#SOL15: March Challenge Day 7 Quality Instructional Practices


The story of Thursday’s professional development session continues here. Yesterday you saw a fun activity with Instructional Strategies Brackets. Today’s post provides a window into “quality” of instruction!

Quality Instructional Practices

  • How do teachers improve?
  • How do they know what to improve?
  • How can teachers be given an opportunity to rethink, reflect, and revise with support?

I have a solution for you . . .but as the author of this wonderful work warns . . .”This is not for the faint of heart!”


What is it?  How do we recognize it?

One way:  Look for great, good and bad instruction as defined by Mary Howard in her book Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters. Chapter 1 is available free when you click on the sample tab HERE!

Good to Great Teaching cover

We used the window into classrooms where teachers guide us through a process of evaluating, adjusting, and elevating their teaching.  This grade 5 example of an initial teaching sequence (from the free chapter one) began our conversation.



Teacher leadership teams time read the scenario, recorded some examples in columns for “Great, Good, and Bad” and then discussed their thinking with colleagues. Conversations were rich with text examples often cited (close reading!).

We then looked at “What did this teacher define as “Great, Good and Bad” in her initial teaching sequence?”  (You will note that we have flipped the form as we want everyone to reread the GREAT column many times.)  The teacher columns looked like this and we made sure to note that the learning includes the conversations about the instruction and not an evaluation.


Teacher Reflection

Because the teacher in this scenario was going to use the lesson with another group of students, she wanted to improve it and she had the good fortune to be discussing her lesson with Mary Howard.  After reflection the teacher decided to change several things to make her instruction more effective that included:

  1. “Teach vocabulary at a different time.

  2. Check in at mid-point with small groups

  3. Make an interactive anchor chart.

  4. Add sentence starters to thinking and anchor charts

  5. Teach a whole group Mini-Lesson to teach the “form” to everyone and free up more group time

  6. Use a National Geographic magazine for students at lower level to access same work

  7. Record 3-5 details at end of day for reminders the next day”

Follow-Up Teaching Sequence

There is an “after” narrative in the chapter that we asked our folks to read and then discuss what changed for the students and the learning.  Here is the teacher’s view of the follow-up instruction.


Please note that this activity was not about “putting the right descriptor in the right column” as the learning focused on “how do you define and describe great” and what changes were implemented in order to improve instruction? As well as, “How do you planfully work to increase the quality of instruction every day in your classroom?”

Focus questions:  How are you using the time instructional time that you have?  How are you increasing the GREAT Quality Instructional Practices in your classroom?

And remember Chapter 1 of Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters is available free when you click on the sample tab HERE!

Slice of Life

Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy at “Two Writing Teachers” for creating a place for us to share our work.

31 responses

  1. Excellent use of a rubric and intentional practices to show great instruction. Of course, the determining factor on whether a practice is great or not is the results of the assessment of the instruction. All the good practices in the classroom count for naught if students still can’t answer questions that prove what they know or are able to do.

    1. I would probably restate that. The determining factor on “great” is when the teacher adjusts/revises practices to ensure that all students are learning and that there is evidence to support that learning!

  2. Wow, Fran. I am going to print this post and keep it in my coaching notebook. This is intense and amazing work.

    1. Melanie,
      The Good to Great book is inspirational and the weekly chats on Thursdays have helped solidify my knowledge! (It’s a great book!)

  3. Thank you for bringing this book to everyone’s attention. It is an inspiring book every educator should read.

    1. Thanks, Jessie! It’s a great book for a leadership team/study group. It has helped me with “possibilities” when someone asks “What should I do differently?” and reflective questions don’t help (when we truly don’t know). Well, let’s look at an example and talk about it . . .

      1. Reading it, I felt like I was having a conversation with Mary. She pushes your thinking but in a scaffolded way. (If that makes sense)

      2. I agree! Love authors that have that knack of “sitting beside me” while I’m reading their book! ❤

  4. Getting teachers to be reflective rather than rote with their practices leads to better instruction. This looks like a book I need to read. Thanks for the introduction to it.

    1. You are welcome, Lee Ann! Check out all of Chapter 1 free. It will hook you! You get to see samples from teachers in grades 1, 3, and 5!

  5. Just bought this book, Fran – can’t wait to dig in and learn.

    1. Tara,
      You will love it! How did your tech session go this morning? Looking forward to hearing about it! ❤

  6. What I love about this is that there is not a right answer or a right column. What is important is how we describe and define good and great. Just the focus on those principles will lead to better work! Thank you for this.

    1. So true, Julieanne. And if we do reduce or eliminate the “bad” then all that is left is the good/great! How fortunate our kids will be! What great learning!

  7. It took me many years of teaching to realize that reflection isn’t a natural consequence of teaching among many educators; it just seemed part and parcel of the profession to me. Equally important, I think, is teaching students to reflect on their learning; that’s when learning really happens.

    1. Such an important point, Glenda. Students need to be part of the assessment and reflection process!

  8. I need that book! In the middle of teacher evaluations this year, I need to remember to be great! Those lessons need to ENGAGE the students and help them to LEARN. My goal is life-long learning for all. Thanks for sharing this amazing information!

    1. Jennifer, I think that this book reminds us that we can all grow and become GREAT! It’s a worthy goal to embrace!

  9. I absolutely love how multi-modal your blog is. It’s form is fantastic. I wish I could learn how you did it!

    1. Aileen,
      I’m not sure what you mean by multi-modal. Graphic sources:
      The book cover came from Heinemann.
      I snipped the 5th grade excerpts from free Chapter 1.
      The ratings are snips of the charts from the ppt presentation.
      The quotes – word press quotation format. (I wanted block format – it didn’t work that way!)
      The wordle at the beginning was a google images search for “Quality Instructional Practices”.
      Does that help?

      1. Yes. Thank you! Multi-modal is just the mix between writing and the graphics/photos.

      2. Aha! Pictures ARE worth at least 1000 words!

  10. Allison Jackson | Reply

    Really enjoyed this post, Fran. I’ve been wanting to get the book Good to Great Teaching for a long while now, and just received it recently. Really looking forward to reading it.
    It’s essential that we teachers reflect on and evaluate our teaching. Every minute of the day needs to count.

    1. Allison,
      So true that every minute counts. There has to be a sense of “urgency” not to rush the students but for the teachers to constantly reflect and evaluate as you said.

      One quote I love of Mary’s is “What can you say no to?” And that’s so you can say “yes” to something good/great!

      Thanks for commenting! We are enjoying the Iowa weather today – 55 and predicted to be in the 50s for the next week! FUN!

  11. I definitely want to check out this book! Thanks for the insight!

    1. It’s a great book!

  12. I almost bought this book the other day, but decided that I had to finish the other two professional books I was reading before I added another to the stack! Based on your example of how you used it with your colleagues, though, I’m heading to the Heinemann website now. Thank you, as always, for sharing your insights!

    1. Catherine,
      That is great restraint to only have two professional books on the TBR stack. It’s a great text for thinking with and coaching with teachers and administrators! 🙂

  13. […] Day 7 I shared the work that we did around Quality Instructional Practices based on scenarios in Chapter 1 of Dr. Mary Howard’s […]

  14. […] post began four years ago today, March 7, 2015. But the content remains […]

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