Note: This reflection came at the end of the 2010-2011 school year and has been reposted here from DSC's lesson study blog. The author is Suzanne Teague, a veteran first grade teacher from Orange County Public Schools in Florida. So we thank DSC and the author very much.
My classroom has been packed away, books have been sorted, and memories of the past year are in the forefront. Summer is a time for reflection. As I reflect on experiences that would impact how I teach, the opportunity to participate in Lesson Study comes to mind. It was a powerful experience that not only impacted my teaching, but the students in my classroom, and work with my first grade team of teachers.
Spending quality time with my peers for extended periods over two half days was a bonus. We have always considered ourselves a community of teachers who value each other's ideas. Unfortunately, coming together to discuss our students and our practices has become a commodity. This extra time energized our discussion and ultimately the way we teach in our individual classrooms.
Through collaboration we not only considered our own students but all of the first grade students. Determining specific goals for them provided opportunities for thoughtful discussion. We determined what we wanted our students to take away from this specific lesson at this specific time of year.
Planning the lesson provided the unique opportunity to slow down the process. We analyzed every aspect of the lesson chosen from our Making Meaning® curriculum. In examining the questions, predicting their outcomes, and considering our own students, we thought deeply about the best strategies to meet the needs of our students.
When the lesson was actually taught there was a shift from the lesson to the students. Lesson Study gave us opportunities to "zoom in" and observe specific students to collect data. As I sat on the floor with a clipboard recording levels of engagement, conversations between partners, and reactions to the lesson being taught I was amazed at the students' conversations and literally felt like a fly on the wall. Surprisingly, the children didn't seem to notice or care that six extra teachers had entered their room to watch and listen.
After the lesson, we came back together to examine and analyze the data. Compiling the information we individually gathered gave us a picture of the entire class. There were some surprising trends in our findings. Most of the partners had real conversations about the mentor text that was used to guide the lesson. Their connections went further than the surface level we had anticipated. This led to further conversations about what made a positive difference in the lesson.
There were many layers in the impact of Lesson Study. First, I could not wait to teach the identical lesson with my own group of first graders. But even bigger was the impact the experience had on my personal lesson planning. I began to anticipate what might happen during a lesson and make more adjustments during the planning process. Knowing the developmental levels of my students and the goals I set for them empowered the planning process. Lastly, the conversations that took place during the study rejuvenated our team of teachers. We could not wait to share the experience with fellow staff members. But mostly, we consciously made more time during our already busy schedules to discuss curriculum. These rich discussions about our students, lessons, and practices made us think more deeply about our teaching practices as a whole. This not only impacted our team of first grade teachers but an entire group of first grade students.