There are two phases for acquiring and incorporating new information: Learning and Demonstration. This week, let’s focus on how to develop students’ learning, mainly through metacognition. Next week, we will explore ways in which we can support the demonstration process.
What is metacognition? Simply put, it’s the ability to think about our own thinking—to be able to consider how we got to what we think we know. But this takes time! How, you may be wondering, do we do that in this “hurry up and learn” environment we are immersed in? We purposely plan time and routines for students to observe, connect, and extend. We encourage and allow students (and ourselves!) to slow down, process, and know what they think. Then teachers and students can engage in meaningful and rigorous discussion in the classroom. Fortunately for us, there are some simple ways to get students to visually and verbally record their thinking so they can respond meaningfully to our high-level questions.
●Watch and listen closely from 0:30–0:57 seconds.
●Did you catch the phrase, “Now that I’ve given you time to think about this, connect with this, and extend your thinking, ...you are going to talk at your tables and write headlines [single-sentence summaries].”
●This video is a prime example of what the Learning-to-Demonstrating cycle looks like in action.
○LEARN: provide students time, opportunity, and classroom support to integrate new knowledge, in this case thinking, connecting, and extending thinking (and maybe using some strategies we’ll get to soon!)
○DEMONSTRATE: after students have had time to process new information, they are given meaningful ways to express their understanding—in this case through creating headlines, which is way more interesting than writing a summary sentence.
(For more thinking routines, check out the Making Thinking Visible website and book.)
●Observe: When students are learning something new, provide them with artifacts, patterns, examples, non-examples, objects, facts, and processes they can OBSERVE and think about. Remember the basic questions you’re implementing. What is…? What characteristics…? What’s notable…? What do these have in common? What are their differences?
●Connect: As students continue learning, use explicit questions. Students may connect to prior knowledge and experience. On the other hand, they may not have this prior knowledge, and you can help them make connections among patterns among the artifacts they’ve observed- connecting fiber, if you will. These are the building questions you’re implementing. What other examples can you think of? Can you think of non-examples? What have you learned previously that’s similar/different? What is the connection?
●Explore: Students should begin to ask questions of their own. They may take the learning from provided examples, or from more general examples. At this point, they may not know the answers to the questions but they are exploring possibilities. These are the breakthrough questions you’re implementing. Is this always true? sometimes true?
When thinking is visible in classrooms, students are in a position to be more metacognitive, to think about their thinking. When thinking is visible, it becomes clear that school is not about memorizing content but exploring ideas. Teachers benefit when they can see students' thinking because misconceptions, prior knowledge, reasoning ability, and degrees of understanding are more likely to be uncovered. Teachers can then address these challenges and extend students' thinking by starting from where they are. http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/01_VisibleThinkingInAction/01b_WhyMake.html
Making Thinking Visible provides several thinking routines that are great to use with initial introduction of a new topic. Routines such as See, Think, Wonder can be used to activate all parts of new learning integration.
Here’s a great example of See, Think, Wonder in action to start a new unit.
Notice how this video demonstrates all 3 components of the learning cycle: observe, connect, and explore. Also note that the students are reading from notes, indicating that prior to this group discussion they had time to think and record their ideas.
- Observe: Students observed and commented on pictures.
- Connect: The teacher responds to Ideas in a way that continues to model metacognition with statements such as:
- “Why do you think that?”
- “I’m glad you added ‘because’…”
- Students are justifying thinking.
- Connecting to previous studies (~6:05 in video)
- Explore: Students who are still working to synthesize this new information are able to build on examples others have already worked through.
Now it’s your turn! What’s the next new topic of study for your students?
●Look back and review options offered in the CONNECT section.
●Which classroom tool will you use to structure students’ input for new knowledge?
○Repetition: Use the same one or two carefully selected tools repeatedly in your class as you introduce new topics. The goal is to teach students how to think. Repetition is key to developing automaticity. When students get to the Demonstrating phase they’ll have an opportunity to vary the tools they use.
○Importance of Implementation: This is the slow time for students to process, reflect, put into their own words, and revise, all while in a safe zone without fear of penalty in the event of a wrong or unacceptable answer.
Helping students understand their thought processes and to think critically is the on ramp to being able to respond to and ask thoughtful questions that go far beyond a simple yes-or-no answer!
Next, we'll discuss the demonstration end of this process.