Teacher uses new tools to engage students
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016
LaGRANGE — “Indian in the Cupboard” is more than a book to Barbara McCain and the students in her West Point Elementary School classroom. It’s an avenue to a higher order of thinking.
This summer, McCain, along with each teacher and school administrator in Troup County, received professional learning from a leadership coach connected to the International Center for Leadership in Education. She believes this training provided resources to aid her and other educators in preparing students for the future by encouraging them to move past what they already know. Two areas of training stuck with McCain: The rigor relevance framework and the thinking continuum.
“We were trained in the three R’s – relationships, rigor, and relevance,” she said. “We have to build relationships with our students, provide rigorous learning, and make it relevant for them so they can connect what we are teaching to how it applies to their daily lives. I just simply use the training and put it into practice.”
Before class begins, the students in her class approach her to clarify who their classroom partner is for the day. When she informs them they will be working in a group setting and completing “Indian in the Cupboard,” they take their seats in preparation for the day’s lesson.
McCain said she now has a clear path to help her students walk through lessons she has planned for the following days by using the principles described in the thinking continuum. It helps her separate lesson planning and student learning into four quadrants that reach higher levels as they navigate through the activities.
“Quad A is basic knowledge. It’s what my students already know. It’s what you can Google,” she said. “Moving over into Quad B is taking that basic knowledge and relating it to the student’s lives. In Quad C, I take that knowledge and do some higher order thinking with it. And finally, in Quad D, I take all of those elements from Quad A, B and C to help the students create something brand new so they can solve unique problems.”
Even with her more than 25 years of experience in the teaching profession, she didn’t feel like she was as effective as she could be because she didn’t have the necessary tools.
McCain credits the tools received during training with moving the teaching experience higher.
“I was stuck in Quad A,” she said. “I would try to do something in one of the other quads, but I didn’t have the tools to do anything different. This summer, the coach provided us with the tools and the foresight to be able to move through lessons using power words.”
Oftentimes, McCain just moves through the quads without thinking about it because it’s becoming second nature.
“I use it all the time in my teaching now, just like I am about to do during the reading and lesson on ‘Indian in the Cupboard,’” she said.