Inquiry Interview: Kathryn Turnbull, Grade 6 Classroom Teacher (My Mentor Teacher)

Throughout my weeks of observing Kathryn and her class, I’ve tried to compile ideas or strategies that she uses in her class. I’ve also tried to jot down words of wisdom she has shared with me that could potentially benefit me in my own class. Since these have occurred over several conversations, and not just one interview, I’ve compiled them in a list below. I’ve bolded points that directly relate to my inquiry question. 

  • Start with silent reading in the morning, play calming music. This starts the day with a calm environment, brings down the energy in the room.
  • “You are distracting me from doing my job right now” or “What is your job right now?” – using “my job, your job” speech from restitution theory to remind a particularly noisy student to listen during an important lesson.
  • Students graph their math improvement so they can refer back to it and see their improvement. It’s not something they need to hand in for summative assessment.
  • While reading, encourage students to think of an inference, make a connection, ask a question, visualize what is happening, and maybe even have a transformed thought (new way of looking at the story, the world, etc) based on what they are hearing/reading in the story. Based on the reading powers method that encourages kids to engage/ learn critical thinking skills while reading.  
  • Alternate allowing students to sit on the carpeted area while reading/doing a test so that they have some choice built into their environment.
  • Ask students to repeat back lunch time announcements to you so you know that they were listening.
  • Encourage mistake making! “I’m so proud of you for trying a new idea. It’s better to make a mistake you can learn from than never try in the first place.” Point out your own mistakes so they know you are still learning too, “Did you see what I just did? See, I’m still learning and making mistakes too.”
  • Be fun and joke around! Treat them like people! The kids say they love when Ms. Turnbull jokes with them.
  • Sometimes she will try to challenge their answers to make sure they are sure. They sometimes second-guess themselves, but they like to hold their ground and be reminded that even the teacher can be wrong sometimes.
  • Have a book conference with kids to discuss the books they are reading. Ms. Turnbull also gets students to write a short review of a book on a bookmark and hangs them at the back of the class. This way they can review books for each other and find out what other people have been reading.
  • Read books you think kids should read! Know the stories so you can get excited about the books you keep in your room. Don’t expect the kids to read something you wouldn’t care to read.
  • Keep a running list on the board of other work/ homework they could start on if they finish a given activity early.
  • Use post-it notes for activities to get them up and moving. Ex. “write one transformed thought you had about the video today and go put it on the board at the back of the room”.
  • Play “war” with cards for kids to practice their times tables. (Jacks = 11, Queen = 12, Ignore the King).
  • Stand at the door and greet them by name when they walk in in the morning.
  • If you can’t follow through, don’t point it out! This can corner you in an unnecessary power struggle that you won’t win. If you have extra time, or a support worker available, to help you follow through on an instruction (“do this worksheet”) then you can point it out and insist they follow instruction.
  • Play Math Bingo to help kids understand how to recognize large numbers when they are read out.

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