Lately I've been thinking about questions and engaging kids in "substantive conversations". This is something we've been learning about in our teacher professional development time. In order to get children to do higher level thinking, I need to frame questions in a way that draws that out.
So, I ask things like; "What do you think about....?" "How is that the same as...?" "How is that different from...?" "Can you give me some examples of...?"
That can be a little bit of a challenge, but here is the thing I've noticed. I want to answer my own questions! I don't always give kids time to think. It's easier to bale them out and answer for them than to restate the question in a different way. And maybe sometimes, I need to model my thinking (without giving them answers) to help them learn how. Wow! This is hard!
Mike Schmoker, keynote speaker at our In-Service on MLK Day, says that we need to spend more time having kids read, discuss and write about increasingly complex fiction and non-fiction materials. He mentioned historical documents. So I thought, "Ok, I'm going to try this with some homeschooled students."
This is the formula he gave;
I. Teach vocabulary from the reading/ provide background information for the text. Provide kids with a question or prompt before they read.
II. Model to kids how mature readers read critically, underlining and annotating text.
III. Let kids read alone. Have them pair up and share throughout the reading as you check for their understanding. Repeat the process till students can finish the reading independently.
IV. Discuss what you read. Then write about it.
So I pulled up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's famous I Have a Dream speech and tried this with some of your children. We looked up vocabulary words. We discussed the background for this speech and I gave them a prompt; "Look for the repeated phrases as you read."
I read the first part of the speech to the students and tried to model critical thinking. Depending on the age and reading ability of the student, I had them read all or part of the speech independently. I gave the students a highlighter and told them to underline things they like and things they don't understand. We tried to do the discussion part. Then I had the kids write about their own dreams for a better world.
Here's some of what I observed:
I really have to think about how to frame questions to get good discussion going.
It can be really hard to get siblings to have these types of conversations.
Kids have really good thought processes, but sometimes I have to shut my mouth for awhile to see that.
Sometimes kids try to give you lots of reasons why they can't write, (usually just means they don't want to) but usually if you stick at it and help them to brainstorm a little, they come through!
Persevering and doing something hard gives kids (and adults, myself included) confidence for the next hard thing:-)
Technology makes it MUCH easier to look up vocabulary words in this day and age than it was when I was a kid. If Miss Arnold (my 4th grade teacher) had only known that all of those dictionary drills would be obsolete one day...
So, there you have it. Some of the things I've been pondering lately, that is when I'm not thinking about wrestling meets and the next big tournament. Yep, I'm a mom.
Coming up in February; Groundhog Day, Lincoln's birthday and some experiments with pennies, Valentine's Day and maybe a real heart if I can get one from the locker, and of course, the State Wrestling tournament. Hopefully Rob will make it again this year.
Until next time...