Week 2 Watching Teaching in Action


Monday will begin the second week of our activity.  I would like to introduce the two short videos featured for the week of April 14 through 18 from the Teaching Channel and the discussion questions.  I hope that many of you will post your thoughts and ideas after viewing.  I am looking forward to the discussion.         

Writing Higher Order Questions


Common Core Standards: None listed

Guiding questions:

  • How does Ms. Francisco use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help students write questions?
  • What can you learn from Ms. Francisco about teaching multiple strategies?
  • How does Ms. Francisco encourage students to use their personal reactions?


Making the Declaration of Independence Come Alive


Common Core Standards: None listed

Guiding questions:

  • Why is the break up letter an effective way to engage students?
  • What strategies do Ms. Katznelson and Mr. David use to support students in constructing their own knowledge?
  • How are the four themes developed throughout the lesson?

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME




John Greenwell, Jennifer Bruce and Kitty Head will be the guest discussion hosts for the week 2 activity.  They are adult educators from Louisville, Kentucky.  I have included a brief bio for each.

John Greenwell, Workforce Services Coordinator with Jefferson County Public Schools Adult Education, has been facilitating workforce partnerships and trainings for thirteen years.  With a Masters of Education from the University of Louisville, John also conducts writing workshops and classes for adult learners at all levels, as well as assisting instructors with improving classroom strategies and curriculum development

Jennifer Bruce currently teaches intermediate level math with Jefferson County Public Schools Adult Education.   Over the past three years, Jennifer has taught three levels of math instruction at Americana Community Center, a comprehensive learning center located in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has also taught a college prep course, ADVANCE, to students needing to obtain a GED and transition to postsecondary education.  Previously, Jennifer taught high school math for three years. She holds a Master's of Arts in Education and currently homeschools her two children.

Kitty Head currently teaches advanced level math and science at Ahrens Learning Center, a large comprehensive learning center located in Louisville, Kentucky.  Kitty has a wealth of experience including twenty-eight years as an adult education instructor with students of all levels, and, previously, as a special education teacher, second grade teacher, and preschool teacher.  Kitty holds a Master's degree in special education.

Welcome John, Kitty and Jennifer!

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME

I really enjoyed this example of creative and engaging teaching. These are two exception instructors. However, this video represents a snapshot of the classroom experience. These teachers do lecture but the lecture is only a small part of the overall teaching / learning experience. In this example, the teachers used a hook (the breakup letter) to engage their students. They provided an activity which activated the student's background knowledge of the topic. After they created a fully engaging environment - a brief lecture was presented which walked students through some of the crucial points of American history leading to the Declaration of Independence. Then, additional engaging actives such as the think / pair / share were included. We can't walk away from the concept of lecturing in class. We can adapt the idea of lectures as a smaller part of the overall instructional experience and ensure that students have time to be fully engaged in the learning process. 



I was so impressed with this lesson and the way it was presented. While watching the teacher read the  “break-up” letter, I noticed the faces of the students and their total engagement/embarrassment . Whatever their reactions, they seemed to be immersed in the words. At the end of the letter, the students showed genuine surprise and one student showed her obvious admiration of the idea by clapping. What a great idea these teachers had to engage their students, especially right after lunch!

The teachers did little teaching. Their comments were mainly to help guide the students or to reflect on the answers. As Ms.  Katznelson mentioned several times, the students were constructing their own knowledge. The memory of the whole “breaking up” process will surely remain in the students’ memory bank when they need to recall main facts about the reason for the Declaration of independence.

I also loved the idea of the timeline as a visual representation of historic happenings. I believe history, when taken out of context, has little meaning.  I am a huge believer in visuals to help students understand and retain a skill. Kudos to these two teachers for being so innovative. They have inspired me to follow in their steps!



I enjoyed watching this video clip.  So many times instructors just expect students to "get it" when reading, no matter the how complex or simple the passage might be.  Learning strategies are key to breaking down the process of comprehension, and for students, developing and using those strategies on a daily basis is important.  The use of the Costa's verb starters and the Bloom's cards, along with the Frayer model give students a variety of brainstorming strategies to use in creating their questions.  However, as with many videos, it seems the ability levels of the students seems extraordinarily high. They appear to be knowledgeable, quite verbal, and somewhat ready for the camera.  Not to delude the importance and impact of the strategies, but I would like to see lower-level students engaged with the activities.   


