Roland Tharp

ROLAND THARP

(This is how the tape starts off, no intro or identification)

…and simultaneous activity settings each one of which is---a joint productive activity. To begin in this way by providing a briefing to the students which includes clear explanations of the overall structure of the lesson frame and detailed instructions, guidance for the students about how to carry out each one of these activities. This is an in---very important and indispensable component of lesson organization. Dawn makes very clear that his students are to rely on the task card and on each other’s assistance in interpreting those task cards before they interrupt her work. This allows her to participate jointly with the small groups, concentrating on that group that she’s working with while the others are working on their own recognizance. This also fosters one of the principle, uh, advantages of joint productive activity and that is; having a joint product motivates all the participants to assist each other. And that means many more teaching and learning interactions, both theoretically and in terms of research. Having that condition present, working on a joint product----so that the participants can assist one another is the most productive and the most engaging condition that can be created in classrooms. Providing this early briefing is the ideal way to organize it.

Elementary Study 1---Probe 2--- Teacher participation

Sherry Galarza in her cl---group of four-year-olds in this, uh, in this probe gives an excellent variety of, uh, ways in which teachers can participate in joint productive activity, working together with the students. There are four pieces of this, uh, tape that represent four parts of---of the---the morning’s lesson and the first one, it is a fairly conventional, uh, story reading session for four-year-olds with some good participation by the students and---and uh, as she asks them some questions and so forth. But this story session is followed up by a series of joint productive activities. The first one that follows is an example of a pair of students working together on, um, the---the paste-up board in which their little hand characters reenacted the story of the ‘Billy Goats Gruff’. Notice in this that the student is---one student is helping another one, assisting the other one to perform when the---one of them forgot what the lines were. This is exactly the way that joint productive activity is supposed to work because it produces that kind of assistance. (phone ringing) In this instance the teacher is participating at a distance (phone ringing) standing ready to be able to, uh, to offer assistance herself when it’s needed, but, uh, assistance is primarily provided by the peers. In the next instance the students, all the whole group are enacting in---in a play form the, uh, the story with each of them taking a separate character. The teacher, Sherry, is, in this case, is taking the role of the director of the play. And so her participation in this is as guide or assisting them in participating in various kinds of ways as an active---has an active role in the---in the dramatic production. And finally, uh, we see that there is another joint productive activity in which the teacher is participating in a different way. One by one she asks the students to give the troll some advice about how he could make a better friend. And then she turns their oral language into text. And so is assisting them in them in the early stages of literacy development. It also produces, that activity does, a whole series almost like an advice column as she puts it, for a---the troll. That its self is a joint activity and they pro---produce it together and then notice at the very end how the teacher uses it to communicate to the other students in the class and finally to the parents, to assist them in understanding what’s been going on so that the parents and the students can have a nice conversation about their work during that day.

This is Elementary---Study 1---Probe 3---Classroom Organization

In order to produce joint productive activity and have a variety of learning centers in the class it’s necessary to organize the classroom very carefully. And as we see in this, uh, cl---uh, classroom led by the teacher, Paula Espinoza, a very effective form of classroom organization and of communicating that organization is, uh, pre---is present in this classroom by means of, uh, photographic cues and by means of recognizable personal names on the charts below the pictures. Every child can interpret what his or her schedule of activities is for the day and where they are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do. The classroom organization has---is---is, uh rel---relatively a complicated one, we think, for these kindergarten children, these five-year-old kids. And sometimes teachers are intimidated by that complexity and think little children would never be able to manage it. The children, given good cues and good information such as this teacher has provided, can handle schedules of amazing complexity. And the in---in this classroom, as a result, were able to produce exactly what the research demonstration of the maximized amount of teaching-learning interactions and that is; is have a variety of activities in which students are assisting one another while the teacher is concentrating her assistance on one small group after another in turn.

