How can we teach thinking?

Raj's Lab

If you believe that education is to enable and sharpen thinking function in an individual, then this is a question to Wilbur_Thinking__Animation_by_TheEndxTypeANIMEanswer.One of the biggest complaints across industries is that educated youth are not able to think objectively and deeply.  What is the reason for such shallowness in thinking? Even policies and decisions when turned into actions seem to display shallowness in thoughts. 

This is primarily because no school or college teaches a child or a youth how to think.  When teachers and students had more engaging sessions they seem to have the opportunity to question and discuss a topic.  As the pressure on the student and the teacher increased, the first thing that left the classroom was questioning.  The teacher no more questions the student and the students are happier leaving the teacher undisturbed.  Questioning is the singular tool that can develop the thinking function.  Not accepting things…

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What’s working

Last week was my first week trying to purposely incorporate Formative Assessment into m teaching. Here’s what’s working.

1. Collaboration- My students love that I am having them talk to each other often.  They appreciated the opportunity to share and I assume to feel their opinion is valued.  As I walked around to monitor the vast majority were talking about what I asked them to and contributing to the group.

2. Discipline- The students were so involved in the activities presented to them this week and the discussion that I had fewer behavioral issued to deal with this week.  Let’s hope this is a continuing trend.

3. Thinking- Though sometimes a struggle the students are beginning to explain their thinking.  They back up their ideas with examples from the text.  The times when student had difficulties with this I could directly link a part of the lesson that wasn’t designed clear enough to provide a proper expectation for them to meet.

4. Clearer planning- Spending extra time on planning definitely paid off.  The clearer the expectation the better the results.

 

I had an unexpected family event take me from the classroom Friday. I planned a summative assessment in Comprehension to see if my detail lesson plans resulted in positive test scores.  When I know I’ll let you know.  But for now Formative Assessment techniques and careful planning have definitely paid off for me and my students in one week of experimentation.  Now for the next week.

 

First try with the students

Well planned and ready to teach, in fact eager to teach, I had a challenging day today.  On my mission to teach kids to think I discovered how much kids don’t really know how to think.  2 sections of my day were dedicated to practicing new teaching techniques incorporating Formative Assessment and deeper questioning to prepare my students for the upcoming Common Core, and of course to become better thinkers.  Both lessons today were Comprehension lessons.  To give a little background I teach fourth grade and I have 35 students in a Title 1 school district.

Lesson 1.

Target: I can visualize and summarize what I read in order to explain the headings the author used and give examples form the text that support the heading.

We read and I asked my well thought out questions.  My advanced and proficient students caught on very quickly and were giving me page numbers and citations from the page to connecting the heading to the text.  The lesson went fairly well.

3 good things that happened.

1. We finished reading all intended information for the day ( often we fall behind by discussing everything instead of focusing in on one specific task)

2.Students were able to give page numbers and sentences from the text that support the heading.

3. Students are excited to learn about the subject matter. ( probably because I showed a video first to get them interested.)

3 areas that can be improved.

1. Less active students are still not very active.

2. I neglected to have students explain the headings, they gave support but didn’t think further than that

3. The students struggled to follow directions and had to be encouraged to look at the page or sentence being offered by another student as evidence.  In other words they didn’t appear interested in what their classmates were sharing.  They were interested in me but not each other.  How do I build the collaborative environment???

I ended this lesson with the ticket out the door strategy asking students to make a connection to the video I showed to introduce the story and the parts of the story we read today.  This turned out to be more difficult of a task for them then I had thought. Many simply wrote something they had learned not actually making a connection to the video.  Of 31 students 4 used the words ‘connect to’ .  We are going to have to work on this.

Lesson 2.

Cold read comprehension.  We have been doing this kind of activity all year.  This is the lesson in which I had planned out an entire trajectory of learning targets for the week each building on the last with the main objective to understand a piece of writing and be able to tell the main idea and organization of the piece. Although familiar this is still challenging for them.  The goals were to identify key words in a paragraph,  see how paragraphs relate to each other, find the author’s purpose including the main idea and text structure.  Today I modeled finding the key concepts in a paragraph then asking students to work in groups of 3 to find the key concepts in a different piece of writing.  This strategy is one I have been teaching for a while.  It didn’t work very well.

3 things that went well

1. most of the students worked well in their groups contributing and listening

2.I observed students actually reading and rereading the text to find key concepts.

3. . . . I can’t think of a third 😦

3 things we need to work on

1. Students were asked to write 2-3 key words but I was getting sentences

2. many groups completely missed the point of the paragraphs and were struggling to find key words

3. Only 1 group successfully duplicated what I had modeled

To culminate this activity I asked the groups to write one thing that was hard for them and one thing that was easy for them.  I got responses like “the beginning was easy and the end was hard” and “finding words was easy and the hard part was finding words” and “the hard part was finding words it was easy using context clues”  This tells me that they really didn’t get what they were doing. Their meta-cognition is lacking. Tomorrow we are going to try the “Keep it/Junk it” strategy.  I wrote out all the keywords the students found in their groups.  Tomorrow they will decide if they should keep each individual word or junk it while providing reasons for their decisions. We’ll see how that goes.

