Category Archives: curriculum

Making Thinking Visible – Part Three

What can a teacher do to help create a classroom where thinking becomes visible?

Question. Listen. Document.

Question:

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.

Listen:

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.

Document:

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.

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Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Excalibur
This novel is a well-written, funny and though-provoking adventure.  Our hero, a boy named Rigg, is given a strange commend and inheritance by his father as he lies dying.  “Go to Nox.  She will give you what belongs to you.  Take it and find your sister”.  And thus begins his quest to find out, who he is, who his sister is and what his abilities and skills might be good for.  Card creates a fascinating world full of political intrigue as the setting for his Pathfinder series.  This book starts the tale and sets us up for a coming series of dilemmas and conflicts within the series.  The series premise reminds me a little of Anne McCaffrey’s Freedom books or Monica Hughes’ Isis books with the inter-stellar technologically advanced societies coming into contact with less technologically advanced ones.  Not a must-have for the school library but definitely a good purchase for grades 7-12.

Within the Saskatchewan curriculum, it would fit grade 6 Language Arts units on Fantastic Fiction, Science Fiction, Heroes, Grade 7 Imagined Worlds, Grade 8 Adventure and Survival.  It would be a good novel for challenging your more advanced readers.

Fantasy Book Review

Kirkus review

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The Jewels of Sofia Tate by Doris Etienne

This book is a fair take on the mystery genre.  I enjoyed the main characters and watching them develop.  I found the villians a bit ‘pat’.   The ending was a little too neat and tidy.  Teacher librarians need to be aware of the embedded Christian perspective within this story.  The plot hinges on unraveling a set of  clues which are passages of scripture engraved on items in an old woman’s house.  I would be reluctant to add this book to a public school library.  I would definitely consider it for a Christian school library particularly if I wanted to ‘beef’ up the Christian fiction section.  Not a bad read but not a must.

Rating  #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 #3✓ #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: grades 6+  Reading Level:  6+

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: mystery, family history

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Skellig by David Almond

Dark and creepy are the words which come to mind when reflecting on Skellig.  This is a book with boy appeal.  Michael is moving into a new house after anticipating this event as something wonderful, something unexpected intervenes.  Michael’s mom has a very premature baby.  Now he is living in a run-down house with preoccupied parents and his own worries and grief about the baby, then he meets Skellig.  What Skellig is both Michael and we are never completely sure but it is definitely life-changing.  Skellig is a well-told and dramatic tale.  Definitely worth adding to the K-8 collection as a pleasure read.
Oh, what the hell...
Rating  #1 (Highly Recommended  ✓#2 #3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: grades 4+  Reading Level:  5+

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: self discovery, identity, fantasy, love, grief, family

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Matthew’s Dream – Leo Lionni

Matthew is a mouse. His parents have high hopes for him. He wants to see the world. One day, while at school, his class visits the art museum. Matthew is entranced with the paintings. He meets a mouse there named Nicoletta. She shares his love of fine art. That night, Matthew has a dream of a beautiful painting and Nicoletta. When he awakes he is disappointed but finds he can still hear the music of his dream and the music reminds him of the painting in his dream. He knows he will become a painter and works hard to become famous and prosperous.
Rebellion! - Forced feeding - Suffrage Series
Rating ✓ #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 #3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: 1-3 Reading Level: 2

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: self discovery, dreams, becoming, identity, biography

This book would be suitable for ✓ Lit Circles ✓ Kit Materials

✓ Read-Aloud (Gr.) 1-3
Matthew’s Dream is semi-autobiographical.

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Pezzettino – Leo Lionni

Pezzettino (little piece) believes he is too small and must be a part of something which is bigger.  He looks everywhere and asks all his friends if he is a part of them.  They believe they are whole and tell him so.  Finally, Pezzettino asks the wise-one how he can find out if he is someone’s little piece.  The wise-one sends him to the Island of Wham to find out.  While at the desolate Island of Wham, Pezzettino breaks into smaller pieces.  He suddenly discovers he is like the others, he has small pieces and is himself whole.  He returns happily to his home.
Diagonal
Rating ✓ #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 #3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: 1-3 Reading Level: 2

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: learning about ourselves, identity, self, discovery

This book would be suitable for ✓ Lit Circles ✓ Kit Materials

✓ Read-Aloud (Gr.) 1-3

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little blue and little yellow – Leo Lionni

Little Blue and Little Yellow are friends.  They do everything together.  One day when Little Blue goes out to find Little Yellow to play, he can’t find him.  Little Blue looks everywhere for his friend.  When they find each other they are delighted and give each other a hug.  To their surprise they turn green.  They play together until it is time to go home.  When they get home, their parents do not recognize them.  The colours cry and cry little blue and yellow tears.  Finally they pull themselves together back into their blue and yellow selves.  They rush home to Blue’s house.  His parents hug them and understand what has happened.  They bring the news to Yellow’s parents and the children play until supper time.
Blue, Green, & Yellow Easter Egg
Rating ✓ #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 #3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: 1-3 Reading Level: 2

Curriculum Area: Language Arts, Visual Arts

Themes/Topics: friendship, colour mixing

This book would be suitable for ✓ Lit Circles ✓ Kit Materials

✓ Read-Aloud (Gr.) 1-3

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