Friday, September 14, 2018

Coaching Tips: 5 Ways to Make Demonstration Lessons Meaningful

Now that the school year has begun, life is starting to feel a little more normal. The students are starting to get more settled, classroom routines are in place, and the rhythm of school is taking hold.  This is also the time of year when an instructional coach starts to get her rhythm.  After weeks of building relationships, helping with planning, and just getting yourself organized, you may find that this is a great time to start doing some demo lessons in classrooms.  I have to admit, demos are my favorite coaching activity.  I love getting in classes and working with the students.  I kind of feel like Chip Gaines on Fixer Upper---I LOVE demo day! But I realize that it can also be stressful to teach in front of other people, so, I thought it might be helpful to give some tips for getting the most out of your demo days:

1. Start with the ones who want it.
If this is the first time to do demos in classes for the year, offer and see who wants you to come to their class.  Demonstration lessons require a certain amount of trust on the teacher’s part, so this lets you see who might be further along on the trust scale with you.  Typically once you do a lesson in one or two teachers’ rooms, others will start asking. If no one volunteers, ask some teachers if you can try out a lesson in their rooms.

2. Make it authentic.
I often have teachers try to accommodate me by scheduling me with their “best” classes rather than with the classes they would really benefit from seeing the lesson done with.  They are doing this for my benefit because they don’t want me to have to deal with the issues they face daily. That’s the point---I need to deal with those same issues if I am going to understand what they need. If they need to see a lesson done in their GT or Pre-AP class, I need to schedule it for then. If they need to see how you would adjust it for their class that has the most challenging behavior problems, schedule it for then.  Do it in the context that matters to the teacher.

3.Be willing to mess up.
Teaching in front of someone else can be nerve-racking.  Especially if you are there to show them best practices or how to employ a specific strategy. Combine that with having to teach students that you may not have a relationship with, and you are sure to have some flops.  That’s okay.  You are a coach likely because you were a good classroom teacher. You know how to teach...just do it.  Some of the best learning experiences (for me and the teacher) have come from demos gone bad.  When a teacher sees that we are willing to teach imperfectly in front of them, it builds trust. When we adjust a lesson midpoint because it’s not working or we talk afterward about how we would change it next time, it shows how decision-making happens. Those are also things we want to demonstrate.

4. Ask for feedback....from the students.
In the past few years, I have started doing two things in my demonstration lessons that have helped me improve.  One is I add 3 questions to the end of every lesson: 1) What did we learn? 2)Why did we learn it? 3) How did we do it?  I tell the students that I will be asking them these 3 questions at the end of the lesson to see if I have done my job.  This helps keep me (and my lesson) focused and on-track.  Besides that, I have also incorporated feedback into all of my lessons. At the end of each lesson, I ask the students to give me feedback on 2 things: 1) anything that they found helpful and think I should keep in the lesson when it is done in other classes and 2) any suggestions or ideas for how to change the lesson to make it more helpful.  When we give our students a voice, they will speak. I have gotten some fantastic suggestions from students over the years, and I have used those to improve. In addition to my own improvement, this is a powerful part of a demo because you don’t have to convince anyone that something is effective...the students will tell you what is effective!

5. Give the teachers what they need to do the lesson themselves. 
When we learn something new, we often imitate and copy before we adapt and change. Think about cooking. When you try to cook something new, you likely will follow the recipe as is.  After you try it a few times, you start tweaking it and making it your own. The same goes for teaching and learning strategies and practices.  At first, a teacher may watch you and want to try the exact lesson you did in the exact way. To do that, she needs to have the materials and resources that you used. So, try to use things that are readily available or that don’t require a lot of preparation.  I like to put my lessons in Google slides, and I just share them with the teacher.  If I use a book or excerpt of text, I try to make sure it is available in the library or give the teachers an extra copy if it is printed on paper. If I am demonstrating a workstation, I make sure the teachers have the resources to make the workstations. Once the teacher imitates your lesson, she will start making it her own, but she has to have the “ingredients” to try the recipe first.

Demonstration lessons can be an incredibly powerful tool for learning and for building trust, so it is worth our time to make them as effective as possible. I would love to hear other ways that you have found to get the most out of demo lessons.

1 comment:

  1. I'm in ... just need to ask some teacher if I can demo with them!!!