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Highly Effective Teachers of Vulnerable Students

Practice Transcending Theory


Edited By Mary Poplin and Claudia Bermudez

Highly Effective Teachers of Vulnerable Students contains the quintessential details of highly effective teachers working with students who live in poverty inside our public schools and community colleges. This book features the words and actions of the teachers that can inspire and direct any current or future teacher who wants to be great and be a part of inspiring young people to fulfill their potential. This is the grist we need to spark a reinvigorated critical national conversation about what it takes to really have highly effective teachers in low-income public schools and whether we have the moral courage to work as hard as they do to make educational equity a reality in our nation.

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7. “I’m not sittng at my desk”: The Essential Practices of Teacher Talk and Structured Group Work (Calista E. Kelly)


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7. “I’m not sitting at my desk”: The Essential Practices of Teacher Talk and Structured Group Work


When nine researchers embarked on the task of observing 41 highly effective teachers in the 2015–2016 school year, we did so using a Grounded Theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) that assumes that those being observed are the experts. We did not enter classrooms with checklists of “successful” practices or strategies, rather we went in with blank notebooks and a desire to see how highly effective teachers tackled their craft. What we all agreed we saw was teachers talking constantly to make concepts clear, and students working in groups to accomplish highly structured tasks for short amounts of time. We also observed the salient features of care, discipline/strictness, and high expectations in the classrooms. Along with these teacher dispositions, we found that highly effective teachers engaged in specific practices around teacher talk, structured group work, individual practice, guided practice, remediating knowledge gaps, student discipline, and classroom culture. This chapter will focus on the aspects of teacher talk and structured group work.

Teacher Talk

The highly effective teachers we observed tended to talk more than their students and engage in explicit instruction more than any other mode of instruction. However, they also structured opportunities for their students to discuss content and negotiate academic language with one another and with the whole class. Teachers frequently reminded...

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