A great deal of my coaching occurs through my literacy teacher education coursework, a balance between seminars, practicum teaching and online collaboration. We read research and professional literature, learn about effective practices and explore the theory behind them. But since many may not have extensive classroom experience, it can be difficult to truly understand the complexities of literacy teaching. That is why I rely on images and videos of actual classrooms to guide our learning together, something that ALL teachers can benefit from, too.

One of my favorite activities is to project an image representing some aspect of teaching for teachers to analyze. This might be a picture of the classroom overall, an image of a specific classroom location, a picture of students engaging in small group instruction or anything else you want to draw teachers attention to. Then, I ask teachers to silently explore the image and answer three questions: 

  1. What do you see? 
  2. What do you wonder about? 
  3. What does the image say about the story of learning in the classroom?

These three questions yield rich conversation about classrooms, instructional practices and student learning and usually spark an interest in the content we will explore together. For example, I might project an image of an effective word wall at the start of a professional learning session to spark conversation. We then spend the rest of our time exploring what makes word walls effective and how we can create one in our classrooms. Let’s say you are planning to explore a new instructional practice with teachers. Project an image that captures that practice in action and see where teachers take the conversation. This grounds the conversation in actual classroom practices and prepares teachers for the new information you’ll explore in your session too.

Here are some of the images I've used recently in my coaching:

Now, keep in mind these images do NOT need to be perfect exemplars. In fact, the See. Think. Wonder protocol seems to work better when they are not. This way, you can have richer conversations about the practices in the image to deepen the conversation. I have a Favorites folder on my browser so I can easily save images that might work for upcoming sessions with teachers, but you could easily create a Pinterest board instead. This way, when I see a great image online or on social media, I can easily save it for later use.

While I often use online photos from literacy organizations and teacher blogs to project, I recommend mining your own school to take snapshots of teachers’ current classrooms to help them celebrate what they are already doing and positively validate teachers’ efforts. Always.

If you think your teachers are up for it, you could take it a step further and challenge them to capture images of their classroom that are working well or that are examples of innovations other teachers might also want to try. Ask teachers to send you those photos to use as showcase pieces for your upcoming sessions or simply project them during breaks to celebrate teachers’ practices. You might even compile them together on your website or a shared Padlet wall to cultivate a positive culture for teacher innovation.

The bottom line? Images play a pivotal role in our work as coaches, both as conversation starters and celebrations. They're fun to gather, easy to project and sure to launch learning in your next professional learning session.

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