I’m reading this book to prepare for professional development which I am leading in the fall.
I just hit something I want to remember and didn’t quite know where to put it so, here I am. It’s been three years since I blogged anything. I write my reviews on Goodreads and I tweet periodically things I find which interest me but for more in-depth work, I guess this is where it goes.
From Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment p. 33: “Eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie. Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win,, they lose. Bakers think that everyone can live with a bigger pie.”
This quote makes me think about life in competitive dance. It’s very hard to keep your child remembering that all of their class can improve as dancers and yet that’s what makes dance so engaging and exciting. Just because you dance well doesn’t mean I can’t dance well. On one day to one examiner or adjudicator one of us may be ranked higher but that isn’t the end or beginning. It’s just one day.
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.
I purchased a new camera this year. I have been playing around with it and mostly using it as a point and shoot but it is a DSLR and I want to know more and use it more effectively. Although I am very impressed at what it can do without my knowing very much at all.
So I took a book out at the library, appropriately enough for a teacher librarian. It is called, “Digital SLR from Click to Print” by Will Cheung. I am using it as a text book and setting myself some reading and practising goals.
Today I was playing with what is meant by and what can be done with aperture and focal length. I went to a park to take pictures. I found that in most modes on my camera, I can’t even see what the focal length is on the display. I can see it in the little numbers through the view finder. I can play with the focal length when I am in manual focus. Focal length is other wise decided by the auto focus feature, so it seems. Depth of field is most apparent when the subject is a bit further away from the background. If you are taking a picture of a leaf on the ground. The leaf is too close to the ground for any difference between the focus on the leaf and focus on the ground. In addition, when the subject is too far away, there doesn’t seem to be huge differences in what the focal length can do to adjust the clarity of the background compared to the subject.
When I played with the ISO, I found that the lower number led to less time of exposure. This may be self-evident to experts but it was news to me. I took a picture of a leaf with ISO 800 and it was washed out but at ISO 100 it was perfect. The sunlight was fairly strong at times today, I’m sure this would make a difference too. I have much to learn but this was lesson number one.
Leaf taken with ISO 100, f 5.6 1/125
Leaf taken with ISO 100, f 5.6 1/125