Routines versus Strategies
Routines are a structure teachers use over and over again to build student independence and to create their classroom culture. When we have routines to support thinking within the classroom we are supporting students thinking as a regular part of their experience and developing their ability to think independently.
Strategies are ways of processing or working. When we teach a strategy for learning, we tend to teach it and then move on. Perhaps we bring out the strategy again once in a while but strategies don’t create culture.
I like the idea of having routines for thinking. I know routines help classrooms run smoothly and make the work of running a classroom simpler and smoother.
The authors of Making Thinking Visible fill the rest of their book with thinking routines divided into three sets: set one – routines for introducing and exploring ideas, set two – routines for synthesizing and organizing ideas and set three – routines for digging deeper into ideas. Although I could summarize them all here, I think perhaps the book does it best. In addition, I think I need to try them to really add anything to what is there.
I hope to try some of each of these routines throughout this year. I’m wondering if I might blog about them here or if they should be blogged as teaching practices on my school division’s instructional practices blog. I’ll see.
What can a teacher do to help create a classroom where thinking becomes visible?
Question. Listen. Document.
Good questions help students to construct their understanding.
Questions need to be thought through to help students think about the content not simply to outline the facts. I think asking good questions is one of the toughest parts of good teaching. This is at least the second time I’ve read about the importance of questions in creating teaching excellence. It seems strange that something so simple can be so difficult. It’s easy to ask who, what, when, where questions but to ask questions which ask them to make interpretations, make connections, focus on the big ideas requires thoughtful planning and deep understanding of the content and intent of your lesson.
Once a teacher asks the good questions, what do they do with the responses? Really listening to the responses students give and figuring out what they mean and what they might have missed in their understanding is another task which takes care and deliberate thoughtful preparation. I’m not sure I’ve figured this one out. Often I listen for the answer I think I want as opposed to listening for the thinking the students are doing and learning about them from those responses. I think the third part of this trio probably would help me with that.
Recording what students say during a class helps track what has been said, demonstrates the value of the students’ ideas, gives an object for further discussion and reflection.
Three simple actions to take in order to make thinking the work of the classroom and learners within the classroom.
I know I’m going to use this.
Looking at student responses to thinking.
In Making Thinking Visible, the authors outline four different types of responses students give when asked to thinking or write about their thinking: emotional, associative, meta and strategic. Emotional responses indicate how the students feel about their thinking – unsure, hurried, stressed. Associative responses indicate accompanying features when students are thinking – while traveling, in math class, when reading. Meta responses have to do with student awareness of the purpose of thinking and complexity of the process – there is always more to know, knowledge is partial, you need to know something in order to create something. Strategic responses indicate how the student goes about thinking – practice, look for information, organize my ideas. These strategic responses can be broken down into four further categories – memory and knowledge development, generalized strategies, specific processes, self-regulation and monitoring processes.
While all thinking about thinking is useful for learners and their teachers and coaches, learning which strategies to use to monitor and regulate our learning, to commit things to memory and to complete specific tasks are of particular help for learners when creating independence and understanding.
How can we help students to become engaged and independent learners? Ritchhart, Church and Morrison contend we can help them by Making Thinking Visible.
Students develop understanding, engagement and independence when they are taught well but what does teaching well look like. We, the teachers, can first think about the work which students are doing in our classrooms. What kinds of actions do the students in our classes spend most of their time doing? Now think about the actions which are authentic to the discipline of study which the students are engaged in, that is, what writers, artists, or scientists, for instance, actually do when they are engaged in their work. Comparing the actions your students are doing to the actions authentic practitioners do will help you determine whether students are learning about the subject or doing the subject. This is a key aspect in creating good learning environments with engaged and independent learners.
Some ways of thinking are helpful across subjects and disciplines. Ritchhart et al, give a list of eight ways of thinking which are important to develop for independent learners:
1) Observe and describe
2) Explain and interpret
3) Reason using evidence
4) Make connections
5) Consider a variety of viewpoints or perspectives
6) Find the main idea and form conclusions
7) Ask questions and wonder
8) Get below the surface
This list reminds me of the main strategies for reading comprehension which have been a focus of mountains of PD in the past few years.
(Find the main idea, synthesize, infer, connect, conclude, question). Good thinking and good thinking about reading are not different. Cool.
author: Gail Boushey
average rating: 4.33
book published: 2009
date added: 2013/09/07
Practical advice, strategies and forms for running a good quality student-driven reading program.
via Susan’s bookshelf: all http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/713931511?utm_medium=api&utm_source=rss
author: Will Ferguson
average rating: 3.66
book published: 2012
date added: 2013/09/07
A book to make you really think about the oil and gas industry and the nature of thievery.
via Susan’s bookshelf: all http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/713930669?utm_medium=api&utm_source=rss
I’ve started a new job and it has ups and downs in the adjustment from one role to another. I’m moving from the job of teacher librarian to the job of technology consultant. Some days I’m really excited and others I’m exceedingly nervous. Some days I’m confident and others I’m completely overwhelmed. Today I had two interactions which really made me delighted to be taking on my new role. I was strolling the hallways of our central office building and had brief conversations with two people ‘above’ me in the hierarchy. One has a closer supervisory capacity of my job and the other has a more arms-length role. Both of them were warm and supportive. It felt so good to be affirmed as a person regardless of my capacity and output. I am relieved to know and to see the humanity of the ‘powers that be’ within my organization. It made me say, “I have a fantastic work place and can’t wait to get started”.
It’s going to be a good year.