Elementary---Study 1---Probe 4---Peer Assistance

In this science class the teacher, Carol Murphy, has organized a very interesting set of activities. On each one of the workstations she has arranged an interesting set of events that the kids around the table are to observe and as the first student explains, to write down on their individual chart papers, what it is they noticed and what it is they wonder. This is a very nice way of doing it and as you see, each ch---each of the students, while filling out his or her own paper, is also engaged in some conversation sharing of ideas and so forth with the other students and so they’re all getting some assistance. This is not the way to maximize the amount of student assistants. If the---if, um, the group had only one (background noise) paper to fill out and they were to negotiate, to talk about, to add and compare and contrast their own observations and produce a single paper, there would pr---more conversation and more assistance would be provided. This teacher accomplishes much of that same thing by her next step. That is to say that she brings the small groups together and has had them each report out what, um, each one of the tables has---has, um, created. Now, uh, this creates a---a joint activity of the entire class and there are many, um, merits to this, uh---kind of organization and it was very stimulating for the students, as you see. Theoretically and in terms of the research it’s, uh, interesting to consider whether or not it is more or less desirable to have joint activity over a single product, single worksheet, for each table, in this instance, or do it the way that this tea---that this teacher arranged it. It is clear that you maximized language and you maximized the interaction and mutual peer assistance, if you have a single product. But as I say, in looking and looking at this, there are matters for this too as something to, uh, to think over. That’s all on this one.

Elementary---Study 1---Probe 5---Student Collaboration

In this classroom, Carol Murphy, whom---whose class we saw in the previous clip, now demonstrates the way it’s possible to organize joint productive activity in such a way it---to maximize student assistance and interaction. In this case a single puzzle but there are, uh, three of the girls are working together to complete it. (chair squeaking) Although we don’t see directly---them assisting each other because this particular clip is an interview, you can infer the likely degree of interaction and---and, uh, cooperation that would occur when they’re actually working on the puzzle, from just seeing how they talk about it and looking over their shoulders. This is an instance as a---as we were talking about in the previous clip, (background noise) of the way that joint productive activity maximizes interaction and mutual assistance.

We’re going to use this, um, commentary for two probes. Study 1---Probe 7---Everyday concepts. Please use it also for Study 3---Probe 5---Direct Experience. Same commentary. Go ahead Stefinee

(Stefinee) Study 3---Probe 5---Direct Experience

(Thorp) No, you don’t have to say that, I already did. Just go ahead and read it.

(Stefinee) Cynthia sets her class, in this excerpt, of difficult, unfamiliar and---and interesting cognitive challenge. During---on their recent group field trip to Eustis Lake, they are now asked to make a map of that area. To translate their direct experience into a visual representation the students, um, are challenged to remember and reconstruct the scene in detail (background noise) with accurate proportionality (background noise) and direction. They will negotiate how to accomplish the task of the map as a whole group. Cynthia gets them ready for this by giving clear directions and provides the standards for the work. She does this by directing their attention to the task card and she asks, (noise) ‘well what is this?’ And the students answer by reading segments of the task card. Saying things like, making a map, draw Eustis Lake and its surroundings, and use colored pencils. Finally the students chorally read the last line, and they say, ‘draw where you walked and worked.’ Then in small groups they huddle over the chart, paper. One students says, ‘see this is divided into a Y.’ And another student says, ‘Make that stream coming down right here and---and then there’s a pond.’ Another says, ‘Well, make that a big one.’ ‘Remember that old pond was right there.’ Others ask, ‘right there, like this’. The collaboration produces an a---an accurate map. Note how students provide affective, mutual assistance in this excerpt to meet the colent---cognitive challenge. They---they assemble all of their very vast ideas and memories. This collaboration can occur because students who share a common experience are now arranged in a small group for work and then because this activity requires them to produce a joint product.
Elementary---Study 1---Probe 8---Zone of Proximal Development

This segment by a teacher, Julie Livingstone, is a textbook example of how to work within the zone of proximal development. This of course is a Vergotsgian concept that means that the teacher would be in---working always to find the very point at which a student needs assistance in order to progress further and then find some way of providing that assistance. In order to do that you have to pro---know fairly well what a student capacity to perform at any given moment is. Notice how the teacher gets that assessment.
First of all she divides the groups, her---her group, small already, but up into pairs and has them have---has them engage dialog to try to solve this problem about how to, uh, divide up in, um, a limited number of objects into a not very convenient number of pieces. And, uh, she asks them to talk together about what they do. Then they tell her what they’ve figured and she know exactly how far they’ve been able to get without her assistance. At that point, right at the beginning of that zone of proximal development, then she enables them to go further by providing assistance herself. Notice the way she does this, she uses a number of---kinds of assistance. Visual representations, questions, ideas, and at the end of this she has enabled the students to move much more further into their capacity to work in this concept individually by a careful attention to working in the zone of proximal development. (chair noise)

