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02.01.19“Oh, Wait Until You See…” How Laura Baxter Built An Elegant, Engaging Transition Into Her Lesson

Our weekly video review had us buzzing this week.  Among the teachers we watched was Laura Baxter, who teaches 4th grade at Nashville Classical Charter School. I wanted to share a really rich clip of a small and apparently mundane moment from her classroom for a couple of reasons.

What first drew us to this clip is not what we plan to use it for in workshops–though we do plan to use it that way, starting with our Behavior and Culture workshop in Nashville on March 7 and 8.

The moment that first caught our eye was the beautiful moment of “looking forward.” Here’s how Looking Forward is described in TLAC 2.0 (page 229) “Even mild suspense creates tension, excitement, and anticipation. You can harvest that energy and make your pacing feel more vibrant by” looking forward.

You can see that here as Laura uses one of the vocabulary words her class has been practicing to build anticipation for the book as they transition from independent practice with vocabulary words to a read aloud and discussion of Esperanza Rising.


We loved that moment and obviously so did the kids, as you can tell from their audible response.

I’m going to come back to this moment at the end of this post because there’s a back story to it that’s really fascinating and useful.  But first I want to tell you how we’re going to use this clip in our workshops.

We cut it as an example of the What To Do technique. We noticed the precise clarity of Laura’s  directions right away:

  • Packet in the corner [of your desk]
  • Text in front of you
  • Bodies are still ready to read in 10…
  • Eyes in. Page 72.

We loved them because the result was not only clarity for kids but fast and non-distracting transitions. That’s partly about avoiding wasted time but it’s also about continuity. About the flow of ideas.The buzz of excitement she’s built about the train ride transitions quickly into reading and the kids are ‘all in.’ Less clear directions, less familiar directions and someone’s not sure of what to do. They’re not ready. Or they have to stop everyone to ask. Those consistent clear phrases do a perfect job of helping students know how to succeed.

What’s so interesting about this clip–the back story–is that these two ideas are related. And that this is really a video about preparation.

Laura is teaching a sample unit of our forthcoming curriculum and had met beforehand with our own Dillon Hauptfuhrer to prepare. Our lessons are content rich so teachers have sometimes really got to keep moving to get them done. That pacing challenge is one we’re keenly aware of and that Laura was too. She’d noticed herself bogging down a bit moving from vocabulary to novel in previous lessons. She wanted to improve that. Dillon recalls their phone call:

Even more tough than sticking to just 10 minutes for vocabulary, was the challenge of creating a smooth, logical, well-flowing transition that connected the vocabulary work students had done to the reading they were about to begin. She said she felt the momentum of the lesson stalled there.

We both brainstormed and I asked if there was a word from Explicit Vocabulary that particularly jumped out as most connected to the reading. We both agreed it was ‘irritable.’ Laura reflected a bit and then scripted out her transition where she used the connection between vocabulary and text to accelerate the pacing. She practiced it once or twice on the phone and then we moved on to other things

What impressed us so much was how Laura:

  • Took time to review the lesson with a colleague and adjust it before she tried to teach it.
  • Re-examined the lesson again through the lens of execution and flow, being self-reflective about where the lessons had felt ‘stuck.’
  • Identified a challenge, found a solution, scripted it, and executed it beautifully.
  • Combined her new insight with foundational What To Do skills to make the directions clear around the phrase.

And things went sailingly from there. So while this is a beautiful example of clear and crisp directions and transitions that keep kids happily engaged, it’s most of all a clip about preparation and planning.

Thanks to Laura for being such a model of professional excellence!



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