Why, after 27 years of teaching am I dipping my foot into blogging? Well, I have had some very respected friends tell me I need to share why I am so passionate about understanding the thinking of students and why I crusade daily to help teachers understand what wealth of information they can get about their own teaching and the learning of their students when they encourage student discussion and defense of answers given. So let the journey begin here and let’s joyfully ride this roller coaster and experience the thrill it has to offer!
It was a simple third grade writing prompt that opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to dig deeper into my students’ thinking.
My son had written a piece in response to the prompt “Write about your dream pet”. He had received a particularly low score for his work so naturally I was curious as to what went wrong. As we began to review the paper I noticed that he had received no credit for writing to the prompt. I read the prompt myself and then reviewed his paper. Indeed he had not written to the prompt. He had not written about any pet he could have if the typical restrictions were removed. Instead he had written about a flying dragon that lived in a cave in a mountain. When I tried to explain to him that he had not written to the prompt he insisted that he had. I explained that flying dragons were not real and thus couldn’t be his “dream” pet. His explanation to his thought process brought everything into focus. He had dreamed of this animal the night before the writing exercise during his sleep and therefore it was indeed a “dream” pet.
Had I not probed his thought process I would have never known that he was not only writing to the prompt but was indeed quite creative in his response. I then began to question my own teaching. How many times had I done this to a student? How many times could I have clarified a student’s response by asking for proof or evidence or asked for an explanation? That was the moment when I truly understood the necessity of talking with my students to understand their thoughts. Understanding their thoughts via questioning gave me tremendous insight into my teaching and their learning.
Most of my probing and questioning and clarifying was in language arts, science and social science. I had not yet made the connection to math. I mean math was pretty straight forward right? Why question it? What good was talking about the solution? You get the numbers, manipulate the numbers with the proper algorithm and get your solution. Simple enough.
That was about eight months ago………and a separate post.