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Russell Sage College, Troy ​[Music] of all the teaching channel videos that I have done none has elicited the same emotional response as when a lesson goes wrong and it makes complete sense right we all have these moments that we wish could just disappear in fact I filled a lot of questions about this particular video and about this lesson and some of them are kind of even in hushed tones when teachers come up to me and say was that for real did you kind of plan that and the answer is it was absolutely real because the night before I didn't understand my teaching purpose clearly enough i over planned the lesson and it was in all of its horrific glory right that's what brings us to this teachers commentary it's an opportunity for me to take the invisible everything that's going on in my head during this during this lesson and make it really visible to you you know every lesson has a backstory and you're gonna get the insider scoop on what was going on and I think this is really important because what this does is it reminds us that every lesson we teach has all kinds of layers and you're about to see the layers to this one so I know this is a video called what a lesson goes wrong and I have definitely learned a lot from watching this video and analyzing this lesson about what went wrong and what I've learned more than anything else is that this is really a lesson about paying attention to kids and what happens when we don't pay attention to them and what happens when we do so here's the backstory and the reason this lesson went wrong started the night before right so the night before I'm planning and I have this bad habit especially when I want the lesson to be really good that a lot of times I over plan and that's exactly what I did I made it way too complex for the kids and it also reminds me that one of the things that I sometimes have this bad habit of doing is imagining that the kids can put the complexity nice together as fast as I can so that's where we start so even as I'm looking at the board right there I know that I haven't done everything wrong we at least are connecting to what we did yesterday we've done this under the day prior to this we've done this cool investigation into names and how that helps us think about the idea of reputation and so I'm doing some things right here where we're taking a look at big ideas and concepts which is gonna help launch us into what comes after this lesson which is the literary analysis paper and this is this is an important skill for for my sophomores to be able to do right they have to be able to write a literary analysis paper here's the thing though about writers and literary analysis they want to summarize and so what I'm trying so hard to accomplish in a series of lessons here before we get to this literary analysis paper is to make sure that kids have been exposed to enough different texts and enough different ideas that they don't summarize the crucible instead they analyze it so with that in mind I'm gonna give you a little bit of background about the kids or the time this is an integrated language arts class which means we integrate reading writing speaking viewing listening these are sophomores this was in November I'd had them for just a few months and when I look at them and their faces I can see you know all kinds of different learners I have students in there with special needs I have students in there who are high achieving I have students in there who hate school I have students in there who are very studious I have students who are at risk so it's like the gamut right there so it is all falling apart it is a disaster and I'm telling you right now I can feel it as I am teaching but I'm looking right here I am the one who is doing all of the talking I am the one who is doing all of the writing on the board they are right my guy is in the background right there they are not even paying attention my two girls in the front they are so studious all of the time they are talking to each other probably about what's gonna happen after school Joe just kind of flippantly said I have no idea what the answer to that question is and what do I do I just keep talking I just keep going I think this is one of the pitfalls that we as teachers can have that we kind of just keep pretending and I taking up all of the space by talking and talking and now I'm telling them to be quiet so now I've lost them right they're gone and I don't really know what to do I in a lot of ways just kind of want this whole thing to be over right I just kind of want to disappear or you're here that Bell so that we could just pick up and start over again tomorrow but I tell you what happens when I look at this video now and when I think carefully about it it makes me think a lot about reading you know I've just told them well you've got ten minutes to read and now none of them are reading and of course they're not reading and these are all the reasons why they're not reading these are the reasons I did not set them up to read first of all I scare them off with way too much material second of all I didn't give them a context for any of the material I kind of tried to I asked them to kind of order them at the beginning of the lesson which one do you think is most relevant to our big question but they didn't know what was going on and here's the problem as the teacher I'm the one who would read all of these already right I'm the one who loved all of these pieces so much and then had expected somehow that to just magically transfer to the kids I also think this reminds me about the danger of the word rigorous because as teachers we sometimes feel pressure we


