I was in the middle of writing a blog post last night, when I received an email that changed things for me. This email was a notification that I had a comment on my class blog. How exciting! I opened up the message to view the comment on our Daily Shoot Blog Post and here’s what I saw: Cristina Milos is an educator from Rome that is a very important part of my PLN. She always manages to push my thinking and question me to always consider the purpose behind what I do and why I do it. I appreciate this — a lot — and that’s why her comment not only lead to a lengthy reply on my other post, but a blog post of its own here.
All night long, I’ve been thinking about what Cristina wrote. As a teacher that’s started using inquiry so much more in the classroom this year, and really worked on developing critical thinking skills, her comment bothered me. I’m not upset because she questioned me, but I’m upset because I’d hate to think that the projects didn’t “enable deeper thinking.” And this is when my “assessment for learning” became so critical. At around 5:00 this morning, I started going through the photographs, videos, anecdotal notes, and reflections that I’ve collected over the past two weeks as my students have been immersed in this task. Here’s what I found:
- For the research component of this task, most groups started with a very straight forward research question. My student teacher and I conferenced with the groups of students, and through our questions and their wonders, the students modified their questions to apply what they read and heard and truly make sense of various natural phenomena. Students asked each other questions throughout the process. They challenged each other’s thinking, and they showed their own in their written notes, sketches, and oral and video recordings.
- For the poem writing component of this task, the students had to apply what they learned about onomatopoeia and personification in the writing of their poems. When conferencing with my student teacher and/or myself, they had to explain how their word choices and ideas connected with their research. They needed to show their understanding of the content as well as their thinking behind this content. Students started to discuss and challenge each other’s thinking in their small groups first: leading to editing their poem throughout the process and generating new ideas that better showcased their natural phenomenon.
- For the visual arts component of the task, students had to think about how to take their research and showcase their learning through their paintings, drawings, or creations. They needed to consider the elements of design, and explain how they used the various elements and why they chose to use those elements in this particular case. As they spoke to each other in their small groups, and as my student teacher and I conferenced with them, students questioned their choices, reconsidered new ways to showcase their learning, and started to think of ways to use different elements of design that they have not used before.
This bulletin board display also serves another purpose: it provides a reminder, all around the room, of the different natural phenomena and their impact on structures. It helps immerse the students in the content, and provides the visuals and informational reminders that some students need as they continue to apply their learning for the last part of this Science unit. For on Monday, students are going to see my student teacher’s latest provocation: Before school begins, she’s going to pour on some water, and then this “little town” will be ready. Students will need to discuss what natural disaster(s) could have resulted in this horrible destruction. They’ll need to use evidence from what they see, as well as from the research around the room, to support their ideas. Students will challenge each other’s thinking through their questions and comments on our Natural Disaster Detective Work Radio Show. Now the students will need to use their thinking from before to think even more as they tackle this new challenge.
And as I sit here, on this early Saturday morning, thinking more about Cristina’s comment, I’m reminded about something important: it’s good to be held accountable for what we do. Cristina made me think even more about the choices I made, what my students did, and most importantly, why my students did this. She reminded me that it’s ALWAYS important to have students think deeply about their learning, and she made me reflect on how much thinking they did. She also made me think about where we’re going next in this Structures/Natural Phenomena Science Unit, and how I’m going to get students to think deeply during our introductory activity, but also later, during our bridge task. Cristina’s getting me to start out by considering the “deep thinking” opportunities I’m giving the students, and how I can get the class to talk and write even more about their thinking. Thanks Cristina!
Does “sharing publicly” make you more accountable, and how do you feel about this? How has “sharing publicly” changed your practices? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!