Three Understandings that Lead to Success in the Classroom


We asked Kenny Hall, kindergarten teacher at Chapman Heights Elementary in Yucaipa and adjunct professor in the School of Education, to offer advice to new teachers by sharing effective teaching methods. 

Entering the classroom as a new teacher can be overwhelming. A conceptual understanding of developmental progressions can help keep pre-service teachers focused on student learning. It is common to be inundated with curricular items, but tracking student progress is key. Teachers should familiarize themselves with developmental progressions. The Literacy Continuum by Fountas and Pinnell is a great tool. This work has been built on years of research on how students grow as readers and writers. Other research-based progressions include: Reading Pathways and Writing Pathways developed by the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project, the Progressions Documents for the Common Core Math Standards developed by the University of Arizona, and a series of Math Progressions videos by Graham Fletcher.

Next, new teachers should be continually improving their ability to observe students at work. They can use their knowledge of progressions as a lens to watch and confer with students. One architecture for conferences that I have found useful is the Research, Compliment, Decide, Teach framework. Research is done by watching and conversing with a student. The conversation might start off with a simple question such as, “What are you working on today as a writer?” During this research phase, the teacher is thinking about what to compliment and deciding on the next step based on each student’s understanding along a progression. Then, effective teaching can take place through modeling, showing an example in mentor texts, or through an inquiry.

An understanding of instructional contexts to use in the classroom will enrich the teaching that takes place in a conference. Teaching can occur in a variety of groupings across the curriculum and throughout the day.

Mini-lessons, reading aloud, shared reading, and interactive writing can take place in whole and small group settings. Teaching can also take place in independent reading and writing conferences and partner work. These instructional environments allow scaffolding for students at different levels.

As a beginning teacher develops these key understandings and continually sharpens them over time, the classroom focus can center on meeting students where they are and helping them continue to learn and grow.

Written by Kenny Hall

University of Redlands Alumnus