Thinking Routines

I have had a lot of ideas floating through my head. I have lists of things to write about. LISTS is not an exaggeration either. I have lists on my computer; lists on my phone; lists on post-its in my paper planner. I seem to have more ideas than I have time to flesh out. Now that comment writing season is behind me, I hope that I will have more time to write.

In the meantime, I have two small personal goals for my classroom: get the kids to think for themselves, and get them out of their seats and moving. In the last few years, I have faced a conundrum. It seemed like any time I asked students to think and make connections they fight me. I can’t even tell you how many times I have had my classroom fall quiet for a few seconds after I pose a question only to have a student abruptly say, “Oh, Mrs. Lindsay, just tell us what to write down.” Even years after attending Project Zero, participating in workshops with Grant Wiggins, and facilitating numerous other professional development opportunities; I would feel like I had run out of ideas to get kids to look at the subject differently. I struggled with how to go deeper, yet “teach” all of the content with our rushed schedule. Defeated, I would do what many teachers had clearly done before me. I would give them the answer. I felt and still feel that this was not the purpose of education at all.

For me, there was another underlying concern as well. Because my students were constantly taking notes or “doing” a project, they rarely moved. While I rarely have behavior issues in my class, I knew this was not appropriate for this age group. I have a hard time sitting still for an hour myself. So, as a result, I have been trying to find opportunities to get the kids thinking more and moving more. Sometimes the solutions are simple and low-tech.

For this thinking routine, I wanted kids to make connections between one idea and another regarding the fall of Rome. The idea was for the students to realize that there wasn’t just ONE cause for the fall of Rome in the Western Empire. So, I had the students use post-it notes to attach to the white board in the classroom. They were constantly moving between their seats to review their notes, consult with a friend and read other students’ post-its. Then, they would add their own. For an hour, every student was engaged. They consulted with one another, and I rarely saw any students off-task. I moved about with them as well. The solution was simple and effective. Students raved about the class time and felt they understood the idea more easily because as one student said, “they interacted with the information instead of being told what to think.” Funny how the tides have turned.

The First Days of School–a shift

http://bit.ly/1stdays
http://bit.ly/1stdays

When I was in graduate school, one of my textbooks was The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong. Interestingly enough, it was also given to me on my first day of employment at my current school. Wong’s book is intended for new teachers to help create proper classroom management procedures and routines early in the school year, especially on the first day of school and within the first week.

I loved Wong’s book. It spoke to my need for order in chaos. However, as I began to develop my own understanding of how middle school classrooms should be. I found I preferred to create an environment of controlled chaos. As a result, I began to move away from Wong’s methodology in a few ways. I value the principle of creating routines early in the school, but I chose to do it in a more age appropriate fashion.

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