Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapter 1 Kids Want to Know

If I can say one thing this chapter was affirming. I love the way diversity of thinking and learning is going on in the scenarios they present. I think that is something I see in my classroom all the time and really love about being a teacher. I appreciate the discussion about asking students to look back and reflect on their learning (pg. 3). As teachers I think sometimes that is easy to neglect as we keep our busy pace with kids. So how can we ensure we take time to have students be reflective? How would that look? Charts to compare and contrast, open discussions, turn and talk, reflective writing or illustrating? I certainly think that is something we need to incorporate in our community building in the first 20 days. I like the idea of the words, "What lingering questions do you have?" It is so inviting and at the same time makes you feel as if that is the expectation and it is ok to have lingering questions.
I began to think that book clubs (as we conduct them) are inquiry circles, writing partnerships can at times be an inquiry grouping, social studies groups are all about inquiry, etc.

So my question is this: In book clubs could we not ask students to explore, reflect, and write about theme, etc in a deeper way? Can we push our thinking on this?

The last paragraph on page 6 to top of page 7 really got me excited because I could feel many of these things in my classroom and observe them. Malissa you and I got to see this when both our classes came together to finish out the year in social studies and I feel we hit the nail on the head. We were facilitators of kid's learning.

What about that quote about fifth graders were spending 91% of their school day either listening to a teacher talk or working alone! I'd die on the vine if I had to conduct my classroom like that.

How about the top of page 14 as our motto: "We teach thinking all year, every year: we teach students how to listen, view, read, gather, and engage with information; we make sure students acquire cognitive strategies, weigh ideas, develop judgment, and build knowledge; and just as important, we help them to remember, care, choose and take action"

I can't wait to read what you all have to say.
Susan C


  1. I am waiting for my copy to arrive. I received a phone call today and should be here Friday, but as I read your post I was reminded of Ellin's To Understand. We aren't asking them to be little sponges who just soak up and then squeeze out their knowledge. We are asking them to apply it. We are asking them to synthesize all material whether it is SS or LA.

    In response to your question on theme in book clubs. One thing I noticed this year is how my students began to understand that Andrew Clements had a theme through out the books we read. I was so impressed with my readers as they grasped this. I guess because I never told them. The even better thing is it was the boys who figured it out. One of our novels studies was divided: Girls one novel and boys another. Then we came together. During this discussion in April (amid test prep....supposedly) this took place. I have to say. It made my month; my year. To see their sharing and discussion turn into a time where sometimes I may have to step in, but THEY are in control. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!

    Malissa and I have already discussed how I might possibly carry this book into 5th grade. I just feel that what I do during literacy workshop is not the same when we turn to SS. Now, I must admit. Many of my non fiction reading pieces were high interest pieces for our units of US History. But we did not neccessarily read from the assigned text for fifth grade.

    I am looking forward to the arrival of the book and once again, my Bohemian friends, looking forward to the continuation of my journey of learning.


  2. I appreciate your reference to Ellin's work. It is so true.
    Isn't it a great thing when you feel like you are on the outside of the "fishbowl" and the kids are running the show! That is a testimony to your hard,deliberate,focused work not a "Wonder how that happened?" moment. Those are the events we need to reflect on. To analyze how we brought our students to that point.
    Susan C

  3. I really connected to the top of page 12. When I try to analyze how my kids get to the point of "running the show," I think it starts the very first day of school when they are given permission to talk to one another and ask questions themselves. I love the quote, "Time and again, we noticed that when kids have authentic opportunities to read, think, and talk together, their curiosity explodes and their questions come fast and furiously." Their thinking is welcomed (expected) and therefore, their interest and engagement in the process of learning increases dramatically.

    When I read, "When we teach kids to think and work together, learning is more seamless. When kids learn and practice strategies to comprehend what they read, hear, and see and when they learn the social skills necessary to work in small groups, their inquiries soar." I feel so reassured that what we are doing is right on. Devoting the first twenty days to this is so important. Continuing to model, discuss, and gradually release responsibility to the kids over the course of the year is key to the success we had with SS at the end of the year.

    I don't think we can undersestimate how important our practice of giving students choice is. The chart on page 13 entitled "Principles of Inquiry Circles" has that as its #1 principle. Whether it's the novel they are reading for book clubs, their writing topic, or the topic of research in SS, they can't wait to get started and to TALK about their thinking and learning with their group.

    I want to make sure my kids know that I value their thinking and questions. They never cease to amaze me. It's a mindset I've developed and accepted. I don't know it all - can't possibly. I have a classroom of 26 or 27 intelligent individuals. Working together we can learn so much more than we could ever learn on our own. Let's get busy and learn together.


  4. I just finished Ch. 1 and I am in such awe of Steph and Smokey. My favorite pieces of literacy workshop displayed across the curriculum over and over again in the examples they discussed. The one thing that sticks with me from this chapter is creating a community of thinkers. Todays test-driven push has not increased the standard by which we "judge" students and teachers, but created a teaching room that requires students to only be able to answer a multiple choice question instead of asking the questions themselves and finding the answer. This book is exciting. I feel as if I can hear Steph right beside me as I read the words of the text.

    On to Chapter 2!!