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Make your classroom ROCK just like Jack Black’s

Written by Sarah Murphy, TE Instructional Coach Support Specialist

Come with me, if you will, on a coaching observation which takes a peek beneath the initial, surface level silliness of Jack Black’s fictional classroom in School of Rock, and see strategies in motion which engage learners and aid them in content internalization.

Flip through the recesses of your brain, and begin to list the educational scholars known throughout the world for their excellent instruction in the classroom. Names like Socrates, Aristotle, Disney Teacher of the Year Ron Clark, Jaime Escalante, and Freedom Writer Erin Gruwell might spring to mind. Visionary though they were, I will now take the time to scold you for leaving one fabulous name off of this prestigious list. Where is Jack Black, actor of screen and stage and lead singer of the band Tenacious D, on your list of exemplary teachers? Shame on you for forgetting him- tsk, tsk. I see your eyebrows shooting up in shock and your mouth beginning to form harsh words challenging my credibility. While his vocation in life may not be that of classroom educator, he did portray one on screen. Yes, the particular educator he embodied engaged in lying, cheating, drinking, and cursing, hardly values we as educators wish to instill in the future leaders of our world. However, Jack Black’s character in the movie School of Rock demonstrates some high level teaching skills (intentionally or not) that can be used to impact the classrooms of today. Observe the following portion of his classroom, and see my feedback for Jack Black below:

The Math Song from the movie School of Rock

Observed Classroom Action Instructional GLOWs Instructional GROWs
Teacher begins class with guitar, and students are seated in classroom silently Student Behavior and Teamwork: Students are tracking the front of the room, ready to internalize the material from the instructor. You have clearly established yourself as the instructional leader of the classroom, and student behavior reflects that they are ready to learn. Academic Expectations: You are about to deliver content to your class, and the students do not have adequate materials (notebooks, pencils, guided notes, etc) in order to capture that content. Make sure that students have a way to process what you are presenting to them through writing, speaking, or thinking.
Math is a wonderful thing. Math is a really cool thing. So, get off your ‘ath, let’s do some math. Math, Math, Math, Math.
Engaging Hook: Using music, videos, or other ways to quickly hook our students and capture their attention for the upcoming lesson is a fabulous way to prepare their brains for the learning. Moving forward, I would not use the play on words ‘get off your ‘ath”, since it is not appropriate for the classroom. Using humor is a great way to build classroom climate, and you must make sure that you are conducting yourself as the instructional leader and not setting examples which should not be emulated. Content Delivery: During the introduction of new material, you should be emphasizing your key points to set students up for success. Your key points of ‘math is a wonderful thing’ and ‘math is a really cool thing’ are not key points which build student understanding. Later in the lesson, you seem to be reviewing quick math facts: prepare students to engage in the learning by emphasizing key points which will help them in the lesson.
Teacher: Three minus four is…Student: Negative one

Teacher: That’s riiight!

Feedback: As soon as the student has answered the question, you provide her with instant feedback on her performance. Additionally, you did it with a smile, creating a positive classroom climate.Student and Teacher Ratio Strategy (Half-Statement): You began the question and made clear who you wanted to finish the statement with proximity and eye contact. Allowing students to hear what you are saying and complete it enables them to demonstrate their comprehension. Rigorous Expectations: Consider a way to hold all students accountable for thinking through the answer to your question. Use whiteboards and markers to gauge student mastery in a speedy way.
Teacher:And six times a billion is…Student: Six billion.

Teacher: Nailed it!

Positive Classroom Climate: You are promoting this through providing students with clear feedback. Push your classroom climate further through having students celebrate one another as they demonstrate mastery. Rigorous Expectations: Students in a classroom are at a variety of levels in terms of their academic needs. Some students at this grade-level may need to review math facts, and some may have advanced beyond this. Give a diagnostic at the beginning of a unit in order to know the academic needs of your students, and adjust instruction accordingly.
Teacher: And 54 is 45 more than what is the answer, Marta?Student: 9

Teacher: No, it’s 8.

Student: No, it’s 9.

Teacher: Yes, I was testing you-it’s 9. And that is a magic number.

Student and Teacher Ratio Strategy (Feigning Ignorance): Students enjoy correcting their teachers. Putting the student in a position to provide the correct answer and stand behind that answer builds confidence. Student and Teacher Ratio Strategy (Feigning Ignorance): Since all students are listening to hear the answer, make it clear that you are asking for help from a student, and the student will be providing the correct answer. Feigning ignorance is a great way to engage students, and they need to be set up to know when this is happening. 

What glows and grows would you offer to Jack Black?



One thought on “Make your classroom ROCK just like Jack Black’s

  1. I love this movie and I also love this post!

    Posted by nellagarciaurban | October 24, 2012, 7:01 pm

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