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Monday, March 10, 2014

How Do You Know?

From the very beginning of the school year, I have been asking the crew two questions all the time whenever they gave an answer or added to a group discussion:
  1. How do you know?
  2. How did you figure that out?
At first they did not like it at all. They thought I was telling them that they were wrong and they would immediately try to change their answer or comment. Some of them stopped raising their hands to contribute for a while because they didn't want to answer these questions. Now, though, they know that I really am asking them how they figured something out and love to answer this type of question. We have come a long way since the beginning of the year. No one shies away from answering my questions anymore. They love it. Below are a few examples of this and how I am now able to push them in their thinking more and more each day and how they welcome it. I told the crew that we are in the "sweet spot" of first grade right now and I meant that they are capable of so much and they we all trust each other and can share without feeling uncomfortable - even when we are not quite right in our sharing. We are open to changing our minds.

Reading - We have been talking a lot about how the point of reading is to get the message that the author is presenting. We know that it is still important to read the words correctly but now we have to think about what we are reading and see if we understand it. To bring this point home to the crew, I read them a poem called "sun" by Valerie Worth (click here and scroll down to the last poem on the page to read it). I showed them that while we could read all of the words correctly the first time through that it took us a while to figure out what the poem was actually saying. (It took us a while to figure out that there wasn't really a quilt on the floor for the cat to lay on!) Anyway, they enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other and trying to figure out this very short poem. It was eye-opening to many of them that they had to do this even though they could read all of the words. Throughout the discussion, I asked them, "How do you know?' and they were able to go back to the poem to use the lines that helped them figure out their thinking. Quite a feat!

Math - We learned a new game using shapes called "Make My Design". The premise of the game is simple. One person creates a design using blocks behind a file folder "wall" and then tries to get the other partner to create the same design by using only words (no hand gestures) to describe how to place the blocks (neither partner can see what the other is doing because they have a file folder set up between them - see the pictures below).

This is a huge exercise of the communication skills. The crew thought that this was going to be very easy but that turned out not to be true. After playing for a little while and hearing several of the students who were giving directions feel frustrated, we regrouped to talk about what was happening. We had the students watch Ms. Wendy and I play a game in the middle of our group circle and talk about what they saw us doing and why. We talked about how to give very explicit directions but the biggest point we made was that the game wasn't over once you revealed the designs. This was when the hard part began. We asked them to talk to each other to think of other ways that they could have given their directions once they saw what each other was doing. Again, quite an exercise in communication and critical thinking.

Expedition - During Expedition one day I asked the crew what they thought the worms did for the soil and the soil did for the worms. After hearing their responses, I pushed their thinking by asking them, "How do you know?". This led to all kinds of responses like: "I just know", "My dad told me", "I saw it in a book" and "I read it on the internet". Of course, my follow up question was: "How did your dad/ the author of the book or piece on the internet figure that out?". This question baffled the crew. They answered that scientists told the authors, etc. I countered with, "Well, how did the scientists figure it out?" which led them to say that the scientists looked it up on the internet and now we were stuck. It took lots of probing and pushing to get to the idea that scientists observe and do experiments to figure things out. We decided to set up our own experiment to see if we could tell if worms help the soil. We have worms in soil in our worm farm and we have a jar of dirt with no worms in it. We are going to compare the dirt later to see if we can see a difference. Again, lots of thinking and learning went into setting up this simple experiment but this is how Expeditionary Learning works. This experiment is going to matter more to them since they came up with it rather than me telling them what we were going to do.

P.S. This also led to a long discussion of how things get on the internet in the first place and how we need to be sure we are looking a good sites when we look for information.

Ms. Pam's Blog
Now if I haven't worn you out completely, then take a few minutes to check out Ms. Pam's latest blog post, Teaching and Learning to Read Visual Images, to see more of this kind of thinking. Our crew is one of the crews featured on this post.  Remember there is a link to Ms. Pam's blog on the sidebar of our crew blog so you can check it frequently.

Reading ~ Read a good book or two.
Math ~ Home Link 7.5 Practicing with Fact Triangles

Important Dates
3/15 Life is Art Adult Fundraiser 6 - 10 pm
Week of 3/17 to 3/21 Student Led Conferences - check our Sign Up Genius page for more details
Week of 3/17 to 3/21 Spring Climbing  in P.E.
3/21 Student DO have school on this day (other schools in the district do not)
4/7 No School for Students - Teacher Workday (other schools in the district have school this day)

1 comment:

  1. While Skyping with Sam tonight, I pulled up the blog and we were able to ask him about some of what you wrote about. Technology is great!
    Really enjoyed all the poems as well.