Why is that? I have come to believe that a big reason for this is because in a classroom, we are teaching readers and writers how to think. Modeling thinking is quite different than throwing a ball up in the air and serving it over the net. Modeling thinking may even seem a bit unnatural and silly at first. So here's the ultimate question: how do I model my thinking for students? In my opinion, this is the largest piece that is missed by teachers in classrooms. We may even think we are modeling our thinking when in reality, we are simply giving directions for how to do a task. We tell students, we write directions on the board, on worksheets, we repeat ourselves over and over, and then we inevitably complain when our students aren't able to get the work done how we visualized it should be. A critical step that is missed between giving directions and expecting students to be able to apply those directions to a task is modeling our thinking. It is our responsibility to speak the little voice that happens inside of our heads out loud so that the same voice can become the voice inside students' heads. Modeling thinking will create students who are problem solvers. It is also a key step in the gradual release of responsibility that we should all be infusing into our classrooms, regardless of our students' ages.
Here are some steps to take in order to open up your thinking in your classroom:
1. Think backwards. Whatever you are going to ask students to do during the application phase of your minilesson, think about how you would model the thinking involved in order to be able to complete that application.
2. Create the end result. Say I am doing a reading minilesson such as, "Readers notice what a character says in dialogue so that they are able to learn more about that character through his/her words." During the application of this minilesson, I would ask my students to notice and jot down a piece of dialogue in their independent reading books and infer what that dialogue reveals about the character's personality, though processes, relationships, etc. So in order to model this for my students, I would need to prepare what this would look like using a common text from an interactive read aloud we've shared as a class. Another option would be to have the piece of dialogue ready and do a shared writing of the application with the class.
3. Don't stop there. It is such a support to have the end result right in front of students so that they can see what it could look like, but don't just show it and say, now do it. Open up your mind to students. I would share things like:
-What was I thinking when I selected the quote from the story.
-What did I already know from the story about the character?
-What were some inferences that I made about the character based on the quote?
-Why did I think this was a good inference? What were other possibilities that I considered?
-How does making inferences using dialogue throughout the story about characters help me as a reader?
4. Scaffold the learning experience. Next, give students a chance to try out this new approach to thinking that you have just modeled for them in a supported environment. Using your interactive read aloud text, select another quote from a new character and ask students to turn and talk with a partner about what they can infer based on this piece of dialogue. Walk around the room and listen in on conversations to see if students are applying similar thinking concepts in order to come up with logical inferences. You have now gradually released responsibility onto them without fully putting the task in their court before they're ready for it.
5. Application. At the end of your minilesson, have student independently take on the learning and look for dialogue in their own independent reading books and make inferences about the characters based on that dialogue. They have had two supported experiences before you're asking them to take on the independent learning.
6. Share. After students have had time to work independently, gather back together as a whole class and have students share out their responses. The share portion of a minilesson is a time for celebration to give students positive feedback for the work and thinking they have completed. It's also a time that is very supportive for a student who may not have been able to fully apply the minilesson. Hearing his//her classmates share our their thinking may give that student the extra boost he/she needed to complete the minilesson. The share portion of a minilesson is also a perfect time for formative assessment to see who is and isn't "getting it." I sometimes have my students get into a big circle and quickly share out their application. If I notice a few students who did not get the application done, I'll keep them after class and ask:
-What prevented you from getting the minilesson done?
-How can I support you in being able to get the minilesson done?
So when you get gut-level honest with yourself, how often do you fully support your students in modeling your thought process and giving them a supported chance to try it out before asking them do complete a task? I guarantee that the modeling will get more and more natural each time, and you will have more students attempting to work independently. When students see their teacher as a learner too who has to think in order to accomplish something, they relate to the application a lot more and see it as a worthy learning endeavor. Most importantly though, when they're working through something as a reader or writer and don't know what to do, that voice that turns on might not be telling them to just give up. Instead, they may hear you and the questions that go on inside your head when problem solving.
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Also, I am planning on starting new novel units for my TpT store similar to my Tuck Everlasting Unit. Which novel would you like to see me do first:
-Out of the Dust
-The Hunger Games
-The Fault in our Stars
I would LOVE your feedback and/or comments about this blog post! :)