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Teaching Studios: It’s Good to Learn New Things With Others

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Christine strums her guitar playfully as the class sings along about how computer parts are connected to the tune of “Shake Them Skeleton Bones”. It’s a Tuesday morning in June at Burbank Elementary in Logan Heights. Christine Shepherd and Evelyn Ruiz, third grade teachers in San Diego Unified School District, are launching into their second day of co-teaching as part of their Teaching Studio. They are focusing on support structures to help students articulate the steps they went through to create their Scratch projects during their computer science lessons. They have noticed how enthusiastically their students participate and work on Scratch projects. They wonder how they can get their students to share more about their creation and problem solving process, step by step, with each other and the class. This musical warm-up is something that Christine and Evelyn came up with on their own. It is meant to engage students and get them talking and singing together right from the beginning, while also introducing the computer science concept of how computing systems are connected.

When they finish the song, a student shouts out, “Good guitar playing!”

Christine responds with a smile, “Oh, thank you. I’m new. Just learning. It’s good to learn new things.”

It’s something she won’t even remember saying when we debrief the lesson, but the whole class heard it and saw their teacher taking a risk, trying something new in front of the class. It’s just one of the countless unsung teacher moves great practitioners make on a daily basis often without even noticing. It’s what resource teachers and curriculum writers know make or break any lesson - the magic sauce that teachers bring to their classrooms each day and the bright spots that shine through during Teaching Studios.

One of the Norms and Agreements for Teaching Studios is “putting ideas on the table and pulling them off”. It’s a practice that supports the group in taking risks as we collaborate and try new things together. In every Teaching Studio I’ve been a part of, teachers have reflected on how rare it is to be able to collaborate, be encouraged to try new things together and then have the opportunity to reflect and try again. Even though we are always surrounded by students, constantly interacting with people, teaching can often feel like a lonely profession. We are constantly providing feedback to our students, and rarely getting any back ourselves.

Both Christine and Evelyn reflected on how beneficial it was to be able to co-teach and teach lessons twice - being able to slow down and reflect in order to modify lesson plans and try new teacher moves that best support the diverse needs of their students. We reflected on how differently the same lesson went in each classroom - effectively and in response to students’ needs and personal connections. For example, the student who shared about not having enough money to buy candy, but being able to return with what he owed later, led one class into a dynamic conversation about borrowing and owing money versus stealing. The real-world example kept coming back as a reference as they worked on the ‘Dino Bucks’ game. It wasn’t in the lesson plan, but it definitely made the lesson more personal, interesting and memorable. That flexibility and openness to student voice and choice was evident and something to celebrate in both classrooms.

Art Lopez, the Program Manager for Coding Our Future (the team that developed the CS + Elementary curriculum), shared how moved he was by the support both Christine and Evelyn provided their students to share their thinking. He celebrated how they modeled patience, repeatedly encouraged students to share with partners, gave students wait time and prompted students when helpful. He knows firsthand how important those teacher moves are, especially for multilingual learners. CRLP (the California Reading and Literature Project) has been working closely with Coding Our Future to embed EL support structures in the CS + Elementary Curriculum to support mutlilingual learners, and all learners. Art is a champion of this work. He has dedicated his teaching career to being a lead learner bringing computer science to high school students in the community where he grew up - a community that has historically not been provided those opportunities and was asking for them. Evelyn is passionate about bringing computer science to her students, in the community and school she attended as a child. Art and Evelyn’s shared passion to serve their communities and provide computer science opportunities to students largely underrepresented in computer science careers is truly inspiring. They are not formally trained computer scientists - but they are passionate lead learners dedicated to providing cutting edge opportunities to their students. They are part of a growing community of lead learners bringing computer science to their students, truly living out Christine’s rockstar motto: “I’m new. Just learning. It’s good to learn new things.”

Click here to access the CS + Elementary open source units.

Click here to explore the TERC Inquiry Talk Moves teachers used during their Teaching Studio.

Click here to explore the Norms and Agreements for Teaching Studios.

Teaching Studios are a collaborative inquiry process where teachers dive into a phenomenon in their instructional practice, plan a lesson collaboratively, teach the lesson twice, and debrief and reflect on each lesson to gain more insight into their classroom.



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