prepared.

There is more to teaching than identifying an objective using formative data and planning your instructional moves.  These are important, but we also need engagement and connection.  When I think about my learners beyond instructional needs, I believe the focus shifts from teaching the objective to teaching students an objective. I shift how I launch a lesson based on the students sitting in front of me.  Lessons should be many moments in time.  When we connect those moments with each other and with who the students are as people, we truly engage.

I am sure my toys, games and movies would have interested these students.  They would have been excited and maybe even  familiar with some.  It just felt like the lesson was more about me than them.  It makes me wonder about the amount of time we spend thinking about our instructional connection with our students.  Do we hear our voice in the lesson?  Do we hear their voice in the lesson?  Does the lesson matter, truly matter, to you and your students?  How can you make it matter?

I see a lot of attention in schools being focused on developing targeted objectives and I Can success criteria.  While this may bring clarity to instruction, we can’t stop there.  We also need to ensure engagement and purpose.  I wonder if I Can relates to I Care or I Want or I Will.  I know I learn more effectively when I purposefully connect with those around me.  If nothing else, I know someone is thinking about me and that often makes all the difference.  Can we be both standards based and human based?  Can we be both rigorous and engaging? Can we remember we are teaching objectives and kids?


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    Sally Donnelly
    Posted at 12:06h, 12 March Reply

    great reminder about the imprtance of engagement. I actually wrote about how exhausting it is to plan for engagement today. But you remind me of its importance and I will keep at it!! Otherwise, the learning won’t stick!

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    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 12:21h, 12 March Reply

    Wow! I’m working on a blog right now, Did we give ourselves the right job descriptions? I think this is close to the idea I was cooking, do we understand we can never teach the content unless we connect the learners. As always, so brilliantly written.

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    Posted at 12:42h, 12 March Reply

    This really resonates with me as I am constantly planning with RELEVANCE and RELATIONSHIPS as my guides. I also love your comment that reminds us that “the focus shifts from teaching the objective to teaching students an objective” is key to fostering self-directed learning. Always love reading your posts-I feel inspired!

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 12:47h, 12 March Reply

    Engagement IS key. It’s difficult as a guest teacher to find a topic that will engage students you don’t know, but you did it! The important take away for me is your insistence that we teach not “the objectives” but we teach “students an objective.” I love that change of emphasis.

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    Aileen Hower
    Posted at 12:48h, 12 March Reply

    The answer is that we must be for students to be engaged in their learning and in life.

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    john re
    Posted at 13:05h, 12 March Reply

    Who doesn’t love Subway? Thanks for the real world reminder

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    lynne dorfman
    Posted at 14:00h, 12 March Reply

    I loved reading this piece, Clare. We certainly want engaged, rather than compliant, students. Your questions really helped focus my thinking as well as your statement about teaching students an objective, not just teaching an objective. How we create student-centered lessons where we hear their voices, not just our own, and connect with our learners so they feel they really matter – a tall order, but essential!

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 14:58h, 12 March Reply

    Your post reminded me of the lessons I just did with some students I didn’t know. I think I spent more time on the books and topics I would use than on the actual lesson content. It is so important to engage first, because without that, not much learning will take place.

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    Katherine Sokolowski
    Posted at 15:14h, 12 March Reply

    Great thoughts on engagement here. So many times I’ve crafted a lesson I thought would work great, but it was more for me than the kids. This pushes me to think more.

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    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 21:30h, 12 March Reply

    Learning more and more from you every day, Clare! (I’ll admit…I was beginning to think you were going to bring these kids Subway to taste and review. Food gets them every time!)

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    Katie Logonauts
    Posted at 22:35h, 12 March Reply

    Kids can’t get to “I care” unless YOU care. Great post about the importance of a tailoring education!

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    Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 00:02h, 13 March Reply

    Your post hit a real chord for me. So many times when I walk into a classroom to model a lesson, I feel the same lack of connection. Like you, I have the formative assessment data and I know the learning goals, but that is not always enough, especially on that first day.
    Love the idea of an “I care” statement. So much better than an “I can” statement!!!!

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 01:26h, 13 March Reply

    I am so sharing this with my supervisor, as well as some of my teachers. While I do like the I can statements, and I think it shifts the emphasis onto the learner and creates more clarity around instruction, I love the reminder that instruction is for humans. This post should be in a book, Clare.

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