This actually is Study 1---for Elementary---Probe 9---Teaching Collaboration Debriefing

Cynthia Waters, this teacher is providing a splendid example of the concept of a debriefing. During a first clip in this study, remember the---the lesson began with a clear briefing over what was to happen. In the debriefing we use one of the most fundamental physiological processes revealed by research and theory, and that is to provide feedback to the group against the standard. And this is exactly what we see going on here. It’s very quick, in 42 seconds, but, uh, this teacher, Cynthia, is able to do is to remind the students of the standards they were supposed to have employed during that lesson. Asked them how well they did against that standard. Got their report back, gave them feedback on what---how she saw what they were doing, and closed it quickly. It doesn’t take a lot of time in order to provide this kind of feedback; it is absolutely vital in the building of a classroom community and in building shared values. To have clear values and every---today, at the end of every lesson, provide feedback and group consensus on what was the level of the performance in that day. Of a---an excellent example of a highly important piece of teaching strategy.

Study 2---Language Development---uh, Probe 2---Study 2---Probe 2---Literacy

This lesson looks as though it was started out as being a game, or---and a piece of a---an art activity. This, uh, fine teacher, Sherry Galarza, recognized an opportunity for turning it into a literacy lesson, not only for the one boy that we see at the focus of the interaction, but eventually for the whole class. When he---uh---he was---giving her a nice verbal description of how he went about constructing his snowman, she recognized on the spot that one of the things that is needed in teaching language development is a---a sense of precision, a sense of order and, uh, careful phrasing. So she thought that she would be able to maximize that just by having him dictate to her what he did. How he constructed the snowman and she would write it down. So she turned his experience into text. Very important for English language learners especially is to, or in this case, Huang-Creole speaking children, uh, to---turn their speech into text and to give them that early experience and as rich an experience as possible, of the relationship of text, to language, to speech. Then notice at the very end she turns, um, this piece of text into an opportunity, to have other students in the class read it, an excellent example of opportunistic language development for very young children.

(Stefinee) This is Study 2---Probe 5---The Goal of Dialect

I note that, um, the students in this excerpt use a dialect and the dialect is their home language. You’ll see that the teacher accepts student’s pigeon or Huang-Creole to encourage them to participate. Using the very language that they have brought to school. And this also is to help them in understanding that words and text are their own language written down. As a result the text they are creating is their own language and this not only has meaning for them but they find that they can read it.

(Tharp) Elementary---Study 2---Probe 6---Language as Tool

One fundamental precisions in Vergotskian Theory is that the higher reaches of cognitive development begin when children learn to use language as a tool. This is a---a---a dramatic and very clear instance of Sherry Galarza teaching four-year-olds language as tool use. In this case it is---is a tool for conflict resolution. She makes it very clear to them exactly what is, the issue. They can settle their dispute but they must use words not their fists. This is a very important lesson in early childhood development but it remains an important one throughout all stages of cognitive and linguistic development, is to learn to use tool of---learn to use language as tools for problem solving. Here we see a very early instance of it and a very effective (noise) one.

Study 2---in Elementary---Probe 9---Zone of Proximal Development

Paola Espinoza, the teacher, is demonstrating (chair noise) a very, uh, expert session of assessment of---of a---oh, a single child’s, uh, ability to read in English and of a simultaneously what she demonstrates is, an ability then to do specific teaching that works at the very next level, providing the assistance that this student needs in order to advance her capacity. Notice that after the assessment Paola immediately moves to---providing a variety of forms of assistance right on the edge of the help that the---that the student needs. She asks questions. She provides suggestions about strategies and, uh, she provides the, uh, the---the uh, student opportunity to be engaged in a---practice sessions as well. Paola only provides assistance at the point that it’s needed and for what’s needed. This is a good instance of working right exactly in the zone of proximal development. (chair noise)

