Teaching With Intention-Creating Classroom Culture
It’s time for CHAPTER 4 of Teaching with Intention, and I’m super excited talk about this chapter this week. This week is all about classroom cultures and creating an environment that supports and promotes student thinking. While I’d love to say that in my first 4 years of teaching I’ve spent a lot time working on this, I don’t really feel like I’ve really spent the time and focus on promoting student thinking. I spend a ton of time focusing on communication and social skills and I think these areas overlap some with our students thinking. But I’ve not really given much conscious thought to how my lessons/activities PROMOTE and SUPPORT their thinking. I do model my thinking during certain activities and I give my students lots of opportunities to explain their thinking but I think a big focus this year is going to be creating a classroom cultures that “makes thinking visible”.
I model my thinking mainly during reading activities. And after reading this chapter I realize how much more focus I need to give modeling my thinking for my students next year. One way I’ll do that is by making modeling a part of each activity we do until it just becomes second nature for me. I do that a little bit now but not nearly as much as my students need. Sometimes while we are reading, my students will ask a question that I honestly don’t know the answer to and I like to tell them “I don’t the answer to that but here’s what I think….. Let’s look up the answer.” It can kind of derail a lesson but these little mini investigations have been some of my favorite teaching moments and they are fantastic opportunities for both my students and I to put our thinking on display. Debbie Miller gives all sorts of examples of opportunities to demonstrate our thinking for our students and most of them seem really doable. It will take a little retraining of my brain and how I explain things to my students but I absolutely love those little off task mini investigations with them so the idea of retaining my brain to talk in a way that encourages my students thinking and might encourage them to ask more challenging and reflective questions is a task I’m willing to take on.
Now this is an area I’ve spent more time focusing on. Most my students have autism and they’ve struggled to communicate effectively. One of their biggest challenges can be getting an idea out. So with my older students we’ve spent a ton of time working on thinking about the main idea, or details about a character or how we got a specific answer to a math questions and explaining our thinking with more than ONE word. Yup, we started with the goal of using more 1 (one) word to explain our answer.
This is how it used to go: ME-What can you tell me about the main character in the story?
ME- Yes, the character is a girl, what else do you remember about the girl?
STUDENT-*blank stare* Boy.
Most of my students had communication delays when they were little bitty and they spent a long time learning how to communicate simple things like the names of everyday items. Simply saying the name of something was a hard thing for them to learn and now I want them to answer questions about a text or explain their thinking?? That’s hard!! But we are slowly getting there are the one word answers are largely gone. During reading, we use post it notes A LOT to record important parts/thoughts as we read. I also use this Think Marks poster and we mark or put it on a post it note next to the part in the story as we read.
My big YES!! moment from this chapter came on page 60 when Debbie Miller uses an article called “Making Thinking Visible” and talks about how thinking is pretty much invisible so we can’t really expect our students to learn to be thinkers if we don’t model and teach them how to do think. And I kind of wanted to smack myself. My little visual learners aren’t gaining anything if I’m not modeling and sharing my thinking with them. Creating a classroom that promotes my students thinking is definitely at the top of my focus list this year. I’m going to focus on modeling my thinking in ALL areas of our day. I’ve got some ideas rolling around in my head on some visuals to tie to my thinking aloud so be sure to check back later because I’m definitely going to come back to this topic.
How about you?