Context: We are about to start a new unit in reading that is all about making connections to literature.
I don't think I did this right but it was a great experience! That is one of the things I love about the Visible Thinking activities, they are so versatile and open to different interpretations. They expand the space of what is possible, rather than delimit it. This activity is basically a big group brainstorming about a topic or sentence. To me, the most important aspect of this activity is threefold; time, shared space and focus.
The kids need time to process what they are doing. That goes without saying. Yet, in an activity like this, I found that some groups were ready for the next stage before others. We had different groups doing different things. I was able to tailor it to each groups needs. Second, the shared space is key. The piece of paper in front of them is a shared artifact that they take ownership of and use together to create ideas. Teachers often tell students to not worry about the formatting, the color, or the font when they are making something. Just get the ideas down and fix it later. However, the sense of ownership that comes with the retooling of their own personal space sets up a positive feeling in the group that allows them to work together more harmoniously For some groups anyway! Other groups, maybe not. Mindfulness is key. Finally, focus. There are many different thinking modes we could use for this. Elaborating, commenting, connecting, questioning, criticizing, etc. Choose one and be explicit about what you are asking the kids to do.
[caption id="attachment_1282" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This group struggled at first, but eventually they focused on the importance of text-to-self connections.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1283" align="aligncenter" width="300"] First time around, write down your ideas silently[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1284" align="aligncenter" width="300"] As a group, connect the ideas and explain the connections[/caption]
What I did better this time as opposed to my last session, was I had a discussion before and after of the thinking skills that we need. As a class, we had a great discussion on what connections are. We also were able to pull all of our individual connections into a meta-interpretation. This emerged sponstanouelsy while we were on the carpet. I asked them sum up what their connections were about in two-three words. We wrote those down and then made connections between them. What I find really interesting, is that there meta-interpretation is pretty close to the specific reading strategies we will be discussing! Text-to-World, Text-to-Self, and Text-to-text. Between the whole class, they got all of them.
[caption id="attachment_1281" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Meta-Interpretation[/caption]