Friday, October 31, 2014

Learning Expectations for Students: How Making Thinking Visible Strategies Can Help

Establishing clear learning expectations for students is a critical part of the teaching and learning process. In order to achieve a true learning platform in your classroom, this must go beyond simply posting standards on the wall. The following are all important aspects of this process:
  •  Teachers deeply understand the content, context, and cognitive requirements of the standards
  • Teachers explicitly communicate learning expectations so students clearly understand them and can communicate and take ownership over their own learning
  • Teachers design learning tasks that closely align to the content, context, and cognitive requirements of the standards
  • Teachers and students monitor learning toward achievement of standards
While there are countless strategies that can help teachers design a culture around the learning standards in the classroom, the following Making Thinking Visible strategies represent best-practice instruction that will engage students in not only understanding the standards, but also interacting with, analyzing, and reflecting upon their learning progress:

Click "Read More" below to explore the strategies

1. The Explanation Game: students first examine the words in the standard and try to think through what each word means to them, then in the next step they combine all of the words to think through what the standard represents as a whole. This strategy essentially causes students to unpack the TEKS and then put them back together. This is best used in a collaborative environment where students can openly share their thinking as they work through the process of moving their thinking from part to whole.

2. Headlines: students discuss the standard and then capture its meaning by writing a headline of their own. They could include how they will show if they have learned it in their headlines, as well. This strategy causes students to reflect upon the standard and paraphrase it in a way that holds meaning to them. More important than the headlines themselves is the thinking behind them, so be sure to allow students to discuss the WHYs behind their headlines.

3. Think, Puzzle, Explore: students are asked to think about the standard, then discuss what they find puzzling (what they wonder, what questions they have about it), and finally explore the standard (this could be a discovery activity or perhaps the lesson itself would be their exploration). Finally, students come back throughout and at the end of the lesson to answer the questions they generated about the standard during the Puzzle step. This strategy allows the teacher to focus the students on the learning standard throughout the lesson so that they can reflect upon their understanding.

4. Connect, Extend, Challenge: first, students find connections between the standard and other concepts/skills they have already learned. Then, during or after the lesson, they think/discuss about how their learning has been extended. Finally, they discuss and perhaps even record in a type of exit ticket, what challenges they still face (questions, struggles) in regards to learning the standard. This is another strategy that allows the teacher to focus the students on the learning standard throughout the lesson so that they can reflect upon their understanding.

5. Chalk Talk: students are shown the standard and each writes for one minute about what they think the standard means. Then, students move around the room to read others' and add to them. This could even be done in small groups, where the entire group collaborates to write about the standard and then moves to another group's area to add to their thinking. Chalk Talk provides processing time for students, but also allows for discussion and collaboration so that students' thinking can build off of one another and so that the teacher can hear their thinking in order to identify areas where students are struggling with understanding.

6. 3-2-1 Bridge: at beginning of the lesson, students write a 3-2-1 for the standard (3 words, 2 questions, 1 metaphor or simile). At the end of the lesson, students write another 3-2-1 for the standard now that have learned and experienced it. Finally, in the Bridge step, students discuss how their understanding has shifted or changed as a result of the lesson. This shift should be reflected in differences between the pre and post 3-2-1. Students will be thinking at high levels during this strategy - analyzing the standard and making connections to other concepts as they work to develop metaphors. Like with all MTV strategies, the thinking behind the words, questions, metaphors, and shifts is most important, so be sure to include intentional opportunities for discussion.

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