Teacher Protocols

  • Protocols are instructional strategies that help teachers and students interact with the Common Core Curriculum.
      Admit and Exit Tickets 
    At the end of class, students write on note cards or slips of paper an important idea they learned, a question they have, a prediction about what will come next, or a thought about the lesson for the day. Alternatively, have students turn-in such a response at the start of the next day–either based on the learning from the day before or the previous night’s homework. These quick writes can be used to assess students’ knowledge or to make decisions about next teaching steps or points that need clarifying. This reflection helps students to focus as they enter the classroom or solidifies learning before they leave.
    Aligning Learning Targets with Share & Debrief Questions
    Learning Target is the intended LEARNING/assessable outcome of the lesson (not the intended activity). Share is when students share examples of work that meets the target (thus honoring student thinking and effort).Debrief is the opportunity to go deeper with a learning target with the big picture in mind. Debrief provides students with an opportunity to generalize and to think about the transference of skills/concepts to other settings.

    Annotating Text
    Annotating text promotes student interest in reading and gives learners a focused purpose for writing. It supports readers’ ability to clarify and synthesize ideas, pose relevant questions, and capture analytical thinking about text. Annotation also gives students a clear purpose for actively engaging with text and is driven by goals or learning target(s) of the lesson.
    Anchor Charts

    • Anchor charts build a culture of literacy in the classroom, as teachers and students make thinking visible by recording content, strategies, processes, cues, and guidelines during the learning process.
    • Posting anchor charts keeps relevant and current learning accessible to students to remind them of prior learning and to enable them to make connections as new learning happens.
    • Students refer to the charts and use them as tools as they answer questions, expand ideas, or contribute to discussions and problem-solving in class.


    Back-to-Back Face-to-Face

    Building Background Knowledge – Mystery Piece Method
    This protocol demonstrates how quickly participants can become interested in a topic, build background knowledge, and use that background knowledge to become better and more informed readers of hard text. The workshop adapts easily to content in many disciplines and the design of the workshop ensures that all students read, think, and contribute. The workshop is particularly useful in introducing a topic because it fosters curiosity and builds in immediate feedback about learning. The workshop can also be used to help teachers build the necessary background knowledge to create a compelling topic for their expeditions. When conducted and debriefed for educators, the workshop heightens awareness of key instructional and grouping practices.

    Carousel Brainstorm
    The purpose of using the carousel brainstorm process is to allow participants to share their ideas and build a common vision or vocabulary; the facilitator can use this process to assess group knowledge or readiness around a variety of issues.

    Catch & Release
    When students are working on their own, they often need clarification or pointers so that they do not struggle for too long of a period or lose focus. A useful ratio of work time to checks for understanding or clarifying information is 7 minutes of work time (release), followed by 2 minutes of teacher-directed clarifications or use of one of quick-check strategies (catch).

    Chalk Talk
    A chalk talk is a simple procedure to promote discussion and awareness of issues and perspectives–silently. A chalk talk is also an excellent way to promote awareness of patterns and problems, and to insure that all voices are heard.

    Checking for Understanding Techniques
    When we check all students’ levels of understanding throughout each lesson, it sets the tone that everyone’s thinking is important and necessary, and we forward the learning and engagement of all. Some techniques are too time-consuming to use as quick pulse checks, but using these key techniques together in all lessons allows us to track learning and adapt instruction appropriately on the spot.

    Determining Importance Strategies
    -Where to find important information

    -Text features often highlight importance
    -Document Level: Intro, Conclusion, look for repetition of ideas
    -Paragraph Level: Topic sentence (early in the paragraph); concluding sentence


    Final Word Discussion
    This protocol is designed to help participants understand the meaning of a text, and particularly to see how meaning can be constructed and supported by the ideas of others. After the presenter shares his or her thinking, interesting similarities and differences in interpretations will arise as other participants share their thinking without judgment or debate. The presenter listens and may then change his or her perspective, add to it or stick with original ideas without criticism. This protocol is especially helpful when people struggle to understand their reading.

    The fishbowl is a peer-learning strategy in which some participants are in an outer circle and one or more are in the center. In all fishbowl activities both those in the inner and those in the outer circles have roles to fulfill. Those in the center, model a particular practice or strategy. The outer circle acts as observers and may assess the interaction of the center group. Fishbowls can be used to assess comprehension, to assess group work, to encourage constructive peer assessment, to discuss issues in the classroom, or to model specific techniques such as literature circles or Socratic Seminars.

    To show degree of agreement, readiness for tasks, or comfort with a learning target/concept, students can quickly show their thinking by holding up a fist for 0 - indicating lack of agreement, readiness, or confidence, and 1-5 fingers for higher levels of agreement, readiness, or confidence or agreement. (Teachers can specify what each level represents based on the context. For example: 0=Not ready; need immediate support; 1-2=Struggling; need support as soon as possible; 3-On my way; need no support right now. 4= Ready to write; 5= Ready to write and highly motivated.)

