Monday, 10 February 2014


Session Eleven: Communicate Clearly 

Post by Joy 

Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so he is. – Publilius Syrus

          As an educator, I give Communicating Clearly very high status as an instructional focus. In this new communication age, how we communicate is changing, and I believe we are risk of losing our ability to communicate and connect because of the gizmo-superfast, techy world we are now living in. Are we reducing our expression to 140 characters or less?  Communication helps us build relationships, work collaboratively, express our needs and desires, and (in the school setting) demonstrate our learning. In school, regardless of the medium, students are expected to communicate what they know and what they have learned. As we embrace “21st Century Learning”, educators are providing, and experimenting with, more tools and options to communicate learning. Yes, this is great, but whatever the medium, we still need to be able to communicate with each other.

          I question whether our communication skills are improving in this age of communication. Technology gives us the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime, but with it comes the risk of losing our ability to connect. Blythe (2010) suggested that this information age is changing us. She said: “The irony of this communication age is that we communicate less meaningfully”. Jaron Lanier, in his very provocative book you are not a gadget suggested that in this era of freedom on the World Wide Web, communication is being experienced as a superhuman phenomenon, separate from individuals. He said: “a new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become” (p. 4., 2010). YIKES! After reading Lanier’s book, which made me question why I am so enamored with technology (and at the same time develop a fear of what he coined the “hive mind”), I decided to double my efforts to help my students develop communication skills that will enable them to see themselves and envision who they might become!

BUT I DIGRESS…This blog is about our Think Tank project….
Here we are, learning to be adventurous!

 When we set out on this project, of developing children’s’ Habits of Mind through inquiry, I wouldn't have predicted our focus of teaching would be where it is right now….on writing!  Our focus this week, in the lab and in our writing lessons, has been on communicating clearly. We have employed the use of: modeling, setting criteria together, pulling out examples of meeting criteria, finding exemplars in our writing to enable to kids to express and communicate their understandings of their development of the Habits of Mind we focus on each week. We are expected our students to be able to notice, and articulate, their usage of these Habits of Mind, and without having given it much thought, our default method of collecting this data, has been through writing. Therefore, writing to learn and reflection writing has become our instructional focus this term, both in and out of the Think Tank lab.

 Here we have examples, that the students pulled out themselves, of meeting the criteria in three of the areas for we created for reflection-writing:

Interestingly (or should I say, obviously!!) “Communicate Clearly” is a Habit of Mind! When I brought my class to the Think Tank this week, we created criteria around what we believe Communicating Clearly means. I could not help but notice (and be very pleased and proud) that the students have a well-developed understanding of what it means to communicate clearly. We are used to working in partners and groups, and the students have personal “Partner Talk Goals” they are working towards, so it was not really a stretch to frame it within the concept of communication.

While they worked on their projects, I asked the kids to notice when their partner was demonstrating Communicating Clearly. Because we had criteria to work off of, each student was easily able to identify a moment or time in which their partner met that criteria. Instead of reflecting themselves, I asked the students to seek feedback from their partner about their abilities and demonstrations of Communicating Clearly. The students then used that feedback as evidence in their written reflections. They referred to our class-generated list of exemplars for each piece of criteria for reflection writing. 

I believe our students reflections show both development in their writing skills as well as a developing understanding of their Habit of Mind development. Here are a few examples:

 Where are we going from here? We will keep on moving forward with our reflection writing. I am not going to take my kids into the Think Tank lab for the next couple of weeks, because we will be engaged in our Compound Machines Development project. The kids will be noticing and reflecting on their Habits of Mind use as they work with a small group to create a Compound Machine, create a presentation to “sell” their machine and write a document that argues how their demonstration of their Habits of Mind make them suitable for membership in the “Intergalactic Youth Network” (a group of youth from around the galaxy working together to solve problems and create solutions for the 21st Century) !! A lot of work…and what FUN we are going to have!!

No comments:

Post a Comment