I agree that the ability level seems extraordinarily high.  I would love to see if/how international students, or ESL students, would benefit by the verb starters and how they would do in an activity like this.  The students I work with on a daily basis are rather low level readers/writers.  And just as you stated, teaching the learning strategies are key.

How wonderful, if not a master stroke of genius, to start the lesson with a breakup letter.  Proves that being creative can lend an awful lot to any lesson, especially when it comes to what most perceive as an old boring history lesson.  I also found it entertaining to watch students' reactions when they finally realized they had been duped, but at that point, and with the analogy of the breakup, they were totally engaged in the lesson about the Declaration of Independence without even knowing it, and if I might add, with no resistance. 

The concept of students "constructing their own knowledge" is so important for educators to understand, if anything, to allow the feedback that comes with the strategy in utilizing formative assessment of student knowledge as the lesson progresses.  In lieu of lectures, having students share their learning experience and knowledge is an effective strategy for keeping students engaged.  Of course, I love the concept of team teaching with each instructor using a variety of team-teaching methods to keep the students on task and involved with the lesson.  Great lesson. 

I like to think that I am creative in my teaching strategies, but I am also aware that it is easy for me to revert to the teacher-lecture students-listen way of teaching. I think those of us teaching adults know how rich our students’ backgrounds and experiences are.  They bring a wealth of life learning with them.  One of the subjects I’m teaching this session is science,  which brings with it all of the challenges involved in learning higher order thinking skills for the new GED test. I find that a lot of my students don’t possess the language and vocabulary critical to their success. It is amazing to me how many science words are roots or parts of other words that the students hear in their own lives. However, many don’t make the connection between these words and the vocabulary they already know. I use a variety of techniques to help the students with this vocabulary, one of which is to have the students search the web for the subject matter, including specific vocabulary words. The next day, the students share in class and everyone gets to hear each other's discoveries. It's a fun way for the students to not only gain knowledge but improve computer skills as well.

My students think I’m goofy, I think, for always cutting out examples in magazines or newspapers of the subject matter we’re talking about in class, whether it’s gene mutation, a Galapagos Restaurant recently opened, examples of stock prices fluctuating, etc.  I happen upon at least 3-4 examples per week. I wish so much that my students read about current events more so they could bring in their own examples.  However, I have had several students share science or history shows they watch and have been told how similar they are to what we’ve been learning in class. That sparked an interest in the shows for all of us.

I absolutely think it is necessary for our students to activate prior knowledge and connect what they’re learning to something relevant in their lives. The teachers in the Declaration of Independence video accomplished this in several ways, allowing the students to use their own language and examples to describe their interpretation of the language in the document. How powerful that connection was to watch!

Welcome to Week 2 Watching Teaching in Action!

The video Writing Higher Order Questions at https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/developing-better-questions is very brief, but quite interesting.  The instructor models several strategies for developing thinking skills.  What do you think of the strategies implemented by Ms. Francisco?  Do you think these instructional methods would help adult students?

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME

I feel that anytime a student is empowered, it helps students; even adult students.  And although this video pertained to writing, this could be used in any discipline.  For example, in mathematics the teacher could put students in groups of 3 and distribute a mathematical word problem that needs a formula to solve the problem.  Instead of giving the students the formula, the students would have to try and come up with a formula and solve the problem.  (At the end the teacher would of course explain the correct formula and the process in which the problem could be solved.) But this type of learning leads to a reaction in students and leads students to ask questions and get to a higher level of thinking.

I absolutely loved how this teacher decided against the lecture method.  She instead involved her students through pair share and table groups.  As I watched this video, she even had me hooked with her hands on lessons and break up letter in the beginning.  This shows how creativity and student based learning can outweigh the boring and dreaded lecture based learning and teaching.  This teacher also gave students small pieces of information and a clear guide to follow.  Her lesson was effective and successful because she not only allowed students to construct their own knowledge, but she guided them in doing so. 

I again love how this teacher opts out of the lecture based teaching/learning.  She "empowers" the students by giving them an opportunity to think on their own.  Being a former high school teacher, I know that students have much trouble thinking for themselves.  This teacher has students make observations that leads to a reaction and then she has her students turn their reactions into questions.  This is genius! By allowing the students to feel and be a part of learning instead of just a byproduct of it, the students are empowered. 


