Day 7: Liddy Allee Coyle, Teacher on Special Assignment

Have you ever thought about thinking? Crazy, huh?

I do this all the time. I wonder how to support people’s thinking. As teachers, this should be our focus; to help students think. A well established approach to instruction is the “gradual release of responsibility” model. Teachers work to guide students’ thinking by modeling how they think, then let the students try their own thinking. But now, I am thinking it is also important to let students stumble in their thinking and to be there to help them grow their ideas. Many of us in Ithaca are grappling with this idea of helping kids grapple with thinking.

How do we help students develop their own ways of thinking? Mike Schmoker, in Focus, Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning, has a simple idea. Have students read, read, read. Then have them write, write, write about what they read. Of course, this work is supported by teacher modeling and checking for understanding, but the focus is the students’ thinking! Time is made for student discussions and debates around important questions brought up by the texts read.

This is an important focus for home as well. Parents and children can read or watch things together, then discuss and debate whatever seems important. Read the paper, a magazine, a flyer pulled from the backpack. Watch the news, a great movie or documentary. Tell each other what you think about what you read or heard. Think together!

As a teacher of teachers, my work is to support the growth of how adults think, so they in turn can support the growth of childrens’ thinking. Sure, we have a lot of nuts and bolts of teaching to cover, but how we think about teaching can evolve as well. Ellie Drago-Severson describes this development as “Ways of Knowing”. Are you rule-based? other-focused? reflective? interconnecting? If this sounds confusing or new, I got you to think! If you want to know more, Google any of the terms and see what you get. Or you can read about the work here: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/ learn-as-you-go/four-ways-of-knowing

If you would like to read more of Mike Schmoker’s thinking, here is a short slide show of quotes from his book, Focus. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29aQLL0g–A

I don’t agree with everything he says, but what do you think? Let the thinking begin!

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