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Exemplary Teaching: Modeling in the Classroom

December 14, 2012

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This past week — totally without design — I sat in on three teachers who were using models to showcase excellent work to their students.

Gretchen Hurtt‘s English 2 classes were having orals on papers analyzing poems they had studied. Gretchen kept pushing the students to see effective sentences, textual analysis, introductions and topic sentences in their partner’s papers. She also ended each oral asking the students to identify one aspect of their writing they were going to focus on for their next paper. Through these models, Gretchen helped her students be objective, and she helped them plan how to improve their essays.

In John McGiff‘s classes, he started having students identify a painter whose strengths were opposite theirs – he was forcing them to go out of their comfort zone, take a risk, be vulnerable. Then the students selected one painting by this artist; he then asked them to make their own version of that painting. John’s goal was to have them imitate what wasn’t their strength. John’s use of models gave the students a bridge to confront their vulnerabilities in a safe format. The students were excitedly terrified as they began these paintings; they were eager to see if they could improve.

Josh Meier‘s Photo Majors were reading a book on criticism, on how professional critics evaluate professional artists. He wanted to show them how to be a critic. Then he had each student discuss a professional artist’s work, which allowed them to be a much more informed critic. He had them use the skills they had just learned, which will help them in group critiques throughout the year, and in evaluating their own photographs.

When we use models of what we want students to produce, we give them a clear picture of what we want, and what they can achieve. These three teachers were masters at engaging the students, and showing them the type of work and creativity we want to see from them.

Let me know other ways you have engaged with and exhibited model work.

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