This is the second post in a series of reflections on my class throughlines. You can read the first post and general overview of the throughlines here.
At PDS reading is a core class all by itself. Strong reading skills are key to becoming an independent learner and thinker. Therefore, our students have a separate reading class as well as a regular English class focused on language arts.
How can we become more thoughtful readers and writers?
Prior to my current position, most of my teaching had been in traditional English classes. I had taken classes on teaching reading, but it had never been my primary focus. I wasn’t certain how to teach 6th grade reading. Fortunately, at PDS my classroom is next door to Alice Parker’s room, and Alice is an amazing and experienced reading teacher. Through conversations with Alice, I narrowed the focus of my class. By observing Alice teaching, I discovered practical ways to help my students develop into more critical and creative thinkers. I want my students to think well, and I want them to become better thinkers through awareness of their thought processes and through reflection on that thinking. In other words, much of my class focuses on students’ reading metacognition.
Alice and I teach the first trimester of 6th grade reading together. We take the 6th grade classes and divide each into two small groups. Alice teaches one small group while I teach the other. Her group reads a different book than my group, and after six weeks the students switch teachers. As they read, students mark their books using metacognition strategies they have previously learned from Alice in the 5th grade. (She teaches small group reading to fifth graders, too.) During one of the first activities Alice and I ask our 6th graders, “What does a thoughtful reader look like?” Then, we break the students into collaborative teams to brainstorm responses to the question. Their answers show their general understanding of the need for reading metacognition.
In addition to having my students document their thinking, I also directly instruct my students in certain thinking processes. For example, I teach my students how to brainstorm effectively. They know “the guidelines for brainstorming,” and they know kinesthetic movements that help them remember each guideline. I also teach them to use the Ladder of Feedback protocol when making observations in the classroom, but I confess I need to revisit the protocol with my students more often.
Not only do I have my students check their reading metacognition and teach them specific thinking processes, but also I use thinking routines in class instruction to make students’ thinking visible. I’ve written before about using See Think Wonder on the first day of class, but I also use it occasionally when introducing a new concept or theme. In addition to See Think Wonder, so far I’ve incorporated the following thinking routines into my reading instruction over the past two years:
- What Makes You Say That?
- Think Puzzle Explore
- I used to Think… Now I think…
- 3-2-1 Bridge
- Colour, Symbol, Image
- Compass Points
- Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate
- Claim Support Question
When using these routines, my student write down and share their thinking with the class so that we can talk about it. I try to allow time for student reflection after each thinking routine, but I admit it’s an area where I need to improve. When I first identified the throughlines, I imagined my students blogging regularly but that hasn’t materialized. We write in our “thinking books” often, and we occasionally share our writing, but I’m not satisfied with the amount of writing we do nor with our lack of an authentic audience.
I want my students to write, but I haven’t found the balance between reading and writing in the class yet. Thoughtful readers should also be thoughtful writers, but I’m still trying to figure out the writing aspect of it. I’m also wondering if I need to expand my definition of writing. I tend to think of writing in terms of traditional text or manuscript. Should I revise it to include other forms of creative expression (art, film, music, speech, or physical expression)?
Overall, I believe I’m making progress in designing toward the How can we become more thoughtful readers and writers? throughline, but I can improve. I want us to write more. Specifically, I want us to write for a more authentic audience. I want my students to blog. I also want to integrate more fine arts and more reflection into the class.
What do you think? Does any of this make sense? What questions do you have about this thread or how it’s woven into the class?