15 Minutes to a Transformed Lesson

I recently had a 15-minute conversation with a very capable middle school science teacher that radically transformed the 3-lesson mini-unit she was about to teach on the human respiratory system. The credit for this belongs entirely to the teacher.

I have found spending 10 to 15 minutes conferring with a singular focus on the actual content and no dialog at all about the activities or other aspects of the lesson can yield huge dividends. Such a conversation may be called “digging deeply into content” for the relationship of ideas in it, and the items that should be isolated and highlighted because they are difficult, easily missed, and/or especially important.

A 10 to 15 minute content-analysis conversation, whether or not followed by observation and feedback, can be immensely helpful to teachers and thus their students because they generate clearer thinking on the teacher’s part about objectives. They also make clear what ideas should be highlighted and what the relationship of ideas in the content is. West and Staub first described the value of conversations similar to these a decade ago in Content Focused Coaching (2003).

If you view the conversation with Emelia in the video below, you will see the following unfolding: she realizes what should be highlighted in her 3-lesson series on the human respiratory system and she comes up with:

  • Respiration isn’t breathing: “respiration” is a chemical reaction in the cell that liberates energy.
  • All cells in the body, even bone and hair, need oxygen.
  • The human respiratory system has six sub-processes in it, only one of which is what we call “breathing,” i.e., the mechanical intake of air.


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