Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Learning to Talk, Talking to Learn: Opening Minds Chapters 7-9

This is week three of our conversation about Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. Laura Komos will be hosting our conversation this week at Our Camp Read-A-Lot, so head over there to follow along with the rest of the conversation. Cathy Mere will continue to add all blog posts to the Opening Minds Jog the Web so if you missed a part, you can catch up there. Tomorrow (July 26th) at 7 pm CST we will be having a chat on Twitter using #cyberpd. Please join us for that. Peter Johnston has indicated that he will be there, too. Also, Carol Wilcox of Carol's Corner, had a great idea to add a fourth week to our discussion and ask everyone to share your top ten takeaways, or three things you plan to implement in your classroom, or a cheat sheet of language you may have created. So that will happen on August 1st on Carol's blog. Finally, Peter Johnston has a new blog post up about Opening Minds on the Stenhouse blog as part of the Stenhouse Blogstitute. You will definitely want to read his thoughts as we continue this conversation.

Learning to Talk, Talking to Learn

The beginning of Opening Minds was all about teachers learning to talk in ways that promote learning and the development of a sense of agency and a dynamic learning frame of mind. The last few chapters of Opening Minds were all about helping students learn to use talk or conversation as a way to learn. Thinking about that I can see how powerful it could be if both of these pieces were in place in a classroom. Teachers using language that promotes thinking and students picking up that language and using it to help themselves learn. What important goals to have. These will be my goals as the school year begins soon.

Powerful Quotes to Remember While Working Towards These Goals

"...the experience of thinking together productively in a mixed-ability group actually increased the individual children's measured intelligence." p. 96

" order to have dialogue, people have to listen to one another. I mention this because really listening to a partner is less common than it might seem..." p. 100

"When each person in the classroom community is viewed as able to contribute to the development of knowledge, there is not the typical classroom hierarchy of those who have knowledge, usually the teachers, followed by the "top" students, down to those who don't have knowledge." p. 102

"Listening is the foundation of a conversation and it requires that we are open to the possibility of changing our thinking." p. 102

"Showing the children how they have built on or otherwise contributed to the group's thinking is important." p. 103

"Disagreement in the process of reaching agreement can ensure a better decision or outcome." p. 104

These quotes are important enough to me that I will add them to the notebook that I mentioned in my last post. They aren't actually language that I would use with my students but ways to frame my own thinking as I am teaching. I feel very strongly that I must increase conversations by students and limit my "talk" as much as possible. With first graders, this will be a gradual process and totally worth the time it will take.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Opening Minds ~ Chapters 4-6

The conversation about Opening Minds by Peter Johnston continues today. I must say that I have really enjoyed the conversation so far. It is fascinating to read all of the posts and comments to see what parts of the book have made an impression on others. Thank you to all who are sharing their thinking in this conversation. Reading all of these posts causes me to change my own thinking again and again. Thanks also to Cathy Mere for hosting the conversation last week and to Laura Komos for hosting the conversation next week.

This week's chapters were filled with many deep and thoughtful ideas about how to use language to change the classroom environment. I have chosen to think about how I can use four of these ideas to change my teaching and the way I speak to my students.

I teach at Renaissance Elementary Magnet School (a public school). We are an Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound school. Rather than trying to explain what that means, here is a list of words that we use often at our school: inquiry, discovery, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, service learning, real world issues, case studies and fieldwork. The ideas in Opening Minds completely connect to all the things that we are trying to accomplish in our school. So this is not really a change in my thinking but a reminder of what I believe in and a push to do it better. I am not an expert in Expeditionary Learning yet but reading books like this inspire me to work harder at my goals.

"It is the perception of uncertainty that enables dialogue. Dialogue, in turn, sustains uncertainty. If there is certainty, or only one view, there is nothing to discuss and nothing to learn. Uncertainty is the foundation of inquiry and research." p. 59
Exactly! This is where I really need to continue to work in my classroom. Last year I read Math Exchanges by Kassia Wedekind and began to change the way my students thought about math. I wanted them to see that there were many ways to solve problems or think about numbers. It was hard work but they gradually improved at talking and listening to each other about the ways that they solved problems. I want to continue to work on this in the coming year and I want to continue to expand this type of thinking to other content areas.

Another way that I want to encourage comfort with uncertainty is to do the activity mentioned on page 60 and 61 of Opening Minds. I want to create a collection of unknown or random items. In the book they used a polygraph pen, a hair dryer attachment and a piece of a dog's chew toy but it could be anything. During morning meeting several times a month, I could pull out an item and ask the students to think about what this item could be used for. This will encourage creativity and openness to new ways of looking at objects and ideas.

