Meet Mr. Shannon: At Bronx Prep, a Master Teacher Shares His Expertise. (Education Matters to Me)

Article excerpt

At the Bronx Preparatory Charter School we enjoy the talents of a aster teacher, Frederick Shannon. He had been teaching 5th grade in the classroom next door to our principal, Marina Bernard Damiba, when she began her career through Teach for America ten years ago. As a new teacher, Marina had camped out in his classroom during free periods and absorbed every nuance of his technique. Then he retired. But as Marina moved into leadership positions, first at the KIPP Academy and now at Bronx Prep, she coaxed him out of retirement.

"You need to coach the next generation," she implored.

During his 25 years in teaching, Mr. Shannon developed the "Shannon Plan" of effective instruction. It works. He knows how to teach children and how to coach fellow teachers. He assists our young staff members with their lesson plans and visits their classrooms to offer suggestions for improvement. He demonstrates model lessons in math and reading. Our teachers are becoming more and more effective, thanks to Mr. Shannon's commitment and expertise and to the tailoring of their training to the context of their own classrooms.

To the new teacher who is struggling to get students settled at the beginning of class, he suggests the time-tested "do now;' a silent opening exercise in which the teacher writes an assignment on the board before students enter the classroom. Students see the assignment under the "do now" heading and immediately focus on the task at hand.

Other techniques reflect his unique style of making lesson components more visually or physically compelling. With his support, our 6th-grade reading teacher has developed her signature hamburger lesson. Dressed as a hamburger, one of her students models topic and closing sentences that give the paragraph its structure (the bun) as well as the meaty support sentences and details inside, In another lesson, to help students remember that plot = conflict + resolution, teachers take students through a series of Shannon's hand signals that are part boxing, part mime. …