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Hechinger Commentary

Effects on Students

These videos, and the commentaries from Judy Johnson, the Executive Director of the Cotsen Family Foundation, are meant to help journalists learn the main elements of great teaching and what they look like in classrooms. This video makes explicit what is obvious, but unstated, in each of the others: To find evidence of great teaching, watch and listen to the students.

As in the other videos, these children are engaged in their learning. Remember, learning is a two-way street: Teachers teach and students learn. It’s a conversation and the children in these videos hold up their end.

As mentioned in Judy's commentary, you should look for evidence of knowledge, skills, and progress. Learning is joyful and rewarding, so look for smiles. Learning requires effort, so look for furrowed brows and focus. Learning is social, so look and listen for children collaborating and learning from one another.

Listen carefully to the language and the tone that students use. What do you notice about the tone of voice of the boy counting by 10s and explaining his thinking? This is mathematical knowledge and number sense on display.

Talk to the students as they’re working. What do they say they’re doing? Are they adding their own ideas and thoughts in their own words? Do they surprise you with their answers? Learning leads to surprises and insights.

In many classrooms you’ll see obedience and discipline. Children want to cooperate and please their teachers. But compliance is not the same as engagement. Doing something to please the teacher (or get a grade) is not the same as doing it for its own sake. Look for students who are willing to try, even if they don’t get the answer right. How do they react when they fall short? Do they collapse or do they try again?