"...the more process talk becomes part of classroom conversations, the more strategy instruction will be occurring incidentally, without the teacher having to do it." p. 40
I love this idea of having strategy instruction occurring incidentally in the classroom. One way that I will try to increase this in my classroom is by continuing to use the iPad app ShowMe. I tested this app out with my students this past school year and I was very pleased with how it went. At first, I put the app on the iPads and asked students to figure out how to use it (this was mainly because I didn't have time to figure it out myself but an added bonus was how empowered the students felt by being given this task). After we all knew how the app worked, students created ShowMes to "teach" other students math concepts that they knew well. These ShowMes were then posted on the students' blogs for all to see.  While I like the sharing and learning and assessment (I could see just what each student knew and was able to do) that went on with these, I want to take them to the next level and do some deeper thinking and sharing. I want to move more into problem solving rather than just basic math content and I want to expand the use to other content areas, too. I am also re-framing my own thinking about these ShowMes as a way for students to articulate their own strategy use and that will increase their sense of agency. Below is an example of one ShowMe created by a student last year:

I also love the idea of using the term "feedforward" instead of "feedback," because we are all trying to move forward as a result of this information.

Teacher Language
"The hardest part for most of us is then keeping our mouths shut and not judging what children say." p. 76
I have a little homemade notebook that I have in my classroom and it is filled things I want to remember while I am teaching.

One section of my notebook is for language that I gleaned from Peter Johnston's first book, Choice Words, that I want to remember to incorporate into my own language. I need to add a page now for language ideas from Opening minds. In addition to remembering to talk less, I want to add:
  • yet p.11
  •  "You found a good way to do it; could you think of other ways that would also work?" p.38
  • "Hmmm....." p.57
  • uncertainty markers: maybe, perhaps, I wonder and other ideas from the chart on p.56
  • mental verbs: imagine, feel, believe, wonder, want, like, need, know p. 76
So, as Peter Johston would say, "What are you thinking?" p. 76

(After writing this post, I continued to read other blogs with their thoughts on the first section of this book. Katie Keier wrote about the "cheat sheets" she used to help her learn the language from Peter Johnston's other book, Choice Words. Check out her post for more on this idea: Opening Minds: Summer Cyber PD.)

Please Join the Conversation
There are several ways to join the conversation. You can add a comment to this post or to the Opening Minds Wallwisher. You can write a blog post on your own blog and add the link to the comment section of this post and I will create a list of linked posts in this post as they come in - it is never too late to start. Cathy Mere will also add each post to the Opening Minds jog - a collection of all of the posts from this whole event. You can also comment and share with others on twitter using #cyberpd.

Check back here often to see the list of posts by others. You won't want to miss out on all that is shared.

Next week (July 25th) the final part of the conversation will be hosted by Laura Komos at Our Camp Read-A-Lot.

Participating Blogs
Laura Komos from Our Camp Read-A-Lot shares her favorite quotes in Opening Minds Part 2. This week she reflects on how we discuss our reading with each other as adults and how we should allow students to have the same opportunity.

At Thinking Stems, Tracy shares her vision of how her inquiry workshop will work this year in her post, Opening Minds...Cyper PD... Part 2. Her idea of providing a special time for inquiry gives us all something to think about.

Maria Caplan reflects at Teaching in the 21st Century. This week she reflects on how she makes inquiry, dialogue and wonder important parts of life in her classroom in Opening Minds Ch. 4-6.

In her post, #CypberPD - Opening Minds Using Language to Change Lives  by Peter H. Johnston, on Literacy Toolbox, Dawn Little reflects on her thinking chapter by chapter pulling favorite quotes in along the way. She finishes with a thoughtful list of things she would like to accomplish this year.

Stop by Literate Lives to read Karen Terlecky's thoughts in Opening Minds #cyberPD - July 18. Karen shares her doubts about the language that she had been using in the past and reflects on the changes she plans to make in the future.

Amanda at Snapshots of Mrs. V reflects on feedback in her post, Opening Minds Ch. 4-6. She points out that the goal of feedback is to create lifelong teachers as well as lifelong learners.

LitProfSuz finds a unifying theme in this week's reading at In The Heart of a Teacher is a Student. She points out that the overall focus of the chapters is shifting the responsibility for learning away from the teacher and on to the student in her post, #CyberPD Opening Minds Chapters 4-6.

Drop by Cathy Mere's blog, Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community to read her thoughts on feedback in Changing My Frame: Opening Minds #cyberPD (Part 2). Cathy also shares her lists of quotes, questions and language for the classroom.

On her blog, Inspired to Read, Amy Meyer takes a look at the language she uses in her feedback in her post, Opening Minds Chapter 4-6. She has already begun practicing her new language on her daughter and shares her process with us.

Mary Lee Hahn makes a connection to a upcoming picture book in her reflection, Cyber PD -- Week 2 on A Year of Reading. You should definitely check this out. The cover art, title and Mary Lee's review make this book sound like a must read.

#cyberPD Opening Minds: What am I saying?!?  is Tony Keefer's reflection on atychiphobia 2.0 this week. His title says it all as he reflects about the language he uses and the changes he needs to make. His voice in this post makes this post enjoyable to read.

Katie DiCesare of creative literacy considers her use of praise in Opening Minds #2 #cyberPD. She charts the changes she plans to make in her language. A helpful offering for all of us.

