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.


  1. Jill,
    I highlighted some of the same quotes that you listed in your "Powerful Quotes to Remember While Working With These Goals" section. They really are worth pondering on and remembering.

    I think increasing conversations will be a gradual process with first graders, especially the kinds of meaningful talk and conversations that Johnston refers to. I love how everything in the book can easily fit into what we are already doing in our classrooms. It's just a matter of framing our own thinking, as you mentioned above.

  2. Jill, As I read your post and read other posts...the one common quote that everyone keeps noting is..."Listening is the foundation of a conversation and it requires that we are open to the possibility of changing our thinking." Isn't it amazing how through CyberPD posts and comments we are listening, without speaking, and are vulnerable to changing/reflecting on our own thinking? That we are relying on our language, our words, to communicate our thoughts, experiences, and perspectives through social media. This work solidifies Johnston's thinking that.."thinking well together leads to thinking well alone". Thank you SO much for being a part of hosting CyberPD...definitely the highlight of my summer thinking. :)

  3. I also noticed the same common quote about listening as I read posts today. Interestingly enough, I came across a quote today by the late Stephen Covey, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." What timing. We really must begin with the foundations -- listening with the intent to understand or change our thinking.

    There really is so much more for me to digest and process that I may be re-reading this book again before school begins.

    Thank you, Jill for hosting this opportunity as well as for your thought provoking posts and reflections.

  4. My favorite part is to read the other posts and learn from others. I love your quotes and I have many of them recorded but I had to add a few of them to my notebook. Thanks for hosting this amazing opportunity of learning.

  5. Jill,
    Learning to Talk, Talking to Learn. As soon as I saw your title I looked forward to reading your post. Talk is an important piece of a learning community. This quote caught my attention as well, " 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..." , as this is one of the greatest challenges I face every year. First graders love to talk and share, but helping them to understand how important listening is in learning is a a lot of work. Students will be quietly respectful, but to listen - to really listen - that takes some learning and conversation. Perhaps this year we will work to define what listening might really mean beyond looking at someone and waiting on them to finish.


  6. It is such a great idea to capture influential statements, along with the teacher language, to remind us the possibilities when envisioning our classrooms. I also want to focus on intentionally focusing on letting students know they each have something to contribute to classroom conversations and learning.