Monday, November 21, 2022

I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of: Across the Curriculum

We recently came across a pattern for student observations as part of the upgrading of our elementary natural science curriculum and instruction. As we began to have our students use these simple statements we quickly realized their ready application across the curriculum and, indeed, across the grades.

The statements, ‘I Notice’, ‘I Wonder’, and ‘It Reminds Me of’ have become a part of our routine in high school Humane Letters classes as much as in science classes. We've posted them in our classrooms, K-12. Students frequently use them without prompting because they are applicable across their day and they give them a framework for thinking about what they’re learning. I should point out that this isn't a new 'program' but rather a way of approaching thinking about new topics or deepening understanding of familiar ones.

These observations are foundational for other kinds of questions and observations, as well. In order to analyze and evaluate students first need to observe, ask questions, and make connections. These habits help to facilitate discussion that is not focused on student opinion but rather on student thinking. They require students to look carefully, to observe, to look for patterns, to ask questions, and to make connections.

We have been pleased, and perhaps a bit surprised, by the effectiveness and flexibility of this as a tool for thinking that goes well beyond the third grade science journal where it started.

Credit to the authors of  How to Teach Nature Journaling, John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren.

The link is to an excellent 13 minute video with John Muir Laws explaining and demonstrating the process for nature journaling.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught.

Write a caption which summarizes what the cartoon above tells us about teaching. 

One of ways we begin teacher training workshops is with the cartoon and caption-writing exercise above. Over the years we've heard many answers, but most come down to some variation of, "if the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught". It's clear that the 'teacher' (the policeman) is sharing a lot of information, but the 'student''s understanding is jumbled. Will the pedestrian actually make it to his destination? Will the student retain the learning? 

What's needed is for the teacher to break down the learning into steps, and to include formative assessments to be sure that the student understands and can recall what's being taught. Maybe some map work would be in order? 

As teachers we need to always remember that it's not what we said in class that matters, but what students learned. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Implementing Teaching Labs

To be as impactful as possible, teacher training should be as realistic as possible. This can be difficult in a school situation, as we don't have live students in teacher meetings with which to practice methods or approaches. That would be an interesting exercise, but probably not often practical. 

Schools can use role-plays and analysis of video, or, even better, live lessons with teachers as the 'class' to make the situations more realistic.

Having teachers engage in teaching, even in a short format, will require then to think carefully through the steps of the 'lesson', and the following time for critique and analysis gives  valuable feedback to both the teacher and the participants and observers. 

Implementing Teaching Labs