Elementary---S, uh---Study 3---Probe 2---Meaningful Learning

Most of the footage of (chair noise) in this clip of Sherry Galarza’s preschool classroom comes from the block center. And the block center is---is sort of used as a setting that maximizes, uh, the children’s, um---uh---language use, their involvement in an activity. Their, um, ability to sustain narratives, or at least it does in this classroom because teacher spends time in there with them as you see here. Drawing what they have built, turning it into a visual representation. Writing down things that they have built, turning it into text. One of the, uh, most delightful parts of this classroom is the use of the dolls that you see here. Every year this teacher makes these cutout dolls of each of the students in the class, of herself and the teaching aide, uh---Miss Pam, and of many of the family members, particularly of those that have roles in the community. In this case we see a policemen and a nurse so that it’s, uh, not just the kids---every kids own family, but they all relate to some way or another with policemen and nurses. So this is an excellent example of how the more abstract kind of goal of early childhood instruction, the ability to sustain a narrative, the ability to develop complex language, precise language use, the ability to tell a story is, uh, fostered so deeply by making this language occur around material that couldn’t be more meaningful. The children themselves, their own families, their own classmates, their own teacher.

Elementary---Study 3---Probe 3---Funds of Knowledge

The research, uh, done at the University of Arizona by Luis Mull, Norma Gonzalez and their associates has taught us to think deeply about funds of knowledge that are possessed by a community or a family. Those kinds of experiences, expertise that can be used as the foundation for teaching in schools. Here we see an instance, in Sherry Galarza’s preschool classroom, of the funds of knowledge that all of the children participate in, a chair and, uh, have, uh, participate in the ownership of these funds of knowledge about a health clinic or a veterinarian clinic. So the---the dramatic play center was set up this week, uh, to be s---such a place and we see first in this clip the children engaging in this kind of dramatic play. Thematically, uh, Miss Sherry then extends her learning goals by relating the dramatic play center activities to a non-fiction book and to goals of language development in a precise way. So use of funds of knowledge doesn’t constitute just learning what they already know, that’s not the idea, this is one of the fundamental, psychological process is to begin with what students know but then use that as a springboard for advancing their knowledge to serious academic goals. That’s what you’re going to see in this clip.

This is starting over on Elementary---Study 3---Probe 4---Communi, uh---Community Based Learning

Lucia Viarialve’s classroom could have been assigned (chair noise) almost anything to draw and then write (chair noise) the, uh, statements about. Her assignment was very deeply embedded, however, in the community experiences of the---each of her students. Asked to write about what her parents do, what kind of work they do. Each child then expressed that both in drawing and then in sentences. (Noise) In the interviews that you see here it’s clear that each of the students is highly motivated to find the right language, to express in English what it is that their parents do. It’s a fundamental proposition and verified by research for 30 years and present in---not only in socio-cultural theory but in cognitive science and in brain research, that the greatest amount of learning occurs when it is built upon meaningful and previous experience and knowledge. So that textural learning, how to write and how to read, is being based here on the children’s own community experiences. Makes it meaningful for them, pleasurable for them, involving for them and increases the degree of their learning.

Study 3---Probe 6---Academic Language

Julie Livingston provides a wonderful example here of how to use contextualization---of, uh, things that are meaningful for the students, but at the same time have an, uh---a high goal of academic language development. What could be more deeply based in experience and more meaningful to kids than cookies and the real problem of dividing them up so everybody gets their fair share. So this kind of a---of a---very real and important, uh, experience which later in this lesson would actually be translated into doing some actual cookie cutting up, but in this instance it’s a---it’s very nice work in showing how this can be used as a---as a vehicle for learning how to express the, uh, the issues of division in the ac---in the academic, mathematical, uh, language of fractions.

Study 3---Probe 7---Learning Styles and Strategies

One of the ways that contextualization can be achieved is by teaching in (noise) the styles of strategies that are most comfortable for individual students. Some of those styles and strategies have strong cultural components, for example, observational learning and teaching through modeling, as we see illustrated in this clip, is know by decades of research to be one of the preferred modes of teaching and learning in Native American communities. In this Zuni classroom the, um, the teacher is doing a fine demonstration, the student is very carefully observing and odds are, in this classroom, this student will be able to duplicate that in the next piece of work that he needs to do and, um, in this excavated rock.

