Teaching Tip Tuesday–Observations & Evaluations

How to Get a “Highly Effective” rating during an Evaluation or Observation…

Next Monday (September 10th) will be the first scheduled classroom observations from our MOSIG visitors.  The district and building administrators will also be more visible in our classrooms on a more regular basis each week. We want to show our best and show that we are proud to be a part of MSB!  How can you receive high marks as a highly effective teacher?

Here is a checklist of things to consider as you prepare for SIG & Administrative observations:

  1.  Blackboard configuration—All of the following items need to be visibly posted: objectives, essential questions & skills (with DOK), Tier 2 Vocabulary, Do Now, Agenda, Exit Slip.  See my blog post from a couple of weeks ago for more information and examples.
  2.  Do Now & Exit Slip/Wrap up:  Begin class with an anticipatory set or a formative assessment & end class with a short formative assessment.  Watch your time at the end of class and wrap up the learning.  (Other ideas: A-Z summary, parking lot, thumbs up/down, Shaping up review, TILT journal, 3-2-1…)
  3.  High Yield Instructional Strategies—Marzano’s Strategies.  This month we are focusing on identifying similarities & differences, so that would be a great focus.  Think beyond the Venn and find ways for students to compare what they know with what they learned.  Use the cheat sheet I gave you during the PD day last Friday–> Cheat Sheet for Similarities & Differences Activities
  4.  Active Engagement—Stay away from worksheets & long lectures.  Chunk your lesson. Use a variety of instructional and assessment strategies throughout the lesson.  Use dry erase boards, cooperative learning, anticipation guides (& Get Off the Fence,) smarboards/projectors, INSERT, Chalk Talk, Tea Party, Probable Passage, Give One Get One, graphic organizers, speeches, skits….Use new methods to get the students excited about and engaged in their learning.
  5. Rigor—Move beyond recall (DOK 1) questions.  Require your students to apply what they learn and make inferences.  Students should be thinking critically about the material you are teaching.  DOK levels need to be 3 or 4.  See my old blog post about effective questioning strategies.
  6. Data & Rubrics—Post meaningful data & rubrics with student work in your room.

 If you have any questions about any of the items on the checklist, do not hesitate to ask.  I will be happy to collaborate or give feedback on your lessons for Monday or any day.  I can model instruction/strategies.  If I mentioned any instructional activities you aren’t familiar with, check my blog (msbinstructionalcoach.wordpress.com).  I have information and directions for most of the instructional activities there.   Be proud to be a part of MSB and show off your best!  We can prove that MSB is a great school!


Teaching Tip Tuesday: Quality Questioning Techniques

According to Robert Fried’s Game of School (2005), few students are authentically engaged in learning in school; most learn how to play by the rules in order to get along and get by. Most students appear to be passive observers in class sessions during which teachers are asking academic questions.  How can teachers more effectively engage their students when asking questions? 

In my most recent classroom visits, I have noticed teachers using a great deal of academic discussion in the classes at MSB.  Discussion is a great way to assess student learning and to engage students in the material.  Through quality questioning strategies, students can make connections between new information and what they already know.  They can articulate what they are learning and why. While engaging in problem solving and meaning making, they can demonstrate curiosity, self-reliance, and perseverance as they interact with their teacher and one another.  How can you make your questioning strategies more effective?

In most of our classrooms at MSB, the teacher is asking questions, and a few students are “shouting out” responses.  In some classrooms, students raise their hands with answers.  The questioning is very fast paced, with very little time for students to think about an answer.  Typically, a few “star” students answer the majority of the questions.

There are a few ways to make your questioning more effective….

1)      Frame Quality Questions: Formulating your questions should be your first consideration.  Carefully craft your questions before the lesson to ensure the questions stimulate student thinking and learning.  Here are some question starters for each D.O.K. level.  This would be a good reference for you to keep by your podium or desk, as you ask students questions.  

D.O.K. question stems

*For more information and guidance with framing your questions, please see me to borrow the book Thinking Through Quality Questioning: Deepening Student Engagement.

2)      Cold Call: The goal is to engage every student in the classroom in thinking and responding.  When a few students “shout out” the answers, most of the class is not demonstrating their thinking or learning.  If you want to read more about cold calling, read these two blogs about it:



To manage the cold call technique for calling on students, you could use index cards with each student’s name.  Shuffle the cards and use those to select your students who will respond to the question.  By creating some randomness to who you call on, the students will all be engaged and you will assess all students in your class.  On the index card, you can also make a note about whether or not they responded appropriately or correctly.  You could give students points for their responses and make it a formative assessment.


Watch this one-minute video about the “card-o-matic” strategy to increase student participation:


If you have a smart phone, check out these two apps that are designed for teachers to use for cold call: 

  • stick pick: $2.99
  • classcards $4.99

 3) Think Time: If we expect students to give thoughtful responses, we need to give students more time for thinking. We must wait while they think about the question and formulate a response. Typically teachers don’t have silence in their classrooms, and wait time is less than one second.  The classroom questioning is very fast-paced. Think about giving students the time to process the questions and their answers, so they are fully prepared to answer and feel more confident. Individuals process questions and generate responses at different rates and in different manners. Some students are internal processors who prefer to have their responses formulated perfectly before saying them aloud.  Others are external processors who are inclined to talk through their answers orally.  Some students need more quiet time for their processing, so teachers need to think about giving them the time they need for complex thinking.  After asking a question to the class, give the students three to five seconds to process. “Stop and think” Then you can call on a student.  After the student answers the question, give students three to five seconds to “Listen and Learn.”  During the second wait time, students can formulate clarifying questions or piggyback on what they’ve heard. They can compare their classmate’s answer with their own.  Students will need to learn from you what you expect them to do during the wait times.  The extended quiet time will feel funny at first, but students will soon adjust to the think time and it will become part of your questioning routine.

If you would like posters for the expected behaviors for students during wait times, let me know.  I can give those to you.

These are just a few of the factors to consider as you try to use more effective questioning in your classes.  If you would like further guidance and support as you try new strategies, let me know.  I would be happy to observe, model, or strategize with you.

Happy Questioning!