Thursday, March 17, 2011

What do you look for?

Recently I heard Marcia Tate, brain based learning author and speaker, describe the five practices every administrator should see when walking into a classroom. They include:

Students Talking

The research tells us that the person talking is doing the most learning
Students Moving 

The research tells us that moving activates muscle memory and procedural memory 

Students making connections with their learning 

Some brain based learning strategies that help students make connections include: writing, the use of storytelling, using visuals, role playing, games, using technology and listening (or creating) to music.

Positive Atmosphere

Classrooms that are imbued with humour and build students' confidence increases learning.  In addition, teachers that are passionate  and show enthusiasm create a climate conducive for  learning.

Purposeful Classroom 

Students do better when they understand the learning goals for the lesson and when they can relate to the lesson on a personal level.

Listening to this presentation has caused me to revisit what I look for when conducting classroom walk-throughs.

What would you add to this list?


  1. I appreciate how we need to be primarily focused on looking at the students more than we need to be looking at the teachers. You can tell things are clicking if the students are actively engaged and enjoying themselves while they're learning together. That's a purposeful classroom.

  2. Great post Johnny,

    This is a bit of a generalization and context matters, but if I walk through a classroom and see students sitting at desks working silently I wonder if they are learning anything but compliance.

    I really like what you said about a positive atmosphere. That sets the tone for the interactions - if there is a tone of mutual respect, the interactions tend to be more purposeful.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks Johnny for connecting your thinking to my latest - that also looks at brain based learning. I really like your list. We speak a lot about the value of "walking through" classrooms - I know I try to do it in my role on a semi-regular basis, but it is crucial that we are purposeful in what we are looking for. I really like to ask a few students what in the "learning goal" right now - and I find, many know exactly what it is. The influence of Linda Kaiser and Judy Halbert in our district has been very helpful with this in our district.

    I think one of the key things we can do in education is look to all the emerging brain research for guidance. There is lots of talk about the "art" of our profession, but "science" is also very instructive as to what optimal learning should look like in our classrooms.

  4. Chris, I think you nailed it. Great educators are able to blend the art and science of teaching. A healthy balance is essential.

  5. Fantastic! Love all that this article/research tells us --- seems like good common sense as well ... don't you think? (Love it when the two "collide"!)

  6. Fabulous post! My wife Jean was at a School Effectiveness conference where Marcia Tate was speaking. The notion of engaging students through their actions in class is so much more to the point that engaging students through entertaining them. Thanks for presenting these ideas on planning for learning.