Over on the TLac Facebook page we posted an amazing video of North Star Academy’s Ashley Hinton using non-verbals to correct minor off-task behaviors while still teaching. The clip met with instant response.
Meanwhile in a fascinating view behind the curtain of Uncommon‘s culture of constant improvement, I thought I’d share the following exchange between Joaquin Hernandez, who works on the TLaC team, and Yasmin Vargas, who’s Ashley’s principal at NSA.
After we posted the clip, Joaquin sent a heads up to Yasmin to celebrate Ashley’s achievement and make sure everyone on staff knew we’d posted an exemplar video from her classroom. This is really important to us! Teachers deserve not only to learn from one another but to feel honored for their great work when their clips are used to share solutions with others. If you teach and you teach well you should know that you make an incredible difference in the world and your organization should constantly seek to honor and praise you publicly for that work.
In addition to passing along the good news, Joaquin sent along some talking points–basically a quick summary of some of the things we loved about the clip. I mean, it’s really important that we use “Precise Praise” and help developing teachers see what was so good about it.
And of course being the kind of principal she is, Yasmin shared not only the exciting news with her staff but also the talking points. AND she went a step further, asking teachers to share their own observations back with her about effective things they saw Ashley doing. And not surprisingly the notes she got back were pretty fantastic, including one from Emma Simmons, which was so insightful we figured we needed to share it so others outside of Uncommon could get the most out of Ashley’s clip.
So… Here are Emma’s notes on Ashley’s clip.
- Finding classroom “hot spots”: Find and stand in a “hot spot” in the room when asking the class a question. After a scholar is called upon to answer, consistently scan around the rest of the class in order to ensure that they are all tracking the speaker, if this is not the case use a quick non-verbal redirect that doesn’t take any other scholar’s attention away from the person who is sharing their answer. It was clear in Ashley’s video that she was listening to the scholar who was chosen to answer the question, however was always scanning around the room, quickly redirecting scholars, ensuring that the answer was interrupted, and no one got further off task.
- Circulating: I can tell that although Ashley asks her questions from hot spots within the room, at other points in her lesson she is constantly circulating so that scholars know that she will come by them to see how they are doing, which also keeps them on track and focused on the lesson.
- Using wait time: Ashley gave a quick non-verbal for hands to go down before she was ready for scholars to answer her question. She then proceeded to ask it a few more times to create the illusion of speed, as well as give scholars more wait time so more hands will go up when she gives the signal that it is time to do so. Sometimes I think that I am too quick to have a scholar answer my question because I’m concerned about pacing. Unfortunately, this makes it so that only a few scholars have the opportunity to answer the question, and the discussion is not as deep as it could be. I have seen through my observations and my classes at Relay that I need to make it so my scholars do the heavy lifting with comprehension questions. This is a technique I plan to write into my lesson plans.
- Using proximity: Ashley also used proximity to get scholars who may not be tracking, back on task. This particular take away is crucial to me as I had to watch this video multiple times to actually see that that was why Ashley went over to that side of the room. Just skimming through the video it simply looks as if she’s walking over there to get a different view of the classroom, not correct an off-task student. This is key because it doesn’t let the other scholars who are on task notice or be distracted by that one scholar. It also doesn’t make the off task scholar feel out of place or embarrassed that he made a simple mistake. I have to make sure that when I am doing something similar in class, I need to make sure it doesn’t look like I am moving to a specific spot in the classroom, just to talk to one particular scholar.
- Keeping a bright face: After Ashley silently corrected the one scholar, she remained close to him, and visibly scanned the rest of the class for STAR behaviors. She did 2-3 quick non-verbal corrections by modeling what she wanted to see and making eye-contact. The key piece that I took away from that section of the video is that Ashley did this while listening to the students response, and most importantly keeping a bright face and positive attitude towards all scholars so they do not feel discouraged, and are enthusiastic about paying attention and being on task in class. I feel that watching and practicing these quick hand movements will be very beneficial to my behavior management and student engagement, particularly with whole group Social Studies/Science instruction.
- Enthusiastic Tone: Towards the end of the video, Ashley was standing in the front of the classroom and was consistently modeling STAR behavior, as well as varying the tone in her voice to keep scholars engaged. I have been working on maintaining and utilizing different techniques to keep engagement high since PD this summer. This video really shows the power of varying the volume in one’s voice. I also noticed that she slipped a name of a scholar into her summary of her lesson that day. I am assuming that scholar was off task, and that simple slip of his name brought him right back to where he was supposed to be. This technique is also powerful because again it doesn’t put a spotlight on that specific student, however makes that scholar aware that the teacher sees them and they need to change their behavior ASAP. This was all done quickly, and maintaining the same tone and bright face. I know that this is something that I personally need to work on during my lessons when I get frustrated, I need to remain emotionally constant so that scholars do not feel singled out, and remain engaged in the lesson.
And for the record, here are Joaquin’s notes:
Here are just a few (among many) things that stood out to us about Ashley’s use of Nonverbal Interventions:
- Positivity: We were learned a lot from Ashley’s positivity as she delivers her nonverbal interventions. She maintains such a warm instructional tone (and even smiles at times), which communicates confidence and Emotional Constancy. She shows students that she’s not frustrated or nervous about correcting them, but rather, is happy to do what she can to help them succeed. Ashley keeps the tone of her classroom positive, even while she’s continually striving to improve it.
- Describe the Solution: Ashley’s nonverbals show students exactly what they need to do to fix their behavior as opposed to focusing on what they weren’t doing. They make it easy for the student to follow her directions (a downward gesture to signal hands down, folded hands to suggest the student sit in STAR, etc.). Since they’re so clear, Ashley doesn’t have to take time to stop, clarify what she meant, and then restart her lesson. She can deliver them while maintaining the thread of her instruction, which sets her up to avoid the “death spiral” that Doug referred to in his recent FB post.
- Systematic: Ashley uses the same nonverbals to correct specific behaviors, which makes it easier for students to follow them. Additionally, it’s clear that Ashley’s corrections are universal and impersonal. She doesn’t single students out, but rather, nonverbally corrects many different students at various points throughout her lesson. When she delivers nonverbals, students don’t even flinch because they’ve grown to expect (positive) correction when they’ve erred.
Anyway, it’s pretty exciting ot be a part of an organization that takes teachers, the work of teaching and the process of getting better together so seriously.