Saturday, February 02, 2013

Explain Your Thinking

Upcoming tests demand that students explain their thinking in math, reading and writing with clarity, organization and voice.

This is an essential, worthy skill--one that most adults continue to work on in their professional and personal lives.

Also, in this digital age we live in, there are so many more tools to help us explain our thinking with pictures, numbers, and words including video, song, slide shows, drama and more.

And, in this day of greater complexity due to tremendous access to information and an ever increasing global interdependence, it is more important than ever that people are able to share and understand ideas, thoughts, information and needs with clarity and precision in order to create harmonious communities and world solutions.

Hence, how can I begin to develop these skills in young learners, and continue to develop these skills for my own learning and intersection.
  • Model: Model the process.  Research demonstrates that modeling strategies is an effective teaching tool, hence I will regularly model "explaining your thinking" across the curriculum for students.
  • Practice: Give students the chance to explain their thinking often throughout the curriculum.  
  • Digital Tools: Use digital tools to help students refine, repeat and clarify their thinking into one presentation piece, then use the presentation pieces (videos) to invite compliments and critique as well as to promote student-to-student modeling of this effort.
  • Quiet Time: Promote quiet time when students have the chance to think, ponder, illustrate and write about their thinking--one can only explain his/her thinking well if he/she has time to think and plan.
  • Structure: Provide students with structures such as graphic organizers, mnemonic devices and rubrics to guide their work.
  • Audience: Student work is motivated by audience.  Set an audience at the start of each project.  Talk about the audience, and think about what that audience will need in order to understand your explanations.
  • Close Reading: Foster comprehension and fluency skills so that students are able to work with text on both literal and inferential levels to gain meaning with breadth and depth.
  • Investment: Create investment by sharing real-life stories of "explain your thinking" that improved a situation or caused strife and discord.  There's always stories like this in the news everyday. Matching the stories to current curriculum focus will help too.
What's important to you as you think about "explaining your thinking?"  What's important as you think about teaching this skill to students?  This will be the overall theme of the next leg of the school year so I'm interested in your thoughts.