Over at Wondering Through 2012, Barbara Phillips focuses her reflection on the inquiry and uncertainty sections of the book in #CyberPD Opening Minds - Part 2. She points out that students have many things that they wonder about and we just need to focus in on those to engage them.

Valerie Ruckes from The Sensibly Savy Teacher realizes that while she is not where she wants to be yet with her language, she is on the right track. You will want to stop by her post, Teaching Them to Teach: Opening Minds - #CyberPd Part 2 and check out the Wordle she created using language from the book.

The blogging duo of Amber and Lisa at FOCUS: Clarity through Collaborative Reflection share another thoughtful post, Bring on the Neauralyzer! Feedforward Here We Come! With a title like that, you just know that you have to read it for yourself.

Rose Capelli of Mentor Texts with Lynne and Rose shares the aha moment she had while reading this section in Reflections on Opening Minds Chapters 4-6. Perhaps it will lead to an aha moment for you. (It did for me.)

Over at Carol's Corner, Carol Wilcox shares how Opening Minds is impacting her as a teacher, as a literacy coach and as a parent in her post, Cyber PD. She also shares one bit of skepticism that provides some good food for thought.

Julie Johnson shares her thoughts about this week's reading in Opening Minds #Cyber PD Part 2 on her blog, Raising Readers and Writers. She leaves us with her list of goals for the upcoming school year.

In Opening Minds...#CyberPD...Part Deux on Miss Sticker, Jacquelyn Sticca shares her three new project ideas based on her reading for this fall.  Her light bulb moment makes this a must read.

Michelle Nero of Literacy Learning Zone shares her dream of having a classroom where students have conversations without her in #cyberPD: Opening Minds - Part 2. She also shares her cheat sheet and other ideas to help make this dream come true.

Over at Two Reflective Teachers, Melanie Swider reflects on the language she uses as a teacher in Opening Minds CyberPD Part 2. She, too, is working on a cheat sheet of language that she wants to incorporate into her teaching days.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Opening Minds ~ Chapters 1-3

It is finally time to read Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. I always reread parts of Choice Words (another of his books) every summer to refresh my thinking about the language I use with my students so I was excited to learn he had written another book on this topic. So far this book has been all that I had hoped for. It is a short book but one that needs to be read slowly in order to provide time for the ideas inside to really sink in and become (hopefully) part of my own speech.

The first chapter sets the stage for thinking about the language we use with our students and just how important every word we use can be. I love the idea of shifting from the negative "I can't do this" to the more positive "I can't do this yet" with just the addition of one single word. This one word has the power to reshape the attitude of the person. While I do work hard to apply this when speaking with my students, I realized that I need to continue to work on applying it to myself. "Using this language does not come easily to me yet."

Chapter 2 explains the difference between the fixed-performance frame and the dynamic-learning frame from Carol Dweck's research and subsequent book, Mindset. People using fixed-performance frame type of thinking usually assume that ability or intelligence is fixed or you are born with skills or abilities in certain areas. Those with the dynamic-learning frame believe that ability or intelligence is always changing and is especially influenced by hard work. The language that we use with our students can put them into one frame or the other. Our goal should be to use language that moves students to the dynamic-learning frame because they will feel more control or agency over their learning and more open to doing things to that will help them learn.

In the third chapter, Peter Johnston talks about the value of change and stability. Understanding that we change as we grow and learn helps students see that they have control over what and how they learn. Stability in the form of a routine (that can be changed at times) is good because students need routine and structure so that they can be free to explore and change their thinking.

Things I Want to Remember/Practice in my Teaching
  • Remind myself that "Using this language does not come easily to me yet."
  • Use language that points out the ways that students are changing. "Remember how we did this at the beginning of the year...", "Have you learned a new way to solve this problem?", "Do you notice how we have increased our reading stamina?", etc.
  • Use language that gives students a sense of agency or control over their own learning.
  • Continue to have a regular daily routine and discuss any changes to the routine with the class before they happen.
My biggest hope is that this type of language will begin to permeate all of my interactions with my students. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book and the thinking of others in their blog posts or comments.  Cathy Mere is hosting the conversation today. Please drop by her blog, Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community to join us.

Opening Minds ~ Schedule of Events
We would love to have you read and chat with us. The schedule for the event is:
July 11: Chapters 1-3 Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community
July 18: Chapters 4-6 Hosted by me here at My Primary Passion

July 25: Chapters 7-9 Hosted by Laura Komos at Our Camp Read-A-Lot
July 26: Twitter Chat using #cyberPD - time still to be determined
How to Participate
There are several ways to participate. You can:
  • post your thoughts about each section of the book on your own blog. Then add the link to your post in the comment section of the host blog.
  • simply add your thoughts as a comment on the host blog (or any of the blogs).
  • share your thinking on Twitter using #cyberPD at any time during the month.
  • add your thoughts and comments to Cathy's Wallwisher page on Opening Minds
  • come up with your own way to participate and add to the discussion.