TSR! Coaching Counts

Coaching Counts is a monthly newsletter for TSR coaches and coordinators that offers information on coaching best practices. Throughout the year, the newsletter will focus on important aspects of coaching to continue to help you support early childhood teachers enrolled in TSR.

April Crawford, Ph.D.
April Crawford, Ph.D.
Director, Texas School
Ready! Project

This Month's Playbook

The Lesson Cycle

Remote Control

Through the use of video editing software, remote coaches have a unique opportunity to highlight those steps in the lesson cycle the teacher may be skipping or minimizing. Video review is also helpful in catching signals from students that indicate they are bored or confused or engaged and excited. Capitalize on the versatility of the editing software to cover the how's of the lesson cycle, and followup with a discussion of the why's during your remote coaching calls.

As a coach, think about how you approach discussing the lesson cycle with teachers. Are you met with any resistance or misunderstanding? Do your teachers seem to be going through the motions without really knowing the rationale behind it? In addition to reviewing how a lesson cycle should be used, one of the more important tasks for a coach is to make sure teachers understand why it is used. A common mistake inexperienced teachers make is breaking off the lesson cycle too soon—for example, defining the objective of an activity without providing guided practice to accomplish that objective. In this edition of Coaching Counts, we want to take some time to break down the whys of the lesson cycle, in the hopes this will help you support teachers in implementing it.  

While there are several variations of the lesson cycle, we’re going to review five major steps: (1) Preparation, (2) Defining the Objective, (3) Modeling, (4) Guided Practice, and (5) Summarizing.



How: Gather the necessary materials and review the guidelines of the activity. Think about the objective and how to articulate it in child-friendly terms. Run through different examples of the activity, particularly the ones you plan to model for students.

Why: Consider a drive to a store in a location you’re not familiar with. If you haven’t picked a solid route before you embark, you may waste time with unexpected detours or spend too much time looking at your map and not the traffic around you. If a teacher is fully prepared to perform an activity, she will spend less time distracted by her own need to formulate each step of the lesson cycle. If this work is performed before the activity, the teacher is freed to focus on cues from the children that will spark optimal instructional practices, such as scaffolding (or in our metaphor, safe and efficient driving).


Define the Objective

How: Set the stage for the activity by defining the objective using child-friendly terms and linking to prior knowledge whenever possible. Provide clear instructions to accomplishing the objective.

Why:  A child is more likely to stay engaged in an activity when she has a clear understanding of the learning objective and has a prior knowledge base from which to build upon. Consider our driving metaphor once more. If you knew your destination (the store) was near a theater you had visited several times, this prior knowledge makes the drive seem less foreign. Making that connection also means you’re more likely to remember where both the store and theater are next time.


Model the Activity

How: Run through the activity by yourself, verbalizing each step along the way. Model correct responses, and when appropriate, incorrect responses.

Why: Just as it is difficult for adults to understand concepts without examples, it is very difficult for children learning and practicing new skills. (Try understanding the concept of scaffolding without ever having been given an example!) Modeling connects the abstract rules and objectives of the game with concrete examples of what it looks like when the objective is accomplished.


Guided Practice

How: Lead students in the activity, still verbally emphasizing each step and gauging the level of student participation. Pay close attention to student signals. Are they engaged or do they look confused? Are they fully understanding the objectives of the activity? If not, try modeling again or dividing the tasks into smaller steps. It is very important that students perform the activity themselves rather than simply watching the educator. Are they picking up the activity quickly? Try scaffolding up to challenge them.

Why: Guided practice is packed with meaningful interaction that maximizes the usefulness of an activity for learning or practicing a cognitive skill.  Children will see little benefit if a teacher mechanically runs through the steps of the lesson cycle, or if she directs them to independently engage in an activity with an objective they cannot grasp on their own. Guided practice capitalizes on those child signals that tell a teacher to adjust instruction for optimal learning. It also gives children confidence and interest in the activity, which leads to its adoption during independent play.


Summarize (and Scaffold)

How: Review the objective of the activity, and, depending on the students, direct them to practice the activity on their own or scaffold them to more difficult exercises.

Why: A child should walk away from an activity not only with the pleasure of having just played a game, but also with a solid grasp of what the game signifies (i.e., the learning objective).  Summarizing what students have learned through the activity will help cement the cognitive skills practiced and provide a stepping stone for more challenging exercises.

TSR! Side-by-Side Coaching in Action

We also wanted to followup on the last collaborative coaching call, which focused on side-by-side coaching. Click on the links below for videos of two TSR coaches performing side-by-side coaching, and notice when they reference aspects of the lesson cycle!

Youtube Youtube



  • Middle of the Year (MOY) assessments are due on Tuesday, February 18! Coaches, please remind your teachers to complete the MOY assessments by the deadline.
  • The next Collaborative Coaching Call will focus on co-teaching. We hope you enjoyed the last Collaborative Coaching Call focusing on side-by-side coaching.
  • The TSR banner contest was a booming success! We received almost 150 entries with over 10,000 people in the photos! We will announce the winners soon. Coaches, thank you for helping your centers and schools hang their banners and take pictures to submit for the contest.
  • Check out some great stories about TSR from Brownsville: Texas School Ready Program preparing young children for kindergarten and Texas School Ready program focuses on early literacy!

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