In a recent Huffington Post essay, Eric Maisels presented an argument for ‘adding thinking to the school day’ . I totally agree with this sentiment:
If your intention is to have students manifest their potential, you need to do more than stuff their heads with facts on the one hand, or provide them with unstructured freedom on the other. You need to provide students with appropriate guidance that motivates them to think and motivates them to create — an environment that supports their intellectual and creative efforts.
He talks about encouraging students to ‘think big’, which I agree is essential. But I do not agree with his suggestion to set aside 45 minutes each day for students to ponder big questions, write down their thoughts, and present them if they wish.
I don’t believe that thinking is something you can do for one period a day. If students are to develop the habit of thinking deeply, they will need to be exposed to big ideas and given opportunities to ponder big questions throughout the day. Ron Ritchhart, in his workshops and in his book ‘Intellectual Character’, talks about creating a culture of thinking ‘in which thinking is valued,visible, and actively promoted as part of theregular, day-to-day experience of all group members’. I’ve suggested some ways to engender a culture of thinking in the classroom, in a previous post. If you haven’t explored the Project Zero Visible Thinking website, I highly recommend it.
Start with your question, topic, or provocation. Each student gets nine sticky notes and writes one idea on each. In pairs or groups, they pool their ideas and negotiate them down to a total of nine. This requires the ability to provide supporting evidence for keeping your suggestions in. Finally, prioritise the ideas according to the ‘diamond ranking’ …the most important goes at the top, the least important at the bottom and so on.
The kids were totally engaged and their discussion was meaningful and relevant. They are used to thinking about big ideas and evaluating issues … they don’t only do it for 45 minutes a day.
It was only after the lesson that I thought we should have grabbed some laptops and done the activity in linoit, rather than on paper. This would have allowed inclusion of images, embedding in a wiki or blog, sharing and commenting.
I just wasn’t thinking…