"Establish a classroom discourse in which people notice and can talk about change with an eye toward possibility." Peter Johnston, Opening Minds (p. 50)
Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. Today's #cyberPD event is hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion. If you are joining the conversation, you'll want to leave your link there. Jill will then add it to her post, and I will begin to move them into our Event Jog. You'll want to stop by to read the comments and to follow the links to other reflections. Last week we had over 25 blogs participating, in addition to reflections on the #cyberPD wallwisher and in the comments section of the host blog. Laura Komos will be hosting our final reflection post on the remaining chapters, Wednesday, July 25th, at Our Camp Read-A-Lot. Our Twitter chat will be Thursday, July 26th, at 7:00 p.m. EST. Also, keep an eye on Stenhouse's Blogstitute event where Peter Johnston will soon be joining the conversation.
I'm finding this book to be very helpful in reflecting upon the language I use in the classroom as I work beside young learners each day. It really may be one of the most thought-provoking professional books I've read in awhile, and I've read some amazing professional books that I would gladly reread. Johnston carefully supports his thinking with examples, helps the reader to see how this language would work in the classroom, and then shares the impact on future learning. I'm finding it helps me to envision truly giving more ownership in learning to my students. I'm beginning to develop a plan for helping them to move toward a dynamic-learning frame by improving the feedback they provide to themselves and to their peers.
Goodbye "I like the way..."
I'm sure I am not supposed to be judging my language as I read this book, but it is hard to resist. I think I'm supposed to be thinking, if I [have been saying this], and I [tried saying this instead], then [it would have this effect]. I appreciated Johnston's honesty in his section about praise. He caught my attention right away with his chosen chapter quote,
"The trouble with most of us is that we'd rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism." Norman Vincent PealeI'm a little guilty of saying, "I like the way...". Thankfully, as I reflect I seem to use it most to modify behavior, but I've been to known to say "I like the way..." before naming a strategy I see a student trying out. I appreciated Johnston's distinction between praising students and being positive. Johnston reminds us, "Reducing praise does not mean giving up being positive. Positive feedback...is particularly for establishing the foundation from which to build. (p. 47)" If I have been saying "I like the way..." and I start saying "look at how you" then students will begin to move toward process thinking which will greatly impact future learning. Goodbye, "I like the way..."
Leveling the Learning Field
Of course, saying "look at how you" may be a way of scaffolding learning, but it doesn't seem nearly as powerful as asking, "How did you..." and having students articulate the process to set up a narrative for future learning. Johnston discussed ways we, as teachers, can move ourselves out of a controlling role in the classroom:
- ask open ended questions
- give enough wait time
- genuinely listen, don't judge children's ideas (watch that language)
- allow students to specify who will respond
- use tentative markers (I wonder...could...)
Ultimately I want to move myself out of the position of being the person who provides feedback, and move students into the position of providing feedback for themselves and their peers. To do this, students will need to learn how to talk to one another. I know this will mean that the language I use will be important as it will be the model for the way discourse happens in the classroom. I hope to create an environment where students know how to teach each other. Learners will need to be comfortable taking risks in learning. Johnston reminds us, "We need to be certain that we are okay whether or not we are successful, are confused, or make mistakes."
I've always been a little nervous having visitors in my room. It's not a quiet classroom where everybody does their work. It's a classroom where students talk together during reader's, writer's, math workshop and content studies. It's not easy to teach students how talk can sound in a classroom. What are the conversations we should be having? How do we respect students who prefer a quieter place to learn? How should our voices sound? What do we do when a conversation gets off track? How do we remember what we learned from each other? How do we disagree? How do we grow thinking?
Johnston states, "Much of the feedback children receive comes from their peers (p. 36)." Thank you, Peter, for helping me to get a more concrete understanding of what language to use, listen for, and share with students. Johnston's discussion about feedback, dialogic classrooms, and language will be helpful in thinking about the conversations we have when we talk together, when we turn and talk in pairs, when we work with friends in Reader's Workshop, when we help another writer with a story, when small groups of mathematicians and scientists gather, and when we share at the closing of our workshops.
(When this list started there were over 20 quotes. I made myself cut the list to the 10 most important.)
- "Clearly, process- and effort-oriented feedback are the best options....I am inclined to go with process feedback...it gets children into the habit of explaining successes and failures in terms of strategy use....The more process talk becomes part of classroom conversations, the more strategy instruction will be occurring incidentally." (p. 40)
- "Even private praise has its complexities. When children are fully engaged in an activity, if we praise them we can simply distract them from what they are doing and turn their attention to pleasing us." (p. 42)
- "They (Troyer and Youngreen) found that when ideas could be criticized, the group generated more ideas and they were more creative than when either the person could be criticized or even when their was no evaluation at all." (p. 48)
- "Formative assessment isn't only the teacher's responsibility. In the end, the community members need to be able to recognize how to take stock of their own and each other's learning and respond to it in ways that provide a productive path forward." (p. 50)
- "A dialogic classroom is one in which there are lots of open questions and extended exchanges among students....classrooms in which there are multiple interpretations and perspectives." (p. 52)
- "They (students) understand that knowledge is constructed, that it is influenced by one's perspective and by different contexts, and that we should expect and value different perspectives because they help to expand our understanding." (p. 57)
- "It is the perception of uncertainty that enables dialogue." (p. 59)
- "We have to help them learn to imagine what goes on inside their heads, and not just the cognitive strategies being used to solve problems, but the complex social-emotional logic that lies behind their behavior." (p. 69)
- "Critical literacy requires imagining others' intentions, adopting multiple perspectives, and imagining social relationships that don't exist yet. Writers or speakers attempting to persuade an audience are more likely to be effective if they can imagine the feelings, reactions, and motives of their audience." (p. 73)
- "The more developed a person's social imagination, the higher their level of social cooperation, the larger their social network, and the more positively they are viewed by their peers." (p. 73)
- How will I change our goal setting conversation to help us move toward a dynamic-learning frame?
- How will I arrange for class members to manage turn talking with one another?
- How will conversations during conferring change so my role stays that of another reader/writer/mathematician and not the teacher with the ultimate answers?
- How will these chapters impact my role as a team member on grade level, building, and district teams?
- How do we maintain scholarly conversation about learning in data team meetings (where sometimes the goal is one learning objective for an entire grade level...conformity)?
- Considering social imagination, what different types of questions should we be asking about children brought to our intervention team for support with issues of behavior and social interactions?
Language for the Classroom
- How did you do that?
- Is there another way to do it?
- Could you think of other ways that would also work?
- Look at how you.... (which doesn't seem quite as powerful as "How did you...")
- [You did this] and if you [tried this], then [it would have this effect].
- It sounds like you have a different idea.
- So why do you think...
- I'm wondering...