My nephew goes to school in the States. He’s in Grade 1 right now, and he loves to tell my family, all the time, about his class. One of his favourite sayings to repeat is to, “Think, and then, do.” In the context in which he shares this saying, it’s clear that it’s meant in terms of having students “think first” before “acting” to avoid possible classroom problems. I like to think of this phrase in another context though: give students a chance to “think” and then “do” (or solve problems/find solutions) in their continual effort to learn.
I thought a lot about this saying today as I observed and interacted with students learning. It started this morning, as a group of students were working together on our February Calendar to add important dates. One student looked over at Saturday and said to the students he was working with, “Is this a home day?” When they determined that it was, he went over to the schedule board and grabbed one of the cards. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing, until I saw that he took the word, “home.” That’s when I asked him, “If we’re going to write, ‘home day,’ how could we spell the second word?” He looked up at the days of the week, and with his group members, found the word, “day.” After he wrote, “home day,” on all of the Saturdays, he figured out that he also needed to add these words to all of the Sundays.
This was the same group of students that also figured out that they could take the schedule card off of the board to write in Mrs. Ritter’s name for the days that we have Health. When the year began, the students were constantly looking at me to spell the words and answer the questions. Now they’ve learned how to problem solve on their own and support each other. They are “thinking” and then “doing.”
The calendar provocation resulted in a lot of “thinking” and “doing” today. A small group of students decided to add information to our yearly calendar. It was difficult working in such a small space, and sometimes, the students got mixed up on the dates. I was thrilled when I walked over to the table today, and one student told me this.
She figured out the solution all on her own, and helped correct the errors so that the calendar was accurate. This is another example of “thinking” and “doing” success.
And then came our time this afternoon in the Fitness Room, as students worked together to use their bodies to create structures. We were exploring the concept of stability, and looking at how we could use ourselves to make stable structures, but without leaving the floor (i.e., there was no cheerleading pyramid for today). Students developed plans on how to do this, and their plans met with various degrees of success. I’ll admit that as I listened to their ideas, I already had thoughts of my own for how to modify them, but I resisted the urge to interrupt (at least most of the time 🙂 ), and let them work through the solutions together. Then after experiencing and problem solving their way through various structure options, we made connections to the designs of real structures.
“Thinking” and “doing” helped students understand concepts, work through problems together, and create meaning for themselves.
Watching this “thinking” and “doing” in action though, helped create meaning for me.
- It showed me what students understand.
- It showed me what strategies they use.
- It showed me how they interact and collaborate with each other.
- It showed me how they work independently.
- It showed me how they problem solve, and the thinking behind their solutions.
- It showed me what they don’t understand, and what we need to do next.
As educators, we need time to watch our students. We need time to listen to our students. And we need to know what to watch and listen for, so that we can support our students more as we plan ahead. How do you give your students a chance to “think” and “do?” How do you observe and support them during the process? How do you resist the urge to do the thinking for them? I think that “thinking” and “doing” is something that we can support at home and in the classroom, and I’d love to hear more about your “thinking” and “doing” experiences!
We’ve been doing a fair bit of this during French class lately. We’re working on reading some real-world text examples. We read, for example, from a French site called 1 jour, 1actu (one day, one piece of news), about the things that were happening in Paris. We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what we know before we start answering questions – what strategies can we use from our English reading that help us – context, pictures, words that are familiar to us – and we’ve been marking up the text hugely before we start to try and figure out the main ideas. I haven’t taught these strategies as prescriptively before, and it seems to be reducing students’ stress level when faced with a piece of text in their 2nd language. It seems to give them time to think, and figure out what they might know in terms of big ideas, before we start zeroing in on particular information. Some students took it a step further, and started to think about what kind of information might be helpful, even before they started marking up text. It’s been interesting to do some metacognition stuff with them (in English) on the way they’re working through French text.
Think, then do…pense, et après ça, fait!
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in your French class, Lisa! I find it fascinating how the same approach can work in different grades and subjects. Hearing how students are reacting to this approach is very interesting too. For the students, I think the power lies in thinking and doing, and for us, it lies in watching and listening. I’d be curious to hear what others think as well!