By Liz Fox with Allysen Lovstuen
It all started with a visit to Stephanie Steines’s room. I was asked to cover for the first part of an Algebra class, and boy was I nervous. My fears were summarily assuaged, however, when the students filed into Stephanie’s classroom, eyes not on me but on the front board. Taking note of the directions Stephanie had written on the board, they got right to work.
Why don’t I do something like that? How could I streamline my classroom routine?
This short visit to a colleague’s classroom made me brainstorm about other ways we could learn from each other. The collaborative teachers throughout the district have begun hosting learning labs, a very prescribed, formal process which certainly has its own merits. But what if we wanted to work more informally? I discovered a blog post (http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pineapple-charts/) suggesting a tried and true method: the pineapple chart.
Pineapples have historically symbolized a sense of welcome—why not use that concept to invite colleagues to stop in for a visit? When I covered Stephanie’s classroom, I noticed these cubes with interesting symbols on them. She later told me they are plickers (https://www.plickers.com/). She shared with me, "I use them with my AP Stats students as a way to expose them to more multiple choice questions. I usually pull 3 released multiple-choice questions from past AP stats tests that relate to the work we’re doing in class. Students spend 5-10 minutes working on the questions at the beginning of class, I collect their answers with the plickers and then we go through the results together.” She then invited me—and anyone—to come see them in action on Monday mornings first hour.
Here’s the beauty of the pineapple chart: its informal approach. From the blog post: “When a teacher sees something on the chart she is interested in, she goes to that classroom at the designated time, sits down in an out-of-the-way spot, and watches. That’s it. No note-taking is required, no post-observation conference, no write-up. Just a visit. She can even grade papers or catch up on email if she wants, paying closer attention when the moment calls for it, but getting work done in the meantime. She can stay for five minutes or a whole class period. The key word here is informal, and it’s the best way for teachers to learn lots of skills and techniques just when they need them.”
Do you have a tried and true strategy you would share? It could be a technology application like Kahoot, Padlet, or even Canvas. It could be a discussion format (questioning techniques or jigsaw, for example) or something related to content. We welcome you to add your name to the pineapple chart in the lounge.
See something on the chart you are interested in observing? If you need someone to cover your class, check with Allysen or me to see if we can help out. Otherwise, we can arrange to have an instructional coach cover for you.
We hope this invitation interests you. In the words of the Jennifer Gonzalez, author of the blog post: “I feel strongly that some of the best professional development available to teachers lives right inside the walls of our schools, and if we could just watch each other teach more (http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/open-your-door/), we would all grow exponentially.”
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