A big push in my school this year is the use of higher level questions. New York City is in the phases of adopting the Charlotte Danielson framework for observations, and questioning is held in high regard. I am excited by the new style of observation and expectations, as it is concrete enough that we teachers can really understand what is expected in order to help our students grow. I believe, if implemented properly, that the Danielson framework has great potential.
I recently had my first observation (in read aloud) and, less than two hours later, my first post-observation conference. I took away some solid and tangible ideas about where I could improve in order to help my students improve:
Even though it is not going to elicit a response of “yes” or “no”, “How is the character feeling?” is not an open-ended question. In the book I was reading to the class, the obvious, and seemingly only answer to my question would be, “sad.” Reframing the question as, “What different ways might the character be feeling?” invites a wider range of responses and requires greater thought to arrive at those responses. It’s a minor tweak that makes a major difference.
I must, again, better realize and challenge the abilities of my students. The point was made to me that my students’ answers to my questions were great, but that was indicative of their own ability, not my awesome questioning. Therefore, I need to ask questions that meet the rigor of their abilities. In other words, I must, once again remind myself that students will be limited by my expectations of them. If the language is there and the thought is, too, it’s time to push them more.
I can spark greater investment in partner talk by asking students to think of times they were in the character’s shoes. This enthusiasm can then be leveraged into whole class discussion based on any wonderful nuggets shared in partner talk, where students respond to what was shared.
Post-observations are intimidating to many people, including me. But coming out of this one, I felt right away that I was newly equipped with tools for my students. Even though my review wasn’t what I had hoped or expected, it is, most importantly, a springboard for my own professional improvement. If this is what Danielson’s framework will yield, then I am all for it.