    Gallery Walk

    Getting the Gist
    You can get the gist of the article by summarizing your understanding of it, using 15 important words. Select the 15 most important words from the text. Then, use them to write a summary statement.

    Helping Students Read Closely
    Determining the instructional sequence for close reading is based on three factors: the complexity and richness of the text to be read, the relative skill of the readers, and the tasks to be completed or understandings to be gained. Helping students grapple with complex text involves careful consideration of several factors and should be considered a series of decisions rather than a rigid protocol. The goal of this process is to develop students’ ability to read rich complex text independently and proficiently.

    Hosted Gallery Walk
    This strategy offers participants an opportunity to share information with others in a gallery walk type setting. The protocol involves small-group collaboration, while making individuals responsible for the learning and the teaching.
    Infer the Topic
    Interactive Word Walls
    The interactive word wall aims to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of a related set of terms as well as to establish visual models that enhance understanding of a set of terms.

    Inside Outside Circle

    This protocol allows small groups to engage in an effective, time-efficient comprehension of a longer text. Having every student read every page or section may not be necessary. Students can divide up the text, become an expert in one section and hear oral summaries of the others and still gain an understanding of the material.


    Learning Logs
    Learning logs are journals in which students record their thoughts, observations, feelings, and questions that relate to what they are learning in the content area classroom or in reading material.

    Meeting Students’ Needs through Scaffolding
    Lessons that involve highly complex text require a great deal of scaffolding. Many of the suggestions we make in the Meeting Students’ Needs column of the NYS lessons are scaffolds—temporary instructional supports designed to help students successfully read texts that are supposedly too hard for them. Many scaffolds are excellent for all types of learners—English Language Learners (ELLs), students with special needs and/or students who are just generally challenged by reading.

    Milling to Music
    “Milling to Music” is a Checking for Understanding Technique where students can share their thinking, class work, or homework in an interactive way with their peers. This activity is similar to Musical Chairs, except there are no chairs and no one gets ‘tagged-out.’ While the music is playing, students should dance around to move throughout the room; when the music stops, each student will share his/her thinking or work with the student closest to her/him. Have students do this twice, so they have the opportunity to share with two peers.

    Mystery Quotes Protocol for Practicing Inference
    This strategy offers students a chance to work together to uncover the heart of meaning of a mystery quote/passage/image before they read more about it or work more deeply with inference as a critical thinking strategy. It allows students to work in a fun, collaborative environment to use new information from a partner, and to draw on their own background knowledge to uncover meaning. This protocol also asks students to put things in their own words, to compare text to experience, and to work with a variety of partners.

    Numbered Heads Together

    Peer Critique
    Peer critique is a process to support each other, and your feedback is valued!


    This protocol can be used to offer each other critique and feedback for revision of products. It should be used after a draft phase of what will become a finished product. This process will help participants see what is working and then ask questions and offer suggestions, leading to revision and improvement. It is important participants understand that the focus should be on offering feedback that is beneficial to the author/creator. Explicit modeling is necessary for this protocol to be used successfully.

    Questioning Strategies to Engage All Learners
    In order to engage all learners in the classroom, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate in discussions and do the important thinking when a question is posed; teachers use a variety of questioning strategies. In addition, teachers strategically vary the types of questions they ask to generate meaningful dialog that supports the development of high-order thinking skills. For more on developing strategic, focused and higher order thinking questions, see Strategic Questioning. See also Total Participation Techniques (citation here) for a variety of approaches to engaging all learners.

    Quiz Quiz Trade

    Rubric Basics
    Rubrics are an assessment tool for communicating expectations of quality. They include the criteria that will be evaluated, describe various levels of quality, and are typically linked to learning targets. Rubrics are used to communicate about and assess complex products, performances, or process tasks. They provide a basis for self-assessment, reflection, peer assessment, and teacher assessment. 


    Sage and Scribe
    Say Something
    Socratic Seminar
    Tea Party
    This strategy offers students a chance to consider parts of the text before they actually read it. It encourages active participation and attentive listening with a chance to get up and move around the classroom. It allows students to predict what they think will happen in the text as they make inferences, see causal relationships, compare and contrast, practice sequencing, and draw on prior knowledge.
    Think Pair Share
    Three Step Interview

    Vocabulary Strategies
    -Introduce and activate word meanings
    -Present words in a variety of contexts
    -Provide multiple opportunities to learn and expand on meanings
    -Promote active and generative processing
    -Provide ongoing assessment and communication of progress


    Word Walls
    A word wall in your classroom is a powerful instructional tool to strengthen content vocabulary. A word wall is an organized collection of words displayed on a wall or other space in the classroom. Display the word wall where both you and students can see and use it. It can be part of the main word wall in the classroom or displayed separately in the science center.

    World Cafe
    Written Conversation
    To discuss a topic or various topics, rotating the role of leadership and mixing up a group of people.
    ESL Protocol Resources
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