Bridges and FIT Teaching

Cynthia Hockman-Chupp

What makes a teacher great? After years of work in classrooms around the country, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey believe they have a framework that defines the five elements of good teaching practice. In FIT Teaching, educators:

  1. Plan with Purpose
  2. Cultivate a Learning Climate
  3. Instruct with Intention
  4. Assess with a System
  5. Impact Student Learning

These elements promote learning in any classroom, it’s beneficial to consider how they might apply to a Bridges classroom.

1. Plan with Purpose

As you plan instruction, consider exactly what you want students to learn through the course of the lesson. If you need help focusing, read the content and practice standards at the beginning of the session. The student-teacher dialogue written into the lesson offers insight as to how students in this grade level might respond to concepts.

2. Cultivate a Learning Climate

As every good teacher knows, the classroom environment has a huge impact on student learning. Do students feel welcome? Can they trust that learning will happen? Is peer interaction positive? In a Bridges classroom, a positive climate allows students to share their thinking—including strategies and solutions—even when they may be wrong. And, as professor and math educator Jo Boaler tells us, it’s those wrong answers that grow synapses in the brain. If we can create a climate where students feel safe to be wrong--safe to debate and probe one another’s thinking—deep learning can occur.

3. Instruct with Intention

Students benefit from a variety of instructional groupings, built around the “Release of Responsibility” model: focused instruction, guided instruction, collaborative learning, and independent learning. Bridges lessons move naturally through these steps as the teacher first focuses and guides students, facilitating an investigation, before students move into pairs or small groups to problem solve or do Work Places, followed by some independent practice.

4. Assess with a System

How do we use data to make instructional decisions? And do we provide students with feedback? In a Bridges classroom, many opportunities allow for data collection and actionable feedback: interviews, observations, checkpoints, and pre- and post-assessments. We might nestle in with students during a Work Place game, asking probing questions to support what we observe about student learning. The Unit Work Place Differentiation Charts can be used to list students who need support or challenge with skills and include space to jot notes about instructional plans for these students. In the upper grades, Student Reflection Sheets encourage learners to closely monitor what they can do well, what they can do sometimes, and what they need to learn.

5. Impact Student Learning

Good teachers look at students’ short- and long-term progress to identify goals for professional growth. To do this we might consider: Which of the first four elements of FIT Teaching are our strongest? Our weakest? And how we might use both long- and short-term student data to make instructional decisions that will have the greatest overall impact on student learning? For example, maybe the classroom climate leaves students reluctant to share their strategies and solutions. Or perhaps the majority of classroom time is spent on focused instruction (in the “Release of Responsibility” model) and students need more opportunities for independent and collaborative learning.

The five elements of FIT Teaching point us toward what successful teachers do every day in classrooms all over the country. Whether you’re already FIT and would just like to tweak your skills or you’d like to make significant gains in professional growth, these five elements will help you to improve. For more information on FIT, visit the ASCD website  and consider reading the Fisher and Frey book, Intentional and Targeted Teaching: A Framework for Teacher Growth and Leadership.

Cynthia Hockman-Chupp is a curriculum specialist for MLC.