Friday, January 23, 2015

modeling your thinking

One of the instructional strategies that has a lot of research to support its use is the think-aloud. This strategy can feel awkward at first, but is so beneficial for students of all ages in all content areas to see the work in action. It moves beyond modeling something, as it really seeks to uncover thinking, rather than just the "doing" of something new. 

The think-aloud strategy is most often applied to reading texts across content areas to support comprehension. Teachers model their thinking as they read aloud, indicating places in the text where they employ strategies. This can be used across content areas, particularly when students are being asked to read more challenging content texts. When you get started using the think-aloud, it can help to use Hmmmm... as a signal that you are transitioning from the text to your thinking, so students don't get confused about what is in the text and what is in your thinking.

Below are a few cues if you need ideas for sentence starters in read-alouds (adapted from Schoenbach, R., Greenleaf, C. L., & Murphy, L. (2012) Reading for Understanding. San Fracisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. and Wilhelm, J. D. (2001). Strategic Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton Cook:
  • I predict... (prediction)
  • I think the next part... (prediction)
  • Why did... (questioning)
  • What did... (questioning)
  • Why was... (questioning)
  • Should there... (questioning)
  • I picture... (visualizing)
  • This is similar to... (making connections)
  • This reminds me of... (making connections)
  • I got confused when... (monitoring)
  • I'm not sure of... (monitoring)
  • I didn't expect... (monitoring)
  • I think next time I'll... (monitoring)
  • I think this is mainly about... (summarizing)
  • I think the most important part is... (summarizing)
For these think-alouds, I'm talking broadly about "text" - math problems, learning objectives, lab reports, images, song lyrics, sports rules, speeches - you name it. The think-aloud is widely adaptable to the work of teachers, and is really effective for helping apprentice students into the thinking of any discipline.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

transitioning from break

While most teachers count down the days until break, many students find breaks from school to be difficult. Many students live in challenging homes and neighborhoods, and the uncertainty and lack of structure for some students makes breaks from school hard.

Spending time with students transitioning after a break (or even a weekend) can help students refocus and center the class on the relationships built and community of the classroom. Some questions to use as openers for transition are found in the book When Teaching Gets Tough: Smart Ways to Reclaim Your Game by Allen Mendler (2012).  Here are a few to get started:
  • What is one thing you did, saw, or heard this weekend that was interesting?
  • Who would like to share something important that happened to them?
  • Is there anything that happened that made you feel happy? sad? mad? disappointed? scared?
  • What is something that made you feel proud? What would make you feel even more proud?
Giving students a chance to share their experiences, fears, or hopes can help them before beginning back to work.

What are some ways you help your students transition back to school after a weekend or a break?