Tag Archives: observation

Video Analysis Two

For my Instructional Strategies course, we were again asked to analyze a video. I chose to analyze this one; although it is well out of my age-range, it seemed like it would be an interesting new perspective I hadn’t yet considered in this course. The video shows a close reading of a text by 10th grade students. I found the teacher used two strategies very well in her presentation of the way in which students were to approach the reading. The video starts with a great introduction, connecting the lesson to other lessons and setting clear objectives, and the teacher provides guidance on how to take effective notes during a closed reading. I believe the teacher did well with putting students into groups, but find there could have been ways to improve the cooperative learning aspect of the lesson.

In the very beginning of the lesson, the teacher starts by stating what they would be doing, referencing what they had done before, stating how this instance would be different (nonfiction as opposed to narrative close reading), and explicitly stating the purpose of a close reading. This all took place within the first 20 seconds of the lesson. According to Dean et al, “clearly stating the learning objectives in student-friendly language helps students focus on what you want them to learn” (2012, p. 7), and the teacher in this instance does a great job helping the students understand exactly what she expects from them that day. She then links what they are learning to why they might need it in the future – she even notes that they are using a text she read in her time in college – which is what Dean et al refer to when they say objectives should help students understand “how they will apply what they are learning now to future studies” (p. 8).

In regards to note-taking, I wish I would have had a teacher who taught me how to take notes when reading a text in-depth. This teacher listed multiple different notations for different situations: Main idea? Underline it. Don’t understand a word? Circle it in orange or pink. Find something exciting? Put an exclamation point and write why you find it exciting. At one point, the teacher states that “There’s no wrong way to annotate this text,” which is very encouraging for those students who might not be so confident in their ability to tease out important information. Pitler and Stone note that “note-taking strategies are not intuitive” (2012, p. 185), so it is critical that the teacher provided so much structure for what to write, but also gave students a little bit of leeway in regards to where exactly they would mark. The annotations will also help students when they revisit the text, which they will likely do as the teacher noted what she wanted them to do when reading “the first time,” and will allow students to better understand their thinking from the first read-through as they re-approach the text to go further in-depth.

While I appreciated that the teacher had students work in small groups, I was never aware of any form of accountability. This may have been incorporated in their overall expectations during group work, but was never addressed in the video. The students seemed to have an understanding of their roles and helped others in their understanding as well, but it did not seem to have the “positive interdependence” aspect called for by Dean et al (2012).

Overall, I believe this was a great lesson. I would have never imagined being able to have such a deep discussion of a text like this when I was a sophomore in high school. It is clear that with a clear objective and guidance as to how to approach and annotate the text, the teacher allowed students to identify the main ideas of the text and to look deeper into the meaning behind the words.


Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Video Analysis

In my Instructional Strategies course, we were asked to analyze a video based on the strategies we had focused on thus far in our readings and discussion. You can see many of them as blog posts on this blog (Objectives and Feedback; Cooperative Learning; Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers; and Note Taking). The video, link here, is a third grade class lesson on adjectives in which the teacher emphasizes the senses to give more detail to written work.

Very evident in the video was the teacher’s linking content to previous lessons and to prior knowledge. According to Dean et al, “Effective cues and questions help students access their prior knowledge and put that knowledge to use learning new information” (2012, p. 52). The questions, however, were fairly surface-level: recalling the definition of an adjective from previous lessons and how they would use them. As the lesson progresses, students have to become more creative in their responses, coming up with ideas of how to describe the ocean using the senses: how it smells, how it sounds, how it looks, how it feels, and how it tastes. This allows the students to continue reflecting on adjectives, but in a way that forces them to think more creatively and inferentially than the recall questions did.

The teacher did not, however, set a clear objective for the students. While it was simple to put together the pieces of what was going on, it might not have been so obvious for the students. She began to introduce what was to be learned, but then transitioned into asking what the senses were. She then noted that “Our senses help us describe,” but never explicitly states that the goal for the day was to learn how to write using our senses to think of adjectives that help describe. According to Dean et al, “It is important to communicate learning objectives to students explicitly by stating them verbally, displaying them in writing, and calling attention to them throughout a unit or lesson” (2012, p. 7). I wish the teacher would have taken a little time to directly and explicitly state the learning objective.

Something that I believe the teacher did really well was modeling note-taking for her students. Though she never explicitly taught the note-taking procedure during this lesson, she was exposing her students to the kinds of notes they would take from a brainstorming session. Initially, she wrote down the ideas that students were throwing out about the ocean in an organized way on the board. Like the biology teacher example in the Dean et al text, this teacher also “demonstrated one way to provide teacher-prepared notes: create notes for students as information is presented” (2012, p. 91). The teacher then does the same process while the students have a graphic organizer on their desks, which students then fill out using the class brainstorm of how to experience an Oreo using the senses. I am a fan of the “I do, we do, you do” format of learning, so I enjoyed that she modeled the format, then had students organize the information with her before they were then left on their own to write. I did think, however, she could have again been more explicit with the objective of and instruction of the note-taking, which she later said would be five sentences about experiencing an Oreo with all of the senses. Pitler and Stone state that “Students often struggle with this strategy because note-taking strategies are not intuitive” (2012, p. 185). By exposing them to this strategy during brainstorming, the teacher is getting the students used to the idea of note-taking that can be elaborated on later during an explicit lesson.

