Sunday, 15 December 2013

Session Six: What Habits of Mind are Working For You

Posted by Lindsay

Both classes were in the 'Think Tank' this past Wednesday for the final 'tank' of the year!

Last week we explored the word 'Inquire' in depth. This week,  session six took the students back to looking at the Habits of Mind they were using during Think Tank. Our 'Opening Circle' discussion had two main goals: having the students engage in structured A/B partner talk and discussions about 'Habits of Mind'. It was during this discussion that it became clear to me just how 'transferable' these 'Habits of Mind' are. In both classrooms the 'Habits of Mind' are clearly posted and Joy and I are making a strong effort to reference them in our lessons. In some of my lessons, the students have begun to set a 'Habit of Mind' goal.  So I was very pleased during our opening discussion when a student mentioned that he had set the goal of 'strive to be accurate and precise' for our numeracy lesson on four digit subtraction.

After our discussion I had the students write in their reflection journal about which bin they would be exploring and which Habit of Mind they thought they would be using. At think point, I was struck by (and this is not new!) how writing thoughts, ideas and questions on paper can reveal such a range of abilities within one class. This makes me go back to the idea of students having multiple ways to record their learning.

Next, as in previous lessons, the students were asked to record a question that they were wondering about their bin. I was really concerned with the number of students who wrote down 'surface level' questions such as 'how long will this take? will it be hard? will it be fun?' In reality, I shouldn't be surprised as this seems to be a common theme; unless explicitly taught, how can I expect students to create deep thinking questions without having any prior knowledge or learning in this area before? So, back to the classroom we went to 'unpack' what deep thinking questions are. Thursday and Friday were spent with Adrianne Gears' 'Reading Power' to get a better understanding of what a 'deep thinking' question is.

Onto the fun stuff! Once students had the chance to get into their bins it was amazing, again, to see the level of engagement all the students had with their inquiry bin. I was pondering the fact that 'engagement' does not always mean 'on task'. I was struggling with this as I watched one student create a structure with the wooden kappa blocks which was not even close to the task he was assigned. Was the student engaged? Yes. Was the student exploring? Yes. Was the student working on their task? No. Was the student learning? I'm not sure. I went to Joy to debrief this and we discussed the fact that when do students have the chance to play? In Kindergarten for sure, but beyond that, when do students have the opportunity to engage in play and exploration?

For our reflection, we utilized the 'Four Point Evidence' structure for students to respond to 'what Habits of Mind do you have working for you?' Again, I was struck by the need for explicit instruction and the gradual release of responsibility that is necessary for many of our students. We have some work to do, but the great thing is, we our excited to bring some of the learning/instruction components of 'Think Tank' into the classroom and we know it is relevant and we know it is meaningful!

Stay tuned for more Think Tank posts next year!!

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