Helping Lead Educators in New Thinking Practices

"The Wipebook Flipcharts are great for taking into schools and putting up on the walls so teachers can collaborate and easily record their ideas and thoughts."


This blog's author, Mr Lett


Traditionally teachers have taught in isolation; they were the kings and queens of their own domains. Growing up, I remember my grade school teachers, each and every one of them. They were awesome educators and helped shape me to be the educator I am today. Growing up, my teachers would stand at the front of the room teaching us about a skill, then having us all do it together then finally assigning us a set of problems either out of the textbook or off of a worksheet; I can still smell the fresh acetate smell from the purple ditto machines blurry purple lines. Largely these teaching strategies have gone unchanged as teachers today still follow these practices based upon my observation and conversations with practicing teachers and administrators. New teachers cling to this practice as it is what is taught in education prep courses. How do we change the mind-set of teachers from this old fashioned practice to one that industry is demanding? 


Learning New Tricks

As an educational consultant, the task of convincing teachers that a teaching strategy or practice they aren’t currently using is valuable can be very difficult. I can tell how it will help their students be successful in the future but, if they don’t believe that it is better than the old teaching methods they are comfortable with then most likely there will be no change.  


Most recently, I have pushed into several schools to work with teachers to first examine their state testing data then create a plan for how to address the learning gaps. When we looked at the data, most classrooms struggle with the higher ordered thinking process or the ones where students have to explain their thinking. This was eye opening for a lot of teachers. This discovery then led into a conversation on how to best approach this.  


After doing a brief discussion about what collaboration in the math classroom might look like, we dove into a professional development about Number Talks in the math classroom. Teachers were shown a couple of models through video clips and then were divided up into groups of three. First, teachers were asked to discuss what language they would expect to see in a higher ordered thinking class. Teachers came up with terms such as analyze, rationalize, explain, transfer, and decide. Each group was then given a common problem to solve. Teachers were told that when groups were working that it was important to constantly move around and listen to the discourse of each group and make observations on thinking practices.  


A group of teachers working together to share ideas on VNPS


Using the Wipebook Flipcharts, teachers began working out their problems, discussing the problem, drawing, writing, and erasing as their discussions changed. I encouraged the teachers that there is plenty of room for showing their thinking processes. I noticed that teachers were more liberal with their writing and editing of problems since the Wipebook made it easier to correct their mistakes or change their work product.   


When the timer went off, I asked all groups to finish their thoughts and then had each group do a gallery walk around the room to look at the different ways each group solved the problem. We then entered into another discussion on how students may have different ideas on how to solve problems and how that should be encouraged and discussed. By the end of this activity, many teachers were buzzing with ideas on how to incorporate this strategy into their math classrooms.  


Teachers sharing ideas on VNPS to help each other


Great for collaboration about curriculum

Another favorite use of Wipebook flipcharts in my professional learning courses is to have teachers group together and discuss the different types of accommodations that can be made for students who may be struggling in their classroom.  


Teachers were again randomly assigned to groups of three where they took a few moments to discuss what accommodations in a lesson looked like and then shared all the different accommodations that they had made in their classrooms to help ensure student success.  


It gave me goosebumps listening to teachers discuss what they were doing. It was interesting to see the brand new teachers soaking all this in and going around taking pictures of each groups chart to reference back when they got back to their classrooms.  


A list of ideas made by teachers to make classrooms more accessible


The Wipebook Flipcharts are great for taking into schools and putting up on the walls so teachers can collaborate and easily record their ideas and thoughts. I already have had several of my schools ask for purchasing information so that they can get sets of these for their teachers to use in the classroom.


Adam Lett, Educational Consultant, Southwest Center for Educational Excellence

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