ACSA, Behrman's charter operator, has designed this school year with "1/2-day Wednesdays" so teachers can focus on professional learning communities and multidisciplinary collaboration. Yesterday was the first of these sessions and I was asked to present a lesson for a small group of teachers on a relevant topic of my choosing. A large portion of our school's conversations about how to increase "rigor" in the classroom returns to the need for our teachers and students to ask and answer higher-level questions (Level 3 and 4 Questions on the Depth of Knowledge wheel). Since I absolutely love the study and application of critical-thinking lessons (going back to my critical thinking skills-focused lessons as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China), I decided to present "The Story of Jane and Bobby" (learned from the USPCV staff in China) with a Behrman/arts-integration twist. I entitled the presentation "Extracting Culture and Student-generated Questions through Visual Storytelling." This lesson could easily be adapted for a late-elementary through high school classroom, but yesterday, it was just for teachers. Since I blog with the "eloquence in brevity" motto, on this, I will just give you some highlights, but please e-mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to fill in the missing pieces:
Great @behrmancharter PD yesterday on "extracting culture through visual storytelling." @ACSA_Education #nolaed pic.twitter.com/VhCiBS3ydE
— EDU...&AllThatJazz (@philiprazem) September 4, 2014
I started with a series of quotes and asked the teachers to identify one or two that resonated with them. Think, Pair, Share.
These are fantastic examples:
All in all, the teachers exercised their phenomenal debate skills by not only generating clarifying questions for me in order to make the best decisions but also questioned each other (just as we must train students to generate relevant questions/criticism for each other in the classroom). As a Louisiana A+ school with partnerships with KIDsmART and Young Audiences, the incorporation of art - in this case, visual interpretations of characters and their scenarios - allows students to see the story, and with me telling it orally, they advance their skills in the art of note taking. Lastly, since this specific session was designed for my fellow colleagues, we were able to interact and collectively deconstruct a problem all while taking stock in others' opinions and beliefs to propose a proper, agreeable solution - an task we must fulfill by designing creative lessons for/with our students in the 21st century classroom. I firmly believe the purpose of professional development for teachers is not simply to highlight material applicable for students, but to exercise the actual minds of teachers (or, "lesson architects") in creative and critical ways so they themselves can be prepared to challenge students with rigorous questions and tasks. Yesterday, we dug deep, and I believe this lesson will be an inspiring model for teachers to create equally challenging lessons (with deep, lingering questions) no matter the grade or subject area.