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12.19.19How Sadie McCleary Manages Student Participation (Video)

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Sadie’s teaching has been inspiring us for several years now- every since she taught at one of Uncommon’s NYC high schools. Now she’s at Western Guilford HS in Greensboro, NC

Happy Holidays, friends. I give you the gift of outstanding video to send you off into your winter break.

This clip is of Sadie McCleary’s class. She’s a Chemistry teacher at Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Generally this clip will inspire you- it’s such a beautiful example of how careful attention to building just the right academic systems can make a classroom vibrant, energetic and rigorous.

First I’ll let you watch it. Then I’ll share some observations.

What a warm, engaging and rigorous HS classroom can look like

One of the (many) beautiful things about the teaching here is all the different ways Sadie has her students participate. They move effortlessly from a Turn and Talk to a round of questioning in which she uses both Cold Call and Call and Response. Then she has students write. Then it’s back to questioning and Cold Calling. The result is that every students feels engaged and accountable but also cared about and seen. And students engage with serious content in a variety of ways.

Just as impressive is how clear the expectations are for HOW students should do these things. At 25:28 Sadie sends everyone off for a Turn and Talk to briefly review the Celsius and Kelvin scales in anticipation of their doing an extensive problem set. When she says “45 seconds. Answer all five [questions] with your partner,” the room crackles to life and everyone jumps in right away. Sadie has taken the time to explain how a Turn and Talk works and to practice it and hold students lovingly accountable for doing their part. And in the end, it seems, they kind of like it. Even if they were reluctant at first.

Coming out of the Turn and Talk she starts Cold Calling students to make sure they understood the material. My’asia is first and Sadie engages her with a light and easy tone of voice. My’asia doesn’t seem surprised by the Cold Call at all. Again, Sadie has explained what and how and so students expect it to happen. Notice Sadie’s really effective use of follow-up questions. Myasia does great but there’s a second question, Stretch It: The Celsius scale is based on “the freezing point of water and…”

My favorite part of the clip is the next part. After Cold Calling Caden she moves effortlessly back and forth between Call and Response and Cold Call– the first of these involving everyone in each question; the second giving individual students the stage. But crucially it’s always perfectly clear to students which of those two she’s using. They never call out when she means to Cold Call or fail to call out on a Call and Response. That’s because she has outstanding Means of Participation: she has simple and consistent ways of telling students how to participate. When she says, “So what is zero Kelvin? Tell me…” the phrase ‘tell me’ is a consistent cue that students KNOW means they should call out. If they don’t hear that or the phrase “everyone” they know not to and so Sadie can route her questions to individual students.

She’s equally clear and deliberate about participating via writing at 27:48 when she tells students, “So let’s add that to our notes.” She then procedes to not only tell them to add the key point to their notes but to model it by projecting her own version. “Beside T2 we’ll write: ‘Always convert temperature to Kelvin…” This is the technique Board=Paper. What’s on the board goes in your notes. She’s showing them what good note taking looks like.

Throughout every phase of her teaching it’s abundantly clear what’s expected of you as a student and how to do those things.

She adds to that an easy warn supportive tone and the result is a class of 30 students eagerly and productively doing exactly what’s expected of them with confidence all class long.

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