Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fish in a Bowl

They are not gold fish or even a similar kind, but youngsters with different variations, red hair, blond, black eyes, tall, short,  glasses.... in an Elementary School.

Since three teachers showed some interest in the Lesson Study after my seriously pushy recruitment, we have successfully accomplished the first cycle of lesson study.  We hypothesized that a discussion will help students socially and academically.  The discussion method we chose was the "Fish Bowl".  Wikipedia defines it as very complicated yet sophisticated; however, it is a simple form that bunches students around a a circle, and allows them to observe other students' discussion in the middle of the circle. 

A sense of discomfort and unsureness was hovering over the half moon table while the teachers put their heads together designing one lesson.  The Lesson Study is a brand new idea for most American educators, at least in my school.  The hardest torture I found is that even though you are a third grade teacher, you might end up teaching 5th grade students in the 5th grade classroom because 1. One lucky number will be picked from a hat (Really, no one knows who is going to teach until the end of the lesson design process)  2.We are not designing one perfect lesson kindly for a 5th grade teacher.  We were designing one good lesson "together". Every participant must feel equal level of ownership for the lesson.  Without serious commitment and collaboration, this type of professional development wouldn't work accordingly.

My 3rd grade students and I were not familiar with the fish bowl discussion so I tested it before the 5th grade observation day.  Another 3rd grade teacher and I wondered how differently 5th graders were going to perform.  At the same time, we both agreed that 3rd graders need specific guidance before the discussion starts, because these busy bodies needed to focus in their talk. 

Katie's Trunk was chosen for the 5th grade fishbowl.  It was evident that students had rich and numeral experiences.  Although we didn't necessarily expect a perfect lesson or a Mr. Superstar teacher, exchanging with each other our secret smiles could not be stopped throughout the lesson.  Even low readers, whom I had when they were in 3rd grade, invited a fishbowl mate by throwing good questions into the fish bowl.  "What do you think Tory was considering when he touched Katie on the trunk?"  "Why do you think?"  As if reading beautiful writing elaboration, the conversation kept flowing.  Questions.  "Mary, what have you wondered?" Invitations.  Yes, questions would lead to great reading comprehension.  A kind invitation encouraged not only a specific person, but also a whole team which deepened their relationship.

While the fish were talking in the bowl, other students referred to pages in their books and observed  their target students carefully.  Their observation is recorded by numbers and narratives.  The reading comprehension assessment of this story turned out better than other stories. 

As we celebrated about the lesson, I knew, each of us had our own reflection.  That is what one teacher mentioned as "evolved" lessons.  Each lesson is similar but always with better tweaks from previous lessons that we did by ourselves or by observed others'.  Kids did well in the fishbowl because they really want to be recognized by someone else, like how special and how beautiful they are in the fishbowl.  Fishbowl experiences strengthen students' self esteem and harmonious effort just like several gold fish sharing a bowl graciously.  After all, these kiddos must be fish with red, orange, black, long tails, and big black eyes, flipping their fins and tails with unique moves.