In my role, I attend many professional development activities and conferences. Lately I've been noticing the use of various thinking routines everywhere! I love the concept of visible thinking. I love how we are building routines into instruction to encourage deeper thinking, while also making reflection and learning more visible. Visual Thinking Strategies have always been a common practice amongst Visual Arts Teachers. However, even Visual Arts teachers could stretch themselves and integrate a better variety of routines into their practice. There are always new and different ways to tweak instruction. We will always constantly be changing our practice. However, what will always remain a constant is the push to help students grow into critical thinkers, reflectors and problem-solvers. All of this can happen through inquiry, and by diving deeper.
This blog will present a series of thinking routines that teachers could try in the classroom (if you aren't already). One thing I know about myself is that I am a visual learner. So when someone says, "Hey, try this strategy in your classroom!" I need to see it laid out in an organized and visual way. We all have probably seen Ron Ritchhart's matrix for thinking routines, but if you're anything like me, your first thought is, "Huh?!" Again, I'm a visual learner- and I would say that most of the Millennials are as well.
If the thought of 'adding one more thing' is stressful, here's a suggestion... Start Slow. Identify one thing you would have students normally do independently and make it something collaborative. Something that they can work on together. This gives students the opportunity to collaborate and communicate with their peers in order to expand their knowledge, ask questions, and/or find connections. The routines help to set the tone for learning - making it active and fun.
THINKING ROUTINE: CHALK TALK
What is it?
What is it? Open-ended discussion on paper that ensures all voices are heard and provides thinking time.
What does it look like?
It may look like several poster sheets around the classroom with a category, question, or statement. Students can rotate to each zone and write their thoughts in a group or individually. This a great way to give students a voice and also have a visual representation for discussion points and/or reflection.
What is it?
A variation of the See Think Wonder activity, involving only using portion of an image.
What does it look like?
A piece of an image is revealed to the class/students. Students go through multiple questions in order to come to an understanding. They ask questions, create a hypothesis, or interpretations. The teacher reveals more of the image and they continue going through the inquiry cycle until the whole image is revealed.
Teachers could do this with works of art, equations, or statistics to look at data... A teacher could have students work in groups to come up with hypothesis together, they could individually do them on post-its and post them on a Hypothesis #1 sheet, then on a Hypothesis #2 sheet, and so on. There are many ways to manipulate this activity. The great thing about this is that students continually ask questions, form hypothesis/interpretations, and then question all over again as more information is revealed to them. This activity provides an effective model for changing your perspective once you have more information. You could have students reflect on a time they thought one way and then changed their opinion once more information was revealed. This helps students connect learning to their lives in a meaningful way.
Now, how do you think you could use these in your classroom? : ]
I started off on the wrong foot this morning. Or I woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Either way, it wasn't an awesome start. I was dragging to get out of the door. Panicked that I wouldn't make the MiGoogle Conference on time. I got dressed super quick. Had a couple sips of coffee (definitely not enough to fuel my soul for the day) and ran out of the house. The drive to Lake Fenton High School was long. A 55 minute drive in perfect traffic, which was not perfect. I noticed I was running low on gas but thought, "What the heck, I'll just get it closer to the conference." Not intending to live dangerously, I drove about 35 miles from the time my light came on and pulled off to get gas. I got out. I opened the cap. I went to grab my card and... I then realized... I had no money. I had no license and was still about 25 miles from the conference spot in the middle of nowhere. Fannnnnnnntastic! So, I did what any normal person would do. I said some choice words, text messaged my friends my sad story, got in my car and drove to the conference with the hope I would make it.
In the car, I decided to get some perspective. After thinking... 'I have no money, I'm hungry, I may not make it to my destination, no one is awake to come get me, I am about to be very late! and wishing I would have charged my phone last night...' I turned on a TED Talk by Shawn Achor called The Happy Secret to Better Work. I guess if you listened to this TED Talk only from only the viewpoint of work, you would be missing out on the core meaning. First, Shawn is hilarious. The first time I saw this was at TEDxDetroit. It was just a nice reminder about things we as people and as teachers forget on the day-to-day.
If you haven't seen this video, you should take 13 minutes and watch it. Watch it with an open mind. The points that Shawn made really grabbed me. When we start seeing things through a different lens (whether that be a positive lens, an MYP lens, a problem-solving lens, etc.), we grow. Take a few minutes each day to exercise and shift our mindset with positive thinking. Sounds cheesy? Yeah, I know... but it makes sense. If you can practice and condition your body, why can't you do the same with your mind? We teach children that stretching their minds is important. It's necessary. We want them to be active lifelong learners. When students stretch their mind, that's when learning happens. That's when growth happens. So why is it that when I heard of exercising my mind for positivity, I scoffed at it initially? I thought, "Psh. Ridiculous, you can't retrain your brain that way."
I would like to think I'm a thoughtful processor and an inner reflector. Those who know me understand that it takes me time to develop an idea, a direction, a system, a protocol. I don't think important decisions are made quickly. I think they are made thoughtfully. So with this in mind, I thought about Shawn's message after the initial viewing of the video. I thought about it and watched it again, thinking about it in terms of happiness aside from my role as a teacher. And you know what? I saw it differently. When you look through something with a different lens and a *buzz word alert* growth mindset... you... grow. Crazy how that works.
So cool coincidence, the keynote speaker Anthony Buza shared this same TED Talk at the end of his presentation. He talked about sharing our successes as teaches. His perspective was that we need to lift one another up. When we, as teachers, are more positive on the job, we have more fun. More fun equals better teaching. The mentality that those who play together, stay together.
I agree with Anthony that I don't think we celebrate one another enough. I don't know if that's a high school thing, a building thing, or just a culture thing. I think that's why I like social media (Twitter specifically). I, like many teachers, don't have tons of time to sift through tons of information. Twitter makes it easy to check out what is happening in someone else's classroom. It gives us the opportunity to peek into a classroom and see all of the cool things that teacher is doing, get ideas, and also 'like' something. Give them a digital pat on the back and say what we don't often hear in education enough... "Good job!" I know that we don't really need that as professionals, but it does feel good to know that your colleagues and administrators think that you are doing good things for students.
What I really took away from the TED Talk was that I need to be mindful of my perspective. Not just on the job, but in life. I need to take time out of my day and reflect on the good things that have happened, the moments I want to remember, the people, the times, what I said, how I could be better, what differences I made, what differences I could have made... Getting my mind set today in order to move forward and think more positively for tomorrow.
Watch the video. What is your perspective?
Shawn's recommended exercises for creating lasting positive change...