Sunday, August 22, 2010

Top Ten Think Abouts: Numbers 10-8

Top Ten Think Abouts are some concepts of pedagogy that I heard from Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete. Fogarty and Pete are a married couple who entertainingly deliver important and useful tips and activities for teachers to implement in their classrooms. This post has two sequels 7-4 here and 3-1 here.

In this post, I will give you some educational musings that got me thinking about ways I could improve my teaching. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it's a good place to begin considering change.  I've put them in a Top Ten format giving you 10-8 in this post. My rankings may not be necessarily yours, but I do hope that you find them as thought provoking as I did (and do). 

Here is the Top Ten List 10-8:

10. If we want kids to be better writers they need to engage in rich talk.

What research says:
Rich talk (p. 10 on the pdf.) is a "cornerstone for comprehension" according to, noted educational researcher, Miriham Trehearne in her book Comprehensive Literacy Resource: For 3-6 Grade Teachers. (There are literacy resource books available for Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1-2). The key is to provide rich talk opportunities between peers to foster student thinking, and meta-cognition; which will translate to their own writing.

What it might look like: 
You have provided students will a great article on how polar bears are listed as a threatened species due to the melting polar ice caps. You give your students time to digest this piece by giving them time to talk to each other about the article. (I have previously posted some cooperative group activities here, and here that you might want to try).

Rich Talk
Students might discuss how the author made his or her point in the article. When they go to write their own article they might think about what they have written. Having been given the opportunity for rich talk, they may ask themselves: "Is this passage confusing in my story?" "Did I make my point clear?" "What do I need to change in order to say what I want to say?"  They are thinking of making their writing better due in large part to the discussions they had with their peers. Rich talk helps them recognize good writing when they experience it.

9. Create a culture of risk-taking and mistake making--mistakes are a gateway to learning.

"Take chances! Make mistakes!" -- Ms. Frizzle

What research says:
How many of your students play video games? Game play can offer a non-threatening-mistake-making space according to Dr. Jane McGonigal of the Institute of the Future and Marc Prensky, author of Digital Game-based Learning. Students learn by making mistakes in a lot of cases because, in general, the video game world is low risk. If Mario runs into a Koopa Troopa (little turtle guy), Mario starts over again to give it another try. The player has learned that next time she must jump earlier. Students who feel it's not risky to fail are more willing to try again, and again, and again...until they are successful.

Establish a low-risk and safe environment. Urge students to do as Ms. Frizzle says, and watch the creativity flow and the learning happen.

What it might look like:
You have introduced the concept of addition to your little guys. Because you have fostered their risk-taking behavior while learning, you have a classroom full of students steeped in natural curiosity and inquiry as they try to figure out different ways to explain and make sense of addition. What they are not doing is looking to you for the answer even though they know you know. They want to take risks to learn because they are allowed to.
8. P.M.I. Take a topic and discuss the Pluses, Minuses, and what was Interesting.

What research says:
Mona Lisa
When you had to make a decision, have you ever "weighed the pros and cons"? P.M.I. is essentially that--a way to practice decision making skills. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, believes that jobs in the future will need people who can think for themselves, invent, design, and make decisions. These qualities might sound familiar, they are 21st Century Skills.

What it might look like:
You've just helped your class of artists research painters who have used oils as their medium. You decide that now is a good time to use the P.M.I. strategy. While some work in small groups, and others by themselves, they come up with the positives, minuses, and what was interesting about the use of oils.

Positives: oils offer rich colors and interesting textures
Negatives: oils are harder to clean, and more expensive
Interesting: Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, van Gogh's Starry Night, Picasso's La Guernica, Monet's Water Lilies, and countless other masterpieces were done using oils

Your art students have a better idea of whether or not they should use oils as their medium of choice for their next piece of artwork.

Stay tuned for 7-4.

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