Monitoring the Classroom by Walking Around, Part 3: Content

Monitoring by walking around can have different purposes. In part 1, we talked about withitness. In part two, monitoring for engagement. In today’s post, we talk about monitoring for content learningKnowing Student Thinking

The lesson segment addressing content is divided into three sections—Design Questions 2, 3 and 4—which progress from teacher-centered delivery of strategies to more student-centered ownership of the content learning.

Each step along the way, teachers must monitor to see if students are getting the desired effect of the strategies. Previewing, recording knowledge, reviewing, practicing skills, homework, problem-solving and other strategies all require teachers to become intimately involved with their students’ thinking. This means closely considering their questions and comments, writing, skill level and capabilities and to know where students are on the path to achieving the target.

After the Teaching, the Work Begins

Once a strategy is delivered by the teacher, the real work begins. Monitoring by walking around is a way to start, but when monitoring for content, the ultimate purpose is to see if students are learning the goal, and more specifically, to determine if the strategy used to teach the content enhanced the learning for each student. One way the teacher can do this is to pause long enough by each student, or group of students, to observe them in action. Whether they are computing math problems, forming capital letters in cursive, or writing responses to text questions, to monitor well, the teacher must question, comment, or correct students in ways that quickly adapt to their unique needs at that time. Timely and specific student feedback can only come from walking around, getting involved and watching the work.

Sometimes monitoring for content happens after the fact. The teacher can ask for summaries or quick writes, collect homework, and read the exit slips after the class. Again, the teacher needs to question, comment or correct student thinking to optimize student learning. Students will respond and progress better and faster when they get quality feedback .

Hard Work

This is all hard work, but it pays off! The teacher is not only encouraging and helping his students but is gathering formative data to use in future instruction. He can notice misconceptions and common mistakes being made and head those off. This perpetuates the “feedback loop” that sends information from student to teacher and back to student again.

Know Why You are Walking Around

Teachers and observers might easily confuse monitoring for content with monitoring for engagement or using withitness. It all can look like you are just walking around the classroom. The art of both teaching and observing involves determining intent. Are you walking around for the purpose of checking for student learning and understanding? To see if students are paying attention and doing what they are supposed to be doing? Or is it to make sure they are behaving and squelching minor misbehavior? The artful teacher can be doing all three at once, but the observer’s feedback should reflect each strategy individually.

As a teacher, do you sometimes begin monitoring for content, but end up monitoring for engagement or behavior control?  Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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