I think that all teachers (K- Adult Ed) should empower their students.  As an instructor, home school teacher, and former high school teacher, I try to empower all of my students! This allows the students to think for themselves and take the discipline outside of the classroom.  Giving a student a multiple choice question serves a purpose inside the classroom but it stops there.  When I give a student a problem without a formula it prompts the student to want to learn and want to figure out more than just an answer.  This is the type of learning that students take with them through college and even thereafter.  Every student that I have come in contact with wants to do something meaningful.  I hear so often a student say, "I'm not good at math".  By empowering students it also gives them a new prospective and many times a love (or at least a like) for the discipline.

Another comment I'd like to make: I don't always feel like the most creative teacher. However, with the internet it makes it possible. Teachers can Google lessons and find creative ways to present them; "don't recreate the wheel".  While teaching gallon, quart, pint, etc I wasn't sure how this could possibly be a creative lesson. So I Googled it. And sure enough, there was an elementary activity called "Mr. Gallon Boy/Girl" that I was able to use in even an adult setting. Grant it, I didn't pull out the crayons and scissors, but I did show the students the picture of the milk jug and the arms and legs which represented the quarts and so forth. This visual stuck with many students and they loved it. Some even wanted a copy so that they could help their children with homework in this regards. 

I wholeheartedly agree with Jennifer. I use the internet quite often to get ideas for students, and I often visit elementary/middle school sites for creative ideas. I then adapt those ideas to adults. Sometimes, though, I even do a lesson with crayons/markers involved. My students know I'm  not treating them like kids but  just trying to have fun. It certainly takes the stress out of whatever we are learning! There is SO much wonderful  information out there and such a variety of ways to learn.

Jennifer, I think I'm going to have to look up your lesson. Sounds like fun!


I had the incredible opportunity to sit in on a Steve Hinds math workshop this past Friday in Lexington, and it was amazing.  He utilizes questioning techniques with his students throughout his lessons to keep them engaged and involved.  He also requires them to answer questions about "how" they came to conclusions or found and answer. I really believe that the brainstorming ideas in the video can be transferred to other areas, especially math lessons, so that students are able to develop not only good questioning techniques, but also better ways to express their findings in a more logical and simpler manner.  As instructors, we tend to isolate math from other disciplines, treating the subject as if it were some lame and undesirable acquaintance that we want nothing to do with.  Unfortunately, our students have this preconceived notion that they're not good at it, when in reality, they have the potential to learn the subject, but we as teachers have to provide the strategies across the disciplines that will allow students to express themselves and assist them in learning. 

John, I heard that workshop was supposed to be great. Isn't it great going to a workshop and actually getting wonderful ideas?

I agree with everything you said about our students' ideas dealing with math. Many of our students are so eager to yell out answers due to being proud, but when asked, they often struggle to describe the process for arriving at the answer. I ask my students to describe the process without using numbers. A lot of times, they can't put it into words. Unless we're highly impulsive, most of us as adults  arrive at conclusions by going through a process. Math is no different.

One of the math skills my students are really interested in is finding interest rates/payments owed. I believe most have no idea that there is a formula for figuring out how much a car payment/house payment might be. I always caution them to be informed before shopping for a big purchase that they need to finance and always tell them to know their facts before agreeing to a random payment and trusting that the salesperson isn't cheating them. We should all be wise, informed shoppers.


I think both lessons demonstrated the theme of how adult students can construct their own knowledge. In the first video, the teacher placed the verb starters on cards and I am totally stealing this technique for my trainings. Providing three options to write questions assures that students on multiple levels participate in the activity.  I can't wait to do research on the three techniques demonstrated in the video.

My favorite part of the second video was the teaching hook. I loved the breaking up letter as the hook. You could see the engagement on the students faces as the letter was read. They totally got into it! Bringing the high school emotion of breaking up to the Declaration of Independence was creative and unique.

I must add, three exceptional teachers in these two videos!


The activity Watching Teaching in Action that took group members inside schools to watch how teachers are implementing standards in their classroom has ended.  I hope that you have had the opportunity to follow the discussion.

The purpose of the conversation was to share with the College and Career Standards Community the Teaching Channel videos.  I believe that viewing the videos can provide us with a way to promote our professional learning.  The clips that were selected showcased inspiring and effective instructional practices in order to demonstrate techniques for using standards in the classrooms.

I wish to offer my thanks to the six guest adult educators from Kentucky who have enthusiastically participated: Cris Crowley, Sherraine Williams, Jennifer Bruce, Kitty Head, John Greenwell, and Amy Matthews.  Their insight and wisdom have been very valuable.

Even though we are ending Watching Teaching in Action, our discussion can continue.  I encourage you to browse through the comments, and I would love to hear your thoughts or questions.

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME