Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Still Reflecting...

So apparently Ann and I read each other’s minds way too often.... As I was posting yesterday (Why Blog?), she texted me to share that she had just printed off 2 articles from Choice Literacy regarding how important REFLECTION was...

After reading them last night, I can agree that they are must reads (but isn't anything by Debbie Miller?!?). They are short and to the point, but truly go deep. Her message within both was to model leading a reflective life for our students. It just isn't about being reflective or even asking them to reflect. As Debbie shares, it is really about having your "disposition for thinking" on display and being present (Putting Ourselves in Our Teaching, 2006-2011). When you are mentally somewhere else in your teaching moment, or when you are moving from lesson to lesson {recipe to recipe}, you are not modeling good reflective practice. Rather, you are going through the motions.

Think of how much you remember after a getting ready in the morning, driving to work, or even cleaning your house- when you have been "going through the motions". If you are like me you don't remember a whole lot, because these are not moments in my day in which I am reflective about the task. Instead I follow through the routine, sometimes just to survive the moment, but usually this is the time I spend reflecting on something entirely different. For me it's hard to stay focused on things that are so mundane.

Now think of other circumstances when you spend time reflecting, usually when learning something new or enjoying a special time. These are the situational moments that need to be shared with your students. And not the details of the moment itself, but rather the thinking process that you ensued. 

Students need you view the teacher as an active participant or facilitator of learning, rather than a dictator.  They need to be empowered to learn, and it is through this modeling process in which it occurs. 

For example, in our classroom we start the morning with a “Brain Breakfast”.  Something to get the brain moving; it may set the stage for what we will conquer later in the day, or it may just be something that we use to stimulate thinking.  (This creation is one we are most proud of because it did away with the ordinary entry task and allowed them to take the learning and their thinking to the next level… you should see our classroom during this time of the day, it is a reflecting paradise…).

Our favorite Brain Breakfast is using a quote.  Students rely on their own metacognition to decipher what it means to them; there is no right or wrong answer, so everyone will participate.  During our discussion they usually have time to pair-share, but then we also have several students share out to the group.  This activity is stimulating in itself, but the power is what we have noticed grow over the past 2 months.  They are naturally taking it to the next level by bringing in their own “Brain Quotes” or creating their own quote to explain a quote or even another topic of discussion.  We are now displaying and using student created quotes in our weekly routine. 

This wasn’t a miracle, nor was it something we would have even predicted.  However, when I say naturally that’s exactly what I mean.  It was the routine we had instilled, but it was a task they could be empowered by.  They took it to the next level because we were constantly modeling this practice throughout the day and they felt safe in our environment to take risks. They have learned very quickly the power of reflection and never groan at a new opportunity (or small moment) to do just that.  And recently we recognized we had truly arrived because we now observe them leading a reflective life and not just waiting for us to schedule a reflection time within the classroom schedule.   They are sharing, discussing, and journaling on their own through the learning process. The students live each day for the personal ownership and connections they have with the new learning.  And we live to be inspired by them.

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