Some thoughts on Making Thinking Visible.

This post is a reply to a former co-worker who made the following post;

I don't think it is a matter of selling it better. Perhaps you could structure it in a different way.

First, when trying to elicit thinking, I like to follow the following pattern, which I make explicit with the students; Think alone, Think with a partner, Think with a group, Think as a class. This allows students a chance to formulate their own opinion, which they can then compare and contrast with others. It gives them a space to allow their thinking to grow and be changed by others. It also lets all students join in the thinking, as some children will not have their own thoughts right away, and will rely on the thoughts of others to base their assumptions. This structure forces them to build their own theory, and then let it grow and adapt.

Second, there is a lot of thinking in those three questions. Maybe too much for a grade 1-2 student who is a week away from winter holidays. Perhaps you could have broken it down to one question at a time. This would increase the specific thinking you asking for at each step. If you think about, you are asking for three types of thinking (determine what others are thinking, feeling, and predicting future action). Do they know the difference between thinking and feeling? I think that needs to be part of the lesson. By breaking it down into three different lessons, you are slowing the thinking down and asking them to be more specific and focused.

Third, you might have given them some options for each, little cards that they had to choose from. By doing this, you are moving the purpose of the activity from developing an original theory based on the text, to defending a choice. The visible thinking routine, What Makes you Say That, would be perfect for this. You can structure the information in any visible way you see fit (perhaps even using the metaphor of the beanstalk, indicating a sense of growth and chance). The objective of the lesson has now changed from DEVELOPING a THEORY, to DEFENDING a THEORY with EVIDENCE. You would undoubtedly have children choose different reasons for each, which would lead to debate and discussion, which would enhance the answers of everybody. 

You could then repeat the pattern for each question, maybe on the last question taking away the teacher given answers, thus scaffolding them to DEVELOPING stage and giving them a framework for making that thinking visible.

A Plea for Play

I think we need more of this kind of advice online, instead of just empty slogans and diagrams with heads and words in them. Teachers actually helping each other with the day to day nuts and bolts of an inquiry. Helping each other plan for inquiry, use strategies, etc. The kind of stuff you get when you walk into the classroom next door. Teacher should NOT stop doing that, that is the most important PLN you can possibly have, the people around you. The local community around us is far more powerful than the internet, twitter, blogs, PLNs can ever be. 


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