oftentimes we want our kids to do rigorous compelling work and so I put difficult text in front of my students but as I watched this video and as I see what happens they're not doing anything rigorous they're not doing anything at all so it reminds me that just because I put a difficult text in front of a kid it's not gonna make the work more rigorous it's not gonna make the work more challenging so what I've been doing here is I've been telling them what to do I've been taking them step by step through a task and telling them now it's time to put this idea in this box now it's time to read now it's time to talk to the person next to you but I haven't really been teaching because there aren't any scaffolds built in and I haven't taken the time necessary to really think about where they're at as readers and thinkers and then kind of like elevate them to the place that I need them to be so now this first class period is over right and I got to get ready for this next one and let me just tell you one of the things that I know about survivors is that survivors read reality rapidly and that's exactly what I have to do right in these five minutes and I'll tell you I've said many times I think this is the best five minutes I've ever given teaching channel because it's the five minutes that are most real I will tell you my brain is frantic I it is swirling and I am kind of trying to calm down because now I feel like I have even more pressure because the kids are starting to walk in the door and I'm not sure what to do and so I do what I oftentimes do if I don't know where to lead cognitively at least I'm gonna change the physical space of the room and so that's important the movement actually helped me think more clearly and so in my head what I am doing is I'm saying this question over and over what do they need to learn what do they need to learn what do they actually need to learn because what had just happened is I created this plethora of of stuff in the class period before this and we needed to get rid of the stuff and figure out what we really needed to learn and so that's where I kind of start to figure out what are these big ideas and I land on a few of those but the problem is I know that I have to somehow mobilize those ideas so I go back to the front of the room right I'm kind of like buying some time as I'm talking to the kids one of the things that I also had done though as I was organizing those desks into pods taking it out of like the the horseshoe shape you can maybe see on some of the desks that there are these little orange table turns and these are productive groups that students had been in prior to this day so I'm trying to draw on some past experience especially then as I'm thinking about doing this progressive concept map this map that moves from one group or one pod to the next really as this agent then of trying to figure out cognitively how can they build on an idea how can they scaffold their thinking so here's the advantage of having some experience under my belt right I have done these progressive concept maps before and so I can kind of draw on that so if you are a brand new teacher who's watching this and you're thinking I would have no idea what to focus on I would just say you probably do have more than you realize there is something from your experience that you can go back to and then modify because that's what I am doing on the fly right now because even though I kind of have done this concept map idea the layers that we have to come up with those are new and unique to this particular lesson and the only way that I can figure out what the first layer is gonna be what that second layer is gonna be what the third layer is gonna be is by listening to the kids and paying attention to them so whereas in the first lesson I was so worried about what I was telling them to do and I was in my own head about it at this point I've totally flipped that and so now what's going on is I am forgetting about myself and I am just trying to totally tune into them I'm trying to pick up on the questions that they're asking what they're saying to each other and I'm trying to gather information from them that will help me figure out what that next layer in this map is gonna be so I have to tell you as soon as I make this mental flip where I kind of forget about myself and I really Zone in on the kids I feel like I'm back in my rhythm as a teacher and so I can see that things are different in this lesson so now I'm writing public notes but unlike in the first section of the first class period I was trying to write down what they should do here I'm trying to capture their ideas and I'm trying to capture their language and it also helps me slow down so like right there this word obligation right or conscience or betraying that the kids are picking up on they are teaching me they have taught me that if we slow down and we go to the level of a single word in a single paragraph rather than looking at that big huge you know stack of paper that we can boil down to an idea and that our vocabulary now kind of becomes these concepts and that's what becomes so crucial so then I'm walking around from group to group right and really again what I'm doing is I'm trying to gather information I see all of these moments where students are learning in the first video right or the first lesson saw all these moments where I was teaching but now I see learning right so they are talking to each other they are the ones who are constructing they're learning because they're the ones who are making the circles instead of me they are the ones who are opening up the books instead of me and that's how I know that I've turned it over to them that's how I know that they are gonna be able to get ready to do this big literary analysis paper where they're not summarizing because what they're doing right now is we are really slowly together constructing these ideas and so we just kind of you know see them go from round to round a lot of times teachers ask me about group work like this or lesson like this they ask me like how would you grade this so I would absolutely not grade this lesson right I would absolutely not grade that graphic organizer that


traveling concept map that kids are working on and this goes back to knowing my teaching purpose right so my big purpose here is for the students to construct enough background knowledge about a few careful concepts or ideas that they're gonna be able to write this more sophisticated literary analysis paper and that's what I'm actually gonna assess right that's what I'm actually going to grade and so if you came into this you know if you were to follow several days of lessons you would see that very little of what happens in the class is graded I am assessing in the sense that I am gonna collect these graphic organizers I'm gonna look carefully at them sometimes I'll even have kids take pictures of them and then do some of their own reflecting you know once they leave class kind of as their individual homework but what I'm trying to do here is gather enough information from kids that I know how to teach better tomorrow the lesson is over and I'm walking down the hall right I'm gonna go process this and in some ways this might be the most important part of the backstory for other teachers right that first of all we don't have to hide that these lessons happen I think as teachers we take great shame in our imperfections and the bottom line is that we don't have to be perfect but we have to get better for tomorrow and so that's what I'm doing right here I'm trying to figure out how do I get better tomorrow and how do I sort through what happened today so that I can try to avoid it in the future or try to design around it in the future one of the things that is so powerful right here is that I have this colleague Kate that I can really trust so I know that she comes to me when she has lessons that go wrong I can go to her when I have lessons that go wrong and neither of us think for a second that one bad lesson demolishes the the other person's you know kind of professional library so I think that is really important the other thing in this particular conversation that I'm having with Kate is that there's no blaming of students and I think it's an easy thing to do it's an easy thing to make assumptions about kids and to say like the kids didn't want to read they didn't come ready to read they didn't come to do any of those components of the lesson but the bottom line is that's an assumption not a fact right so if I want to get better tomorrow I have to focus more on the facts rather than the assumptions that I could make if Kate were sitting here right now she would tell you that this is her favorite teaching Channel video that came from my classroom because it really is about imperfection and this is the moment that moments like these are the moments when we as teachers really figure out how to grow and really figure out how to get better because we go beyond that imperfection into something just a little bit better you might be wondering how you could use this teachers commentary version of when a lesson goes wrong and I think there are a lot of possibilities one might be that it could serve as a model for the way you might reflect about your own lessons and your own teaching it's also a way for us to remember and to think about all of the layers that go into this complex work of teaching and I think that's really instructive I think it's important to also remember that like I said at the beginning this is not so much about when a lesson goes wrong as a lesson in paying attention to kids because when I started to pay attention to the human beings in front of me I was able to really see this lesson in waves I was able to work with them instead of seeing it as a linear series of tasks that I was just walking kids through thanks for watching for teaching Channel this is Sarah Brown Wessling Missouri Synod.

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