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What I Teach

To set this scene I need to tell you, there are six large tables in my room. I do not teach with desks. That said:

Monday in my classroom I modeled test taking strategies whole group. Tuesday in my classroom I modeled them again and had the kids work in groups of four or five. Today I modeled them again and instructed the students to work in pairs. They had a science passage to read and ten questions to answer. I told them that before they marked their answer sheet they had to highlight their support for that answer in the reading passage.

They went to work and I moved from pair to pair listening, prompting and/or redirecting. I had to repeat the directions in the first three groups I visited. Finally I asked for the class’ attention and snapped, “I am repeating the directions one more time. Pay attention. This is the same assignment we did yesterday and the day before. All of my teaching is just waisted breath if you aren’t going to listen.” Then I repeated the directions, sent them back to work and continued monitoring partners.

I stopped at one team where there seemed to be some tension. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

Jake replied, “Izzy says the answer is A and I say the answer is B.”

“Well,” I asked, “Can either of you prove your answer is true?”

“I can,” Jake said. “He pointed to a section in paragraph five which he had highlighted. “Right here it says that rain, hail and snow are forms of precipitation. That means the answer has to be B.”

I asked Izzy to defend his answer. Izzy mumbled that he couldn’t find his answer anywhere on the paper. I reminded them that they needed to check all the possible answers, directed them to continue and said I’d be right back.

I circled the room and checked on a few other groups, then returned to Jake and Izzy. “What did you decide?” I asked.

“Jake is right,” mumbled Izzy.

“Is that what you marked on your paper?” I asked because Izzy hadn’t marked anything at all.

“No,” he said. “I can’t remember where Jake said the answer was and he won’t tell me again.”

I tapped on Jake’s paper. “You two are partners. You help Izzy. Remember, you are both sharing the same grade.”

Jake grumbled okay, and scooted his paper over near Izzy’s. He pointed, said, “Right here in paragraph five it says ….” He started to read aloud and I turned toward the pair of students at the other end of the table. No sooner was my back turned then Jake, very peeved, said, “If you’re not going to highlight this, why am I wasting my breath?”

I had already made eye contact with Mona and we both heard Jake loud and clear. I know my face looked very startled. Apparently Mona read my thoughts because, with the tiniest smile on her face, she nodded her head ever so slightly and said, “He sounds just like you.”

Didn’t he, though? Sigh

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. Sound like the student developed a new understanding of the teacher. That’s probably a good thing! 🙂

  2. Morning Quilly,

    I am here for my bribe. 🙂

    This story reminds me of a *group* project where I did all the work. We got an A, of course, but the teacher gave all my partners failing grades for not contributing. I protested, but was over ruled. The other students were ok with a failing grade. Never have understood it.

  3. Are you teaching critical analysis to fifth graders? Please tell me you teach in a public school. I want to believe.

    I want to believe my grave will be mowed by someone who will consider the knocking.

  4. The magic of echo words! They do come back to haunt us at times.This student was listening. lol
    Thanks for the comments at my place. When I am unable to keep my house warm, please remind me of those high temperatures.Last winter I wore more clothes to sleep than I did during the day! They will sound Wonderful…

  5. Brian — on my way.

    Doug — yes, I am teaching critical analysis to 5th graders. Yes, I teach in a public school. Teaching children how to think is my primary goal in teaching. If they know how to think, and they know how to read, they can pretty much teach themselves anything else they need or want to know.

  6. Mirrors turn up all over the place don’t they? I am constantly surprised by them – they’re usually the ones I most can’t stand. And lookie here, they turn out to be me!

  7. i think it’s fabulous you’re teaching your students how to think in a critical fashion. and, hey, if that means you get to be critical and/or take criticism once in awhile, so be it!

    seriously, i believe to this day one of the most rewarding classes i took in college was something called “Creative Problem Solving”. both my sons had “critical thinking” lessons while in grade school, which always impressed me–and i expect and/or hope to see it pay off for them both any day now!

    great story! xo

  8. I agree with Lori, I’m the worst at being able to rephrase something I just said or saying things more than once. Thank goodness for motivated teachers like you Quilldancer! If it had been left to me to educate them, my 5 kids would still be laboring over books at the kitchen table.

  9. Quilly-Sister…I’d give a lot to hear that kid that sounds like you! LOL

    Seriously, it’s one of the reasons us ‘big’ people have to watch what we say – you never know who’s listening, and to what.


  10. I have been startled in this way many times by my son. I take solace in the fact that we say “things” that may sometimes rebound back at us because we love and care.

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