Overall, I loved the idea of the lesson. The students were thrilled to get to write about something they loved – to be honest, I wanted an Oreo after watching that. The students seemed engaged throughout the lesson and got their creative juices flowing in coming up with how to describe the Oreo.


Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Collaboration within Schools

No teacher is an island. I have heard this phrase many times, but had little idea what it truly meant until I found out how much teachers rely on others for ideas and support. In order to exemplify collaboration within the school (HOPE principle E2), I must be open to collaboration and be adamant in my intentions to work with others. My mentor teacher has not only been a mentor to me, but she has also helped her grade-level partner in her transition into the second grade. Previously a third-grade teacher, she relied heavily on my mentor’s ideas to help her through her first year at the new grade level. Essentially, she provided a model for me to know how critical it is to ask for help during your first year – whether it be first year at a new school, a new grade level, or even first year teaching. As I prepare to go into my own classroom, I will use the relationships I have developed at my current internship site to ask as many questions about first grade as possible. I will be going into the Kindergarten classroom to see the level at which my next-year’s students will be. I will be going to the first grade teacher to get advice on the first few weeks of school – that critical expectations-setting time that can make or break your whole school year.

Image 1 - Often collaboration ends with planning the week, but it can be used for so much more.

Image 1 – Often collaboration ends with planning the week, but it can be used for so much more.

In reading education blogs, I came across a great post about teacher collaboration on Edutopia by Ben Johnson. The author notes that he had a very difficult time when he was first starting out since he tried to work in isolation. It was only when a coworker approached him for collaboration that he felt comfortable sharing ideas and being open to the ideas of others. Some of his advice for teachers is to build relationships from the very first day, observe other teachers whenever you can, ask questions, and be prepared for collaboration meetings. In having deliberate collaboration, and not just hoping that the answers to our problems will just spring out of nowhere, we can improve our productivity in these meetings, both formal and informal, and be able to improve the ways in which we teach.

Image 2 - Edutopia has a wealth of blogs about professional development, including collaboration.

Image 2 – Edutopia has a wealth of blogs about teacher leadership, including collaboration.



Johnson, B. (2011). Making the most out of teacher collaboration. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-collaboration-strategies-ben-johnson

Extracurricular Observation: Respecting the School as a Place of Learning

H3 – Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning. It is important that all people involved in the education of students see that the school is an environment of learning. If any parties do not take view the classroom as a sacred place of learning, it will hold back the educational process. If teachers do not view it as such, then they might have some misconceptions about their career. If students do not view it as such, then they will not approach the classroom to learn, thus making a teacher’s job difficult to say the least. Finally, if parents do not respect the classroom as a learning environment, they might see the school as nothing more than a tax-sponsored babysitting program.

During Curriculum Night, my mentor teacher made sure to emphasize the importance of being in school every day possible. The handed out the sheet shown in Image 1 as part of the night’s paperwork. Under the daily schedule, she reminded families of the importance of each day in the classroom.


Image 1: A handout from Curriculum Night

It is unfortunate that some parents bring their kids back from a long absence, see that there was little homework, and then comment that they’re happy their child “didn’t miss anything important.” It is this mentality that needs to be stopped. In education, we already have so few days with our students. Each day is important. Each hour. Each 15-minute segment. Any mini-lesson might be the one that finally gives the students that “a-ha” moment they needed in order to no longer struggle with certain content. If they are pulled out of school early for a vacation or to get to a concert early, they might miss that key piece that they need. In my own classroom one day, I will be sure to emphasize the importance of each moment spent in the classroom and hopefully make an impact on the families’ views on the classroom as a place of learning.

Teacher Observation 1: Intentional Inquiry, Informal Assessment

P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. Using questions in the classroom can help students think about what they are learning and how it applies to the world outside of the classroom. It can also help students better understand the processes and complexities involved in a concept. When I observed Mrs. L’s 4th grade class on September 16, I realized what a key role questions played in getting students thinking.

When listening to her line of questioning, I found that she hardly ever let a closed question rest. In math, there are typically only “right or wrong” answers, but Mrs. L has them explain their thoughts behind it. The students are shown a problem and asked to respond on mini white boards, as shown in Images 1, 2, and 3. If their work is not shown, it is considered wrong. This technique gives her immediate feedback on where individual students might be struggling, which she tracks on note paper for reference when there is time to conference with her math students or to better plan instruction.


Image 1 – Using whiteboards allows every student to answer a question and helps the teacher know which students might need more help.


Image 2: Students write on their whiteboard using a dry-erase marker, which allows them to erase their answers using a felt cloth.


Image 3: Having students write largely and in bold colors allows the teacher to see each student’s response from one location in the classroom.

Having the students explain their work also allows Mrs. L to know which key pieces might be missing from their overall understanding of the concept.

Before this summer, I thought that formal assessment such as quizzes and tests would be the best measure of student progress. When I read about the many informal formative assessment methods, I thought they might feel out-of-place and forced. Seeing similar strategies at work in a classroom make the idea of formative assessment less intimidating. Simply asking students to go deeper into content is an excellent way to get them thinking critically and to make sure they are understanding the content.