(Stefinee) Ok---Study 3---Probe 8---Calm Activity

To some teachers the---of twelve-year-old English language learners, the cognitive challenge you might see in---beyond reach. Cynthia, the teacher, intends here that the students will understand a very complex idea. That literature works by using language that evokes reader’s memories, which in turn create impressions of studying atmosphere and character. Cynthia carefully lays a needed foundation. After reading the story the students listed all their impressions of ‘Durango Street,’ by Frank ‘Doc’ Barnum, out of their own experience, and Cynthia collected these in a chart on the wall. Today Cynthia is revealing that chart and then she begins the conversation that connects the student’s personal experiences to her lesson goals. Cynthia turns back to the chart, in the excerpt, pointing out that their rich impressions of the story actually do not come directly from the book. She says that nevertheless the author somehow got you to see what is actually up your experience and he got you to see the right thing. But how did he get you to do that? She directs them back to the text to find the exact language the author used to evoke their own experience of other ‘Mean Streets’ that they have actually seen. And in this way she created the strong im---atmosphere of ‘Durango Street’ again, for them, out of their reading of that text.

(Tharp) Study 3---Probe 9---Zone of Proximal Development

This clip is an early, uh, piece in the lesson that we met first in, um, in the 7th probe of this---of this study. We’re back to cookies and fractions. This is a wonderful, uh, illustration that, uh, J---Julie Livingston gives of how to work in the zone of proximal development even in highly contextualized, uh, lessons. She starts out by everybody eating a cookie and giving them an appetite for what might come at the end of the lesson. But she is also, begins to assess what their background knowledge is. By having them write down everything they already know about fractions she will be able then to work within the zone of proximal development and begin to offer assistance to them at the point that they, in fact, need it. This is a good illustration of the fact that working in the zone of proximal development always involves assessment and that allows one to enter exactly where you need to be in the zone.

Elementary Study 4---Cognitive Challenge, and, uh, the---this probe is, uh, 4-1, Build on Student’s Success

This clip in preschool classroom of Miss Sherry Galarza is the first of a series of four that are all based on the same, uh, lesson that is a wonderful illustration of cognitively challenging teaching. Each one of these, uh, segments shows a strong cognitive challenge, very great complexity of task, given the developmental level of these four-year-olds, and they each, uh, illustrate different, uh, parts. Different kinds of tactics that the---are of inherent part of cal---of a cognitively challenging instruction. This first one shows building on student’s success. The lesson is doing lots of other things (chair noise) too, it’s developing language ability, it’s developing, um, assessing, uh, what it is the, uh, children already know. But mostly what it is is a reinforcement of what they are able to do now with the assistance of a story and with the assistance of some probing questions by Miss Sherry. But the build on the success of their previous knowledge and that’s where the further instruction will occur. The chart that had---occurs at the end of this---this---of this, uh, probe here is a summary of the successes that the children have had in assembling their previous knowledge about how this Ipu, this Hawaiian gourd, grows.

Elementary Probe 4, uh---Study 4---Probe 2--- Whole Part

Complex instruction and challenging instruction often means that there are many pieces that need to be---of knowledge that need to be assembles together. One of the ways to assist the learners to do this is to move from whole to part and by the end of, uh, this particular clip you will see that Miss Sherry has given them a wonderful overview of the whole complicated set of activities they’re going to engage in and they will know how each one of the pieces of this thematic unit are going to fit together. Providing an overview as a beginning way of beginning complicated instruction is an excellent tactic.

Study 4---Probe 3---Compelling Tasks

The instructional goal of this, uh, task is manifold. One of the obvious goals is following instructions, learning to use task cards, being able to carry out a sequence of events, in the correct order and, as we will see later, the ability to recall and reconstruct those events in the correct order. That’s a strong dose of heavy teaching for, uh, children this young. They’re very important, uh, pre-mathematical skills, for example, and the way to get this done is, uh, to embed this kind of abstract teaching in tasks that themselves are very compelling. This is a fun thing for these kids to do. This---they play in the dirt, to have their own little pot to plant their own seed, to water the seed, uh, it---the task itself is so interesting and so meaningful to them that it carries them along and they hardly even know that what they’re actually learning are pre-mathematical skills.

