We recently launched Playbook, a professional learning community built for teachers, by teachers. 7,000 teachers at 300 schools are using Playbook to access strategies, ideas, and resources they can use in their classrooms. On Playbook, each teaching strategy is called a move. We'll explore one Playbook move in particular -- "Use Progress Signals During Independent Work," contributed by James Schafer -- to illustrate the structure of a move and to show how teachers and teaching teams use Playbook moves to improve their teaching practice.
Moves on Playbook are designed to be actionable: educators can try moves immediately in their classrooms and validate quickly if it's a move that works well for their context and their students. Each move has the same structure: a summary, a goal, an action, and a statement about why the move has worked for the teacher who contributed it. Moves reflect a wide range of pedagogical and classroom management approaches. Playbook uses many inputs, including grade level, years of experience, and moves ratings, to suggest strategies that are likely to be effective in a teacher's specific classroom context.
Every move on Playbook is contributed by a classroom teacher. James Schafer, a 2010 teacher of the year in Montgomery County, Maryland who teaches physics, has contributed several moves to Playbook. Mr. Schafer's moves on Playbook provide strategies for fostering student ownership of the learning environment, engaging students in correcting their own work, and planning challenging work for accelerated students.
"Giving students colored cups to indicate if they have a question helps me circulate effectively around the room when students are doing independent work."
—James Schafer, physics teacher and Playbook contributor
Mr. Schafer's move, "Use Progress Signals During Independent Work," is featured in the Expectations and Rigor section of Playbook. This move explains how students can use colored cups to monitor their effort level and communicate the difficulty of independent work. Green cups signal that students are finding the work easy, yellow means that they need quick confirmation of part of the activity or have a brief question, and red means that they need meaningful assistance with the work. Students can change the color of the cups as they complete the activity.
Mr. Schafer finds that this move makes it easy to tell with a glance around the classroom how hard or straightforward students are finding the activity. He suggests using the colored cups to make quick decisions about whether to spend more time going over the instructions or the material, or to let students continue working independently.
Moves like this provide teachers with easy-to-implement, novel strategies to use in their classrooms, and help teachers improve incrementally. Moves like Mr. Schafer's "Use Progress Signals During Independent Work" appeal to new teachers and veteran teachers, teachers of lower grades and higher grades, and teachers in a variety of school contexts. A high school science teacher, other moves from Mr. Schafer are best-suited for science classrooms in the middle or high school setting. Moves provide excellent starting points for classroom experimentation and further growth.
We are extremely excited to share Playbook and the expertise of many extraordinary teachers like Mr. Schafer with you and your educators. We look forward to hearing about your experiences with Playbook, and how we can continue to develop and improve this community of best practice in the months and years to come.
Brian Rainville, Ed.L.D., is 2010 Baltimore City Teacher of the Year and Educator Engagement Director at Panorama Education.