Monday, February 27, 2017

Using thinking routines purposefully and powerfully

This is my final post based on the Visible Thinking sessions I did with Mark Church at the weekend.

In schools there is a lot to get through but we must never lose sight of the fact that teachers are using language and putting structures into place that give messages about what is valuable.  Of course every teacher is likely to say that she or he values thinking - but what thinking is worth valuing?  As teachers, Mark asked us to reflect on the following:

What - what idea from making thinking visible and creating a culture of thinking has resonated with you most - considering your work with students at this school?

So what - so what about this idea strikes you as particularly important? Why is this so significant for you?

Now what - now what are you thinking a next step could be for you? (in the near term or more broadly and beyond)

Mark talked about turning the traditional view of teaching on its head.  For centuries teaching has been about talking, and students have been expected to listen.  He asked, what if we flip this?  If teaching becomes listening and learning becomes talking?  How can we be sure that the thinking routines that we are using in the classroom are purposeful?  Here are his 3 key learnings:
  1. Initially thinking routines often start off as activities, but in order to work over time they have to be seen as integrated and purposeful by the students.
  2. Thinking routines become routines only once the edges are soften and both teachers and students can work flexibly with the routine.
  3. In the classroom, it’s not just the routines themselves but the interactions that take place around routines that makes them powerful.
We need to avoid using thinking routines to illustrate the content (like a visual aid) or to decorate, enhance or jazz up the content or lesson plan. Thinking routines are not the baubles on the Christmas tree:  Content being decorated with thinking is different from content leveraging thinking opportunities and thinking opportunities leveraging content.  Of course it's important to consider the content - because it's hard to think and wonder when there are no big ideas or when there is not much in the content to think and wonder about. Our content and the thinking that we want our students to be engaged in needs to be dynamic and connected, not one-way and static.  

Final thoughts:  much of the content shared by Mark in his presentations was familiar to me from my time in the International School of Amsterdam.  However being able to engage with it again at a deeper level, and with my colleagues at ASB, was truly amazing - and hopefully transformational.

Photo Credit: ssolaresphotography Flickr via Compfight cc

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