Visible Thinking: The Explanation Game

Context: We are about to start a short personal inquiry into what a diet is, and how they vary from someone who is trying to lose weight, to a power lifter who wants to pack on the muscle.  They are all diets.



Name it: The first step was to give what they see a name.  Some called it dinner, but then others interjected and said that it could be lunch.  Others jumped right to meal, while some took it further to healthy meal, and even balanced meal.  This was a great discussion because on first glance it is simple, its a meal, but as you start to look more you realize that there is some kind of organization behind this meal.

Explain it:  I asked the kids to go a bit deeper and explain why we are talking about it.  They made comments like, because we are studying health, and we talked about food last week.  This stage caused some struggles, they were unable to connect with this any more than because we are a doing a unit on nutrition.  Frankly, I struggled with this step as well.  I couldn't really differentiate it from the next stage which is to...

Give Reasons:  This stage was great.  Why do you think its a balanced mean?  The kids started pulling out all the jargon from the last three weeks, talking about different types of fat and the importance of natural sugars.  We wrote them all down as point form notes centered around the Name it phase on the table.  It was beautifully messy and a great lesson in the importance of writing notes in brief/informal language.  The groups that tried in full sentences filled up the table and found a huge mess on their hands.  Sorry, no pictures, my phone was dead.... can't believe I missed that!

Or....:  Here, I asked them to go back to the first Name it stage, and I asked, what if you were wrong about that?  What else could it mean?  Each group has a conversation about what else it could have been.  We didn't record our results for this, but rather thought of it as a kind of oral thought experiment.  It took what they experienced in the first few stages and tangled it up and made it messy.  They thought they had constructed a really strong case, but as they talked they began to doubt their original ideas, which is precisely the point, and why I think this is such a powerful step to this routine.  Sometimes, we need to take what is comfortable with us and tangle it up until we can't recognize it.  Being comfortable with that uncertainty is a powerful life skill....



 

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