Who is the Third Teacher?
The Third Teacher in your classroom is the learning environment. The first teacher is the PARENT, the second the CLASSROOM TEACHER and the THIRD is the environment you create for your students. Healthy relationships between all three contribute to student wellbeing and success.
To be a Third teacher, your classroom environment needs to foster independence in learning, nurture creativity and curiosity, provide clarity on teacher expectations (academic and behavioural) , encourage risk-taking and critical thinking, but most of all be useful.
In the context of Learning Walls and Bump It Up Walls, the ‘Third Teacher’ starts with assessment in mind, and facilitates HOW students interact with and use these walls together to improve their own achievement. You read that right – the learning environment actually encourages interaction and participation through purposeful selection, placement and modelling by the classroom teacher.
Why is ‘The Third Teacher’ in Your Classroom Important and How Does it Help You?
The ‘Third Teacher’ is literally that – another helping hand in the classroom. Do your students need help with setting a goal? Refer to the Third Teacher (e.g. Learning Walls, Bump It Up Walls, Success Criteria). Does a child need help with text structure or language features? Try the Third Teacher (e.g. writing exemplars- good & bad, colour-coded examples detailing text structure, student checklist)! Anything relating to achieving success criteria? Refer to the Third Teacher!
Your ‘Third Teacher’ can help you to:
- Be clear on curriculum goals
- Share success criteria alongside examples/anchor charts/checklists
- Provide ongoing support to students either by directing them to the wall, or being able to support students 1:1 because other students are accessing the Third Teacher.
- Be a facilitator of knowledge, rather than the gatekeeper.
How your students engage with the ‘Third teacher’ determines its effectiveness. The ‘Third Teacher’ is effective when; students have ownership over the learning environment; students know what is in the classroom and where to find it; know how to use the information/tool they find; and students know they have permission to go to the classroom environment first.
How do you encourage students to seek the Third Teacher?
How you craft your classroom environment to encourage students to refer to the ‘Third Teacher’ comes down to a few basic fundamentals:
- Your classroom environment needs to be set up for individual, group, whole-class work/lessons, with breakout areas that have access to materials they need to explore, engage and scaffold (in Early Years these materials may include counters, manipulative, small investigation areas. Older students may have access to white boards, post-it notes, text books, highlighters etc).
- You may have a collaborative learning space where students contribute items relevant to the learning.
- Everything on your classroom wall must be relevant. This means the content has been explicitly taught; students have seen the content before it has appeared on the wall; the content is regularly referred to within lessons and students had an opportunity to co-create some of the content (eg co-constructed anchor charts, success criteria, writing samples)
- Use student-created work samples, anchor charts, post-its and more. Students are more engaged by theirs and others’ work.
- You can also create interactive elements and ‘take-aways’ – elements of the learning environment that students can use in their own space (eg WOW word bookmarks that students can take back to their desk).
- Use the ‘three before me’ rule. Students should ask the peer next to them, a ‘peer expert’, and the Third Teacher (where can you find help in our classroom?), before seeking out your help (unless of course, someone is hurt or there is an emergency).
- Model the independent processes with ‘think alouds’. For instance, model how to self-assess against success criteria for your students. In your classroom, self-assessment may look like this:
- your students complete a draft;
- before the teacher views the draft, the student goes to the learning Wall to access a self-assessment checklist;
- the student identifies a success criteria they have not achieved – this becomes a learning goal;
- they write their learning goal in their goal book, or on a post-it for the wall;
- they seek information on the learning wall to help them achieve the success criteria (e.g using speech marks to indicate dialogue)
- they edit their draft to include the success criteria, and submit for peer/teacher feedback.
- Regularly directing students to the Third Teacher by referring to the 5 Questions, specifically, ‘Where can you go for help?’. Answers can be:
- Look at the Learning Wall: Re-read the Learning Intention; Read the success criteria – look at the work examples and anchor charts linked to the success criteria
- Knowledge centres: vocabulary walls, dictionary, iPads for research
- Feedback, goals, past work (always keep students work in individual folders with previous student checklists attached, so students can see their own growth and use these samples to set goals). Also keep your own tracking document so that you know where each student is sitting and which feedback has been given.
- Display answers to the 5 Questions in your classroom, so students can read the answers (include visual cues for younger learners).
Where do I start?
- Complete an audit of the classroom environment – is it all being used? Has it all been explicitly taught? Is it there just because it ‘looks nice’?
- Remove what isn’t useful to your students. If it is useful but hasn’t been taught, teach it! Make a connection for your students and show them how it is useful.
- Ensure your Learning Wall has all of the elements that students need. Have you deconstructed the Learning Intention? Have you got co-constructed success criteria? Have you provided a checklist of success criteria that your students can use, repeatedly as the act on feedback?
- What needs to be a ‘take-away’ – think of students that need additional support with tangible resources in front of them. Print multiple copies, hang them on hooks, stick velcro to the back of mini-anchor charts, put information on bookmarks that can be reused.
- Model, model, and model again, the use of the learning environment.
- Reinforce the 5 Questions
- Praise independence and autonomy.
In essence, many of us have used the Third Teacher within our classrooms, without giving it a name. Giving it some structure, educating students in its existence and application, and creating the learning environment intentionally, can help to implement the Third Teacher as a pedagogical tool within the context of Learning Walls and Bump It Up Walls, in your classroom.
As always, we welcome your thoughts about this blog post. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts and comments. We also welcome sharing this blog post with your colleagues.