Elementary---Study 4---Probe 4---Zone of Proximal Development

Goals---this instruction, or to correctly sequence a series of events recalled from memory with using the cues provided by the original task cards. It’s a difficult, uh, task and Miss Sherry knows very well that it is highly challenging con---uh---cognitively and that here is the heart of the matter, the most part of this, uh, unit. So she is standing by ready to provide assistance but notice how she works entirely within the zone of proximal development. That is by careful observation and participation in what they’re doing she understand what the group and what each one of the individual children can do by themselves. And she is able to discern the very point at which they need assistance in order to be able to move to the next step of the individual competence. You see this happen in several sequences throughout this. Analyzing it, look for the points at which she provides assistance, think about the ways of the---that she does provide this assistance, through what means, and notice especially the way that working carefully in the zone of proximal development enables the children to maximize their own individual progress. (Voices can be heard in the background of this last segment)

Elementary---Study 4---Probe 5---Types of Assistance

Julie Livingstone’s math lesson---we’ve looked at before. We saw this under the con---under the, uh, contextualization study and at that time we were concentrating on the way in which she was focusing on the development of academic language, teaching her students to speak in fractions. Here let’s re-examine that same, uh, segment and concentrate now on the types of assistance that she provides as she’s working in the students zone of proximal development. Research has indicated about seven kinds of assistance that we know in psychology, we know a great deal about and that has been written about by many people, including Ron Gellimore and myself in our book “Rousing Lines to Life.” In this there uh---are two principle means of assistance that, uh, Julie uses. The first one is to break up the task, to re-segment the task and move it into pieces that, uh, if you take them one at a time it’s possible to solve the problem. So here she separates the---the problem into whole cookies and part cookies and when she does that it makes it much simpler to address the problem for the students and more simplifier for her to, uh, to---to teach them. So that segmenting the task is an important assisting strategy. The second one that she uses is questioning and she does this a number of times as the whole group, questions specific group, the specific students questions, and does it in---for a variety of purposes but always for one general purpose and that is, is to challenge the students to think in a more complex and to think in a more accurate way. By the end of this lesson all the students have a verily good grasp on the concept of----how to divide objects into fractions and how to discuss it academically. That was because of the excellent forms of assistance that we see demonstrated here.

(Stefinee) Study 4---Probe 7---Feedback Against Standards

(There are voices in the background throughout this entire segment)

In this excerpt the teacher, Georgia, is providing her students with straightforward feedback about how their performance measures up to the standards. She reviews each section of the assignment with them. She also described examples of good book reports to assure that the students understand the difference between what is the standard, or the good model, and what it is that they turned in. Then comes the feedback compared to the standard and this is the specific feedback that she provides the student. They did not discuss the questions assigned. They did not indicate what they gained from the reading experience and they did not discuss what they learned from the reading. They also did not provide what was their personal opinion of the book. You no---you hear her tell them that the bottom line evaluation is zeros all the way across. And she explains, ‘because you aren’t telling me anything about the book.’ Georgia shifts smoothly between giving assistance and giving feedback. To assist she asks if they know how to write the book report. She answers their question about report blanks and then she shifts to feedback saying, ‘some of you were giving me a page.’ Moving again to assistance she elicits their opinions verbally so that they can hear themselves say what they understand and have material to write with. And she models language expressions of ideas and feelings. Cognitive challenge is most effective when the teacher provides both the feedback and the assistance. Notice how Georgia’s tone of voice and style stay warm and supportive.
Feedback shared in this way encourages students to continue to strive and because of this teaching sessions students can now judge their own performance against standards that they now sure---surely understand.

(Tharp) Elementary---Study 4---Probe 8---Leveling Tasks

We’re back in Julie Livingston’s math class again and here we see many of the follow-up activities to the lesson in fractions. Teaching cognitively challenging material takes place in the interaction between the student and teacher certainly, but it also requires practice. It also requires that, uh---uh, man---the---as many trials as possible in order to, uh, fully engrain learning into our sk----skill level at the automatic level. What we see here in, uh, the first of these activities is what the teacher has judged to be is clearly at the practice level, that is to say the student should be able to perform this independently after the instruction that they’ve had. They are, however, uh---set up with ready access to peers so if they need some assistance, I believe in this classroom, they were encouraged to ask for it. Buy by and large this task was leveled at the---at the individual practice level. The second task, the game, is a---a---I’m not sure exactly why this was assigned, it’s a very good assignment, it provides individual practice but it’s a group activity. I don’t know whether that was selective because it’s more fun that way to have a game to, um, play with some else, or whether that was judged by the teacher at a level to re---probably require peer assistant. In either event, uh, these, uh, tasks show that even in cognitively challenging activity practice is also required.

