How to Improve Your PD with a Pineapple

 

The idea of observing other teachers is nothing new. It’s the way we all first started learning how to teach, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a teacher who hadn’t learned something from sitting in a colleague’s classroom.

Observing each other teach is one of the easiest and fastest ways to refresh our practice, learn new strategies, and build rapport with one another. And although many teachers say their door is always open, most of the time, we never leave our own classrooms.

There’s too much risk of showing up at the wrong time, interrupting something that really shouldn’t be interrupted, or going all the way across the building, then settling in to observe a lesson that you quickly realize isn’t all that relevant to you.

If only there were a way to see, at a glance, what other teachers are doing right now in your building.

A way to know at a moment’s notice whose door is open for observation and what’s going on inside.

A way to decide, if you have a few minutes to spare, where you might go to see some really interesting teaching.

The pineapple is a traditional symbol of welcome. When it’s displayed on welcome mats and on door hangings, the intended message is “Come in! All are welcome here.”

A Pineapple Chart is a systematic way to put a “welcome mat” out for all classrooms, a central message board that lets other teachers know that you’re doing something worth watching today, and if they’d like to come by, your door is open. 

Create a Pineapple Chart

You don’t really have to put a real pineapple outside your door. (It might make this more fun though.) Just create a pineapple chart like the one constructed by the Maple Avenue Middle School teachers shown in the video above.

The chart would be something like a dry-erase board, sectioned off with tape or wet-erase marker into days of the week and class periods. The board would be kept near teacher mailboxes, the copier, or some other high-traffic area for staff.

Every week, teachers would add their own classroom activities that others might like to see. These could be lessons in which the teacher is trying a new instructional strategy, when a new technology tool will be used, when students will be actively creating something, or even just when an interesting topic will be covered.

This offers other teachers a menu of options for informal observations and allows them to visit places where they have a high interest.

When other teachers see something on the board, they know they have explicit permission to stop by that class during that period to observe informally. They can stay as long as they like—even just a few minutes—and when they’re ready to go, they go. That’s the end: No paperwork, no post-observation conference, just a visit to see what’s going on in other classrooms.

As the Maple Avenue teachers explain, they add future lessons to a notebook, then move them to the large Pineapple Chart each week. The chart is displayed in a common area, like a mail room, teacher’s workroom, or the school library.

How It Works

The Pineapple Chart contains a weekly calendar of “Open House” lessons. The idea is that a teacher uses a particular strategy or tool and welcomes colleagues into their classroom to observe the strategy or tool in action—in case they want to use it in their own class later.

For example, if a teacher is using centers to engage learners in her 8:30 class on Monday, she would put her name on the Pineapple Chart for that time, indicating to any teachers who are free at that time that they are welcome to come and observe centers in action.

What’s even better is that this system is dynamic and customizable; it’s the exact opposite of a one-size-fits-all PD.

Each week, teachers make their own decisions about what they need or are interested in. If they have a packed schedule for several weeks, they may not do any observing at all, but when time is available (or an especially interesting lesson motivates them to make time), they can take advantage of something that meets their own specific needs.

There’s one more benefit to Pineapple Charts and peer observation:

Having teachers join each other in the classroom sets a wonderful example of collaboration and lifelong learning for our students. When another teacher visits and students ask why, explaining the rationale sends the message that teachers are always looking for ways to learn and improve and they’re doing it together, just as they hope students will.

Sample Pineapple Charts

Peer observation is one of the most powerful, affordable forms of professional development. By offering teachers an easy way to find the exact learning activities that interest them at a time that fits their schedule, Pineapple Charts make peer observation available to everyone all the time.
 
 Let’s talk about it

Please share your own professional growth strategies and any questions about the Pineapple Chart in our comment section below. You can also interact with expert “pineapplers” on Twitter at #PineappleChart.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch
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