Visible Thinking; Growing Definitions

This is a strategy that is not in the book or on the website (note: it might be, but I haven't come across it yet).  I first heard of this from a poetry workshop with Larry Swartz about three years ago.  We did it for the word Poem, but it can be done with any word.  I am calling it Growing Definitions for now.  Also, I am still wondering about what thinking moves (word in blue on the poster0 would be best for this routine.  Obviously, defining must stay.  Not sold on the other two.  Any ideas?

Context: Studying bias in the collection of data; for example surveys

1. Show the word (we were Bias) and have each student write a personal definition for this word.  This was tough for my kids.  They kept wanting to use the word bias in the definition of the word.  I let them look at a dictionary to get help with how definitions are worded.

2. With a partner, write a new definition.  This was fun.  At first they tried to cram them both together, but we stopped and reflected that that might not be the best strategy.  We eventually admitted that sometimes, another person said it better and you should go with what they said.  In the future, we are going to focus on different wording and phrases, which one sounds better or makes more sense.

3.  With a group, write a new definition.  Again, they did a good job of choosing the phrases and words that they needed.  Teamwork was the biggest issue at this phase, and in the future I wil orient attention to how we are working together, rather than what we are working on.  Some people were quite enthralled with their own definitions and had trouble dis-enthralling themselves and admitting that others might have done it better.  Still, there is a sense of value judgement in this step that I really like.  This would be supported well by providing evidence for your reasons.

4.  As a class, write a new definition.  I led this phase so it went rather smoothly.  I collected all the ideas in a central place (our whiteboard) and then we picked through them and took the parts we liked.  The final definition was much better than anyone could have possibly written in the first stage.  A wonderful example of collective knowledge building and teamwork in action.  In the future, I will have the ids led this session.  Maybe start with a moderator and then slowly take that support away until we working in an egalitarian way....


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