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04.15.14Clip of the Day: Katie Bellucci Checks for Understanding (Video)

07Teachers-t_span-articleLargeAs soon as we cut this clip of math teacher Katie Bellucci this week, I knew readers would want to see it.  It’s a pretty amazing demonstration of several of the techniques in the (NEW!) Check for Understanding chapters in TLAC 2.0… it’s also a clip I’m likely to add to the 2.0 version of the book… just maybe it’ll be the last clip that makes it in under the deadline.


You might remember Katie from Elizabeth Green’s “Building a Better Teacher” piece in the New York Times Magazine. Katie, then, was brand new to teaching… she showed a ton of aptitude and we were hoping we’d be able to support her in becoming a master teacher as quickly as possible.

Four years later, Katie is that master. At Troy Prep, she helps train other teachers and has an administrative role in addition to teaching math- which she’s pretty amazing at.

This clip begins with her using a technique called “Show Me” to rapidly assess data on student work through observation- students answer a multiple choice question and show their answers on their fingers by playing “rock, paper, scissors.”

Katie instantly realizes there are a wide variety of answers and moves instantly to re-teach the problem.  She does a great job of Withholding the Answer- another new technique that emphasizes the power of students not knowing what the right answer is- and therefore the power of delaying revealing that fact.  Katie’s careful not to tip students off with her affect- she’s warm and positive and even keeps the proportion of Bs, Cs and Ds uncertain so no one knows what the majority of class members said.

In fact, the most compelling part of the clip is the mood- the warm positive affect she uses in addressing error.  She’s warm and positive all the way through, enjoying the opportunity to learn from the problem rather than blaming students for getting it wrong–we call this building a Culture of Error.  It’s a critical part of an effective classroom for students to know it’s safe, even useful to make mistakes. At the end Katie congratulates students who found the error in their work- it’s a good thing to solve your own mistakes.  It’s a lovely example of how the culture of a classroom makes students not only comfortable with errors but value them. It also demonstrates, in Show Me, an efficient tool for gathering data and responding right away and in Withhold the Answer, a slight variation that can bring added rigor to re-teaching.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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2 Responses to “Clip of the Day: Katie Bellucci Checks for Understanding (Video)”

  1. Matt Wheeland
    April 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Great vid of great teaching. Such a positive atmosphere there.

    I have always been skeptical of TLAC’s claim that teachers should “snap fingers” because it seems demeaning or rude. But, I’m starting to change my mind. I see TLAC’s point that it is motivational while avoiding (verbal) confrontation. Perhaps I need the question answered: Is finger snapping and such non verbal cues offensive to secondary students (and not to younger students)?

  2. Sara
    April 16, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I think this quote: “In fact, the most compelling part of the clip is the mood- the warm positive affect she uses in addressing error.” is the best answer to your questions about snapping fingers with secondary students. My high school kids respond well, but we have a very positive, supportive classroom culture. I know other teachers at my school would not be able to pull it off without students feeling pressured or belittled.
    I loved this clip. A fast paced and highly engaged class with lots of positive energy.

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