|A picture I painted of my boys when they were young
When my children were growing up, I was careful to teach them not to believe everything they were told. Not just from friends either. I meant television, books, Internet, and yes…even school. I taught my sons to THINK, to analyze, question, and to know WHY they believed what they believed. My sons are now 18 and 20, and I’m just so proud of their frontal lobe development…*sniff*...! Seriously though, I am very proud of my sons and how they choose to be thinkers. During my BrainSMART courses, this pattern of thought was confirmed and expanded upon. It’s the language of learning that we all know as schema, questioning, visualizing, etc.
Teaching the Skills
The "Good Reader" poster on the left side panel of this page lists the thinking skills I teach my second graders. I would be teaching these same skills (although more in-depth) if I had high-schoolers. The poster is for reading, but it is important to point out that these skills are applicable across all content areas. This is the language of learning. As a side note, it is particularly important to explicitly tell learning-disabled students that they are learning the ‘language of learning’.
I introduce one skill a week. I describe the skill, model using it, and then we practice. We apply the skill across all content areas, and I encourage parents to do the same at home.
Practicing the Skills
One way we practice is by writing thinking stems about a book we are reading. For example, my students have learned schema and predictions so far. Here is one of the first independent thinking stems one of my 2nd grade students wrote:
I am reading Smarter Than Squirrels by Lucy Nolan. In my story Down Girl and Sit stole a bag of donuts. Ruff was not happy. In fact he was so unhappy he chased them all the way home. Sit thought that Ruff was following him because he didn’t know the way home. This reminds me of when we went to a donut shop and my dog stole my donut. I predict Down Girl and Sit will be sold. This book is worth $55. ~S.
Notice how the student is practicing making connections to his own life and using predictions. This practice is important because the more they intentionally use these skills, the stronger the pathways in the brain will become. The stronger the pathways become, the more readily accessible they are.
Thinking stems are not limited to reading. My students will soon be writing them in math, social studies, science, and anything else I can wrap their flexible little brains around! Just imagine the potential for growth!
Raising the Bar ~ Blogging
What I have described so far is quite effective. But if you want to see even more growth and engagement, put their thinking stems on a blog. Their interest will go through the roof. Students who have previously not wanted to write will suddenly produce their best work. Why? Because they will have a real audience! I have seen it happen over and over again. Their work will suddenly have meaning beyond the classroom.
As you can imagine, student reading and writing skills will be greatly impacted. Allowing students to comment on each other’s blogs will improve their oral language communication skills as well. This is particularly beneficial for shy or ESL students who may be embarrassed to speak much.
How to Get Started Blogging
If you need help to get started blogging, see my post here: http://www.fortheloveofteaching.net/2011/03/how-and-why-to-get-your-class-blogging.html
In the post I talk about how to get started, security, and how to generate your audience.
Thinking skills alone are effective. Blogging alone is effective. Marry the two and you’ve got a one-two punch that is amazing! I’ve seen the results in my own classes.
If you decide to blog thinking skills, let me know so our students can be blogging buddies! Gr8arteest(at)gmail.com.