Not a great start, but a start.

I love this Formative Assessment Idea

Exit Slips as Practice ( reblogged)

April 19, 2013 by John Scammell

There are several ways to use exit slips as formative assessment tools. One way is to simply have the students complete 2 or 3 questions based on the lesson that was done in class. I use exit slips in this manner to avoid giving homework. I believe that some practice in math class is necessary. There are certain things I need my students to be able to do, and some students need to practice these things. I do not, however, believe that students should be practicing these things at home. Home is for family, community soccer, dance class, piano lessons, and all the other important things that our schools are eliminating.

I’m going to tell you a secret now. The students who don’t need to practice math will go home and do every single question you assign. It’s a waste of their time. The students who need to practice math will go home and do none of the questions you assign. Then you will argue with them, call their parents, and devise elaborate schemes to collect and grade homework. It’s a waste of your time. If I am not going to assign homework, I need to build places into my lessons for students to practice a little.

I do not grade these exit slips. I do not put any marks on them. I look at them and get feedback about how my students did with today’s material. I sort them quickly into three piles: Students that got it, students that partially got it, and students that didn’t get it at all. Based on Dylan Wiliam’s 5 key strategies, I would classify this use of exit slips as providing feedback that moves learners forward. Based on how the students do on their exit slips, I can adjust my instruction as necessary. I start the next day’s class with activities that allow the students also receive feedback.

Here’s how the old John’s math classes usually looked (based on 80 minute block schedules).

  • 20 Minutes – Go over homework questions on the board that a few students had tried. Some students listened and copied down the solutions.
  • 40 Minutes – Teach new material.
  • 20 Minutes – Students had time to work on questions. Those that didn’t finish were expected to take their math home and complete the questions.
  • Wash, rinse, and repeat 80 times per semester.

The old John typically assigned 10-15 homework questions. Very few students ever did more than a couple of them.

Here’s how exit slips as practice can really activate students, involve far more students in the practice component, and frankly, be a much more efficient use of class time.

  • 20 Minutes – Students are grouped based on the previous day’s exit slips. Those that got it are sitting in small groups working on a few extension and/or application questions. Those that partially got it are in small groups correcting the errors on their exit slips and then working on a few practice questions that build to the extension and/or application questions. Those that didn’t get it are in small groups working with me. We do some re-teaching as necessary, and some practice. I don’t make up those questions. I just assign them from the textbook like I would have before.
  • 40 Minutes – Students learn something new. (Notice that the old John “taught” something new, but the new John gets students to “learn” something new.)
  • 20 Minutes – Students complete an exit slip with 2 or 3 questions based on what they were supposed to have learned. These slips are sorted quickly and used to begin the next day’s class.

In a method like this, every student does between 3 and 8 practice questions. That’s far more practice than I used to get them to do when I assigned homework regularly.

First hurdle knocked down!

Freed! Getting started already taught me several lessons. I didn’t jump the hurdle I knocked it down. This is the process of trial and error. I have erred. My errors were biting off too much to chew and not having a clear plan of attack. I now have a new goal (and a clear plan of attack) .

Jumping into the middle of a curriculum unit and trying to find the goal and teach to the goal is not helpful in trying to identify a specific learning intention, or target, for your students. It effectively truncates the trajectory you are trying to map out for your students.  Mapping this trajectory is a huge task to undertake and is definitely not the goal of a weekly lesson plan. The better way to approach this, I think, is to start with the Standard as your main goal and map out the skills it will take to reach that goal adding the sub-goals to your main goal as you go along, backward mapping. In other words, scaffolding the learning to hit the bigger target. Doing this allows you to break that big goal into lesson sized chunks thereby providing your day-to-day lesson goals. This doesn’t happen in the middle of a unit. And it doesn’t happen with the weekly assessment as the goal which is what tried to do at first. It is a long-term plan. Not a short-term plan. I bit off too much at once. Not only that, I tried to bite the apple core bypassing the peel all together. No wonder it was so hard!

I needed clearer plan of attack so I could get started now not later. And I found one. I sat in on a staff meeting yesterday introducing us to the concept of “Close Reading” an element of the Common core. It miraculously provided me with a clearer plan. Creating my long-term goals, as I mentioned earlier, needs to happen and will happen, but at the beginning of a unit not in the middle. I am not beginning a unit so that is not my current plan of attack. Instead I need a short-term goal so I can get my feet wet, try a few things, and see what works. I have already decided to focus on comprhension. So I have created a smaller trajectory with the goal of simply understanding a reading passage.  I have a  a clear plan of attack

This is my new goal, clearly understand a reading passage.  I have a plan with bite sized lesson goals all aiming to help a student understand a reading passage. Smaller trajectory, smaller goals, clearer focus, still Formative Assessment. Pressure for CST testing is coming. This goal will help students be more successful on CST tests, become better readers, become better thinkers, and allow me to experiment with the Formative Assessment techniques that I have learned. These images show my idea of the trajectory and how it breaks down. This is the plan I will use for the next couple of weeks. I will keep you posted.

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