Study 4---Probe 9---Meta-cognitive Strategies

Mrs. Smith, in---in, uh, this mathematics classroom is giving an excellent demonstration of teaching through comparative, cognitive strategies. Some of the most interesting cross national research that’s going on in education these days is the study of different, uh, national styles in teaching mathematics. This classroom you’re seeing something that is frequently identified as the Japanese method, that is to say a problem is set, each of the students attempts to solve it, and then in this large group setting each of the students, or several of the students, report the strategies that they used to solve the problem. Here we see three, I believe, three or four instances of where this is solved and the technique relies on the close attention of all the students to the strategy employed and then its critical examination. Was it good? Why was it good? How did it work? There’re always several ways to skin a cat, as we say, and the, uh, there are several strategies always available for the solution of any mathematics problem. A good mathematician learns to use several strategies and then to use the one that is best for a problem and this kind of compare and contrast analysis allows, uh---allows the students to---have a ---a experience in understanding alternates and learning how to critically review them. Comparative strategy for problem solving is one of the highest reaches of cognitive complexity.

(Stefinee) All right, this is Study 5---Probe 1---Participation Structures

In the lesson the interaction appears to be a playful and informal conversation, but a little more closely. Students are participating in a complicated format, which includes rapid co-narration overlapping and simultaneous speaking. Uh---the teacher listens very carefully, you’ll see, and she does so to capture the student’s comments. She’s listening to those comments to find out what students bring into this lesson and how she can best assist them to understand what is the objective of the lesson. And in the conversation you’ll listen for her use of clarification checks when she asks questions like, is that clear? And she uses confirmation check where she asks students, do we all agree about this? And validation requests, uh, then are the questions she asks like, why is that? And she does all of this to encourage the students to participate and to respond, uh, to their comments. She also tries to include all of the students in the conversation and in this situation she has them all participating in an instructional conversation.

This is Lesson 4---Probe 2---Oral Language Development

The teacher in this excerpt, Ronny, demonstrates how to cognitively challenge students through a common activity, which is making a peanut butter sandwich. Rather than use many repetitions of low level and basic skill---drills, to practice language patterns, Ronny embeds (background noise) the practice in the actual sandwich making activity. The enthusiasm of the students, as you can see, makes it obvious that they’ve had previous experience with this and, uh, they’ve done it successfully at home. Taking full advantage of their history, Ronny draws on their food preparation and laundry experience to practice such specific vocabulary as spread and fold. She repeatedly challenges students to use prepositions, position words that give clear directions and then she also requires them to think sequentially. Her challenge strategy, the activity attracts students to actually use more precise language. She models their incomplete sentences and makes complete sentences for them to hear. Cognitive challenge produces learning when it guides students into the zone that is just beyond their current abilities. These students willingly move forward because they are competently assisted and engaged in a fun activity. We can see that the students were very clear and precise about their standards for making the sandwich. Throughout the activity the students gave Ronny feedback about the match of the sandwich to their standards. At the same time Ronny gave feedback through questions and actions and guided them to communicate clearly about the steps in the process. This lesson reflects all of the five standards.

(Tharp) Elementary---Study 5---Probe 3---Assessment

You see a---Lucia here demonstrates very, (chair noise) um, extreme instance of the point that we want to make. One of the characteristics of the instructional conversation is that it gives the teacher so much infor---uh---information that will help to assess and to, uh---that each child’s capacity and be able to properly level tasks and to be---always work with in the zone or proximal development. There are many ways of doing this assessment. There are ways of doing it informally and the teacher coats the experiences and knowledge in their head about each one of the kids that develops a---gradually evolving understanding. Or notes can be taken about particular problems as they arise. Lucia here is---is, uh---doing a very formal piece of observation so what she is doing is almost an instructionally based assessment that is sort of half conversation and half group testing session. It’s an interesting variation and, uh, she is, uh, filling out specific kinds of information that she wants about how each child is developing the comprehension ability in handling this, uh, this story. So assessment is always an important part of instructional conversation, here is a, um, instance of a teacher using a very ig---uh---highly focused and highly structured form of assessment.

Elementary---Study 5---Probe 4---Assistance

Instructional conversation is a conversation. However the teacher’s participation in a very artful instructional conversation consists almost always of assisting the children’s understanding. In this short excerpt from Hilda’s instructional conversation about her social science, uh, topic we see that very clearly. Hilda is active in the---in---in the conversation and she offers one form of assistance, a very short piece of explanation. It’s, uh, in the form of an analogy, if you watch for that you see it. Most of her assistance, however, is in the form of questioning. Each one of the questions that she asks is designed to assist the children to go deeper, more complex understanding of the subject to get them to think about something that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought about, except for her help. This is a very good example of the way that even in a conversational context it’s something that feels like a true conversation, the teacher is assisting all the time.

Study 5---Probe 6---Classroom Organization

How is it possible to conduct instructional conversations in small groups when one has 20 or 30 kids in the classroom? Through classroom organization that involves a lot of independent work in small groups, joint productive activities by most of the students who are keeping themselves occupied, working on their own recognizance while the teacher is concentrating on assisting a small number in a closely responsive way. We see here Dawn Milani, fifth grade teacher and Zuni, organizing her class in just such a way. (chair noise) They are obviously accustomed to this form of classroom organization. Notice how they are---there’s very little interruption of the conversation that she carries on in small groups. She is able to really concentrate on assisting individual or small groups of children while the others are engaged in their own productive activities. This is the kind of classroom organization that we refer to in our research as Phase 4, that is to say in which the teacher organizes the---several group activities simultaneously and she rotates among these groups, assisting them and working with them at whatever she finds them engaged in at the time that she moves toward them. There is a---one more level of classroom organization available, Phase 5, we refer to it as, and, uh, that is in which there is a regularly scheduled instructional conversation about a specific topic over and it’s specific instructional goal that each of the students, over a day or two days or three days, rotates into. Form of the classroom organization will determine the degree to which and the kind of topics that can be handled in instructional conversation.

Study 5---Probe 7---Co-constructive Knowledge

Sherry Galarza’s pre-school class discussion which they were challenged to recall, rearrange and connect in correct sequence a complex set of activities that hey---they had engaged in earlier, you’ve already seen that in the---in study number 4, let’s re-examine it here, bearing in mind another aspect of the instructional conversation which is the emergence of co-constructive knowledge. First let’s the---um---uh---realize that this instructional conversation is not about a textbook. It’s not about a story. It is about, in fact, a piece of work, a piece of problem solving and teacher is right beside them, giving them feedback, watching carefully what they’re doing, being responsive in each of the, um---ch---each of the times that they stumble and falter. When the final product is achieved and all the children and the teacher agree, yes, this is it, this is the answer to the problem we set ourselves. Bear in mind that no single child, and certainly not the teacher alone, constructed in knowledge which was encoded in the correct sequencing of this may---of these remembered events, it was co-constructed through a process of mutual assistance by the kids in which each one contributed what it was they were able to at a given moment, and the teacher contributed by offering assistance. A characteristic of co-construction during dialogic instruction is a deep and important one.

(Stefinee) Study 5---Probe 9---Integration

This instructional conversation, uh, I see has the goal to teach how authors use language to communicate atmosphere and setting for a story. For most of this excerpt Cynthia, the teacher, is eliciting student’s personal experiences of settings that resemble the one in the story. Though it sounds simple the lesson is actually extremely complex. It has high levels of student participation and standards requiring students to support their statements with evidence from the experience and also to get evidence from the text. Earlier on the wall chart the students had assembled their impressions of the book, ‘Durango Street’ by Frank Barnum. After summarizing the information on the chart with the students, Cynthia begins, ‘do you think a place like this really exists?’ She uses clarification checks to encourage students to describe their experiences in language that graphically expresses their very own feelings and fears. And to facilitate her instructional goal she builds the entire discussion and chart on the objective of descriptive language use by this author. In such an accomplished performance of---I see, we might expect to see all five standards present and it---and they are. As a joint productive activity the group had already made their impressions chart that was their product. Language development is achieved through frequent validation requests and questions to elicit student’s use of precise and specific language. The lesson was contextualized in all of the student’s memories of all their experiences, which were similar to the Durango setting. In the entire lesson is a cognitive challenge. Cynthia’s lesson is a model of all the indicators for an instructional conversation. And it is a model of the integration of all five standards.

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