Teacher Talk

October 2019 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy Fall! This month will bring cooler temps (hopefully) and we are bringing you ideas on metacognition in all content areas. We are also starting our Super Saturday Seminars for fall on October 26. Cheers to intentional teaching and successful learning!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Ideas to Get Students Thinking About Their Thinking

As an educator, one of our universal goals is to teach our students to have metacognitive strategies. Here are some ideas to get kids thinking about their thinking.

Interactive Read Alouds

Interactive read alouds are a great opportunity to read and think through a text orally for your students to see. It's important to note that thinking aloud provides a great model for what is going on in a proficient reader's brain while they are reading. Be sure to only stop every few pages of a book to think aloud. Stopping on every page of a book can interfere with student's being able to comprehend the meaning if the stopping is too frequent. Also, read aloud books that you love as often as you can. Students see that and your passion is contagious!

RAN Chart

RAN stands for Read and Analyze Nonfiction. A RAN chart can be used for students to show what they think they know before reading. Then, student will generate questions (wonderings) about what they want to know more about and then confirm their predictors or clarify their misconceptions about their thinking. The RAN chart also asks students to record their new learning, too. This is a great tool for students to see their thinking and the progression of thinking that goes into learning something new. Start by talking through each piece of the RAN chart, then have students record their thinking in each section. Download a RAN Chart.

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Reader's Theater

Research shows us that doing reader's theater for just 10 minutes everyday for 6 weeks improves students fluency and comprehension by having a 1 year gain size. Have students do reader's theater daily as a warm up or center and see how their understanding of texts deepens. Do you love the Texas Bluebonnet Award Books? You can now download Bluebonnet books as Readers Theater Scripts for free!

Metacognition: Awareness & understanding of one's own thought process.

Metacognative Markers in the Math Classroom

Using metacognitive markers is a low prep, yet effective strategy, that works well when students take notes to intentionally practice processing information. Creating a simple anchor chart, like the one pictured here, and keeping it up all year for students can be a helpful reference guide. This is a perfect opportunity to chunk the lesson and provide places for students to discuss their learning through a think-pair-share model. Teachers can also have students mark these next to their success criteria as a way to analyze and assess understanding. When I used these in my class and modeled the conversation aloud, it really helped students generate questions, develop a growth mindset of learning from mistakes, and celebrate successes of knowledge.

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Reciprocal Teaching

Another method to cultivate metacognition is reciprocal teaching. Reciprocal Teaching is a structured strategy that help students comprehend and synthesize text by modeling four roles of predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarizing. When used in math, cycling through these roles helps students build problem solving and literacy skills. The professor and researcher, John Hattie, identifies that Reciprocal Teaching has a .74 effect size resulting in significant growth of students (Hattie).

I created two examples for use in math lessons that I got to test out with teachers a few weeks ago. This first example with Systems of Equations replaces the “questioning” role with “solving,” something researchers Yvonne Reilly, Jodie Parsons and Elizabeth Bortolot suggested when using it in math (article: Reciprocal Teaching in Mathematics).

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To help students analyze and solve a problem, teachers will model the four roles and then have students go through each independently or in a group. The second example with Linear Transformations is something I created after listening to a podcast, TCEA Ed Tech Club. The speaker, Miguel Guhlin, was explaining Reciprocal Teaching and also mentioned Jigsaw (another high effect size strategy). When I heard both strategies, I had the idea to combine the two as a way to close a lesson and create a “strategy smash” as Guhlin called it after sharing with him. To incorporate the Jigsaw idea, each student is designated a role to respond to with their home group, then meet in new groups of each role and teach their classmates. Click here for both materials.

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SEL Connections

Metacognition also relates well to Social Emotional Learning strategies and I recently got to use the connection during Algebra II training I did. At the end of a lesson, we reflected on our learning through the strategy called, “One Minute Accolade.” This closure activity allowed space for “Self-Awareness (Accurate Self-Perception) as participants reflect on their learning and Social Awareness (Respect for Others) as they absorb the variety of input from those who share aloud” (CASEL). There are a variety of questions you can ask that would help students process their learning in a metacognitive way such as, “what is one thing you are proud of accomplishing today and how did you get there?”; “what did you find challenging, but doable, today?”; or “how do you know you solved your problems correctly today?” Below are the directions. Give this quick strategy a try for an optimistic closure that relates to the lesson and enables students to work on their metacognitive skills.

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Classroom Discussions Drive Thinking

The art of conversation is a life skill that must be taught to students. This past month, I worked with intervention educators on reading and writing strategies for high school students. We started the day discussing how conversations drive learning in the classroom. As we collaborated throughout the day, we processed new learning and gained new perspectives on issues within our classrooms. It was an awesome thing to be a part of! Then while listening to a podcast called "Girls Night Out" (LOL), I heard "Processing happens when you discuss with your community." There is so much truth in that statement because anytime I am making a life decision or processing a new idea, I discuss first with my close community to process my thoughts and gain new insights that I might have otherwise missed.

"Processing happens when you discuss with your community."

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Holding guided discussions between students is so important when processing new learning. It gives students an opportunity to orally respond to new content and also listen to others who are processing that same content with them. Discussions also provide material to put into student's writing. Discussions always come first and then the writing follows. Edgar Dale also tells us "We remember 70% of what we discuss with others." Thats an astounding fact to think about as educators!

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Here are few things I have implemented when promoting guided discussions in the classroom.

1. Teach Conversation Roles

Students need to see the roles of a conversation modeled. The roles are listening and speaking. It is important to illustrate the art of taking turns speaking/listening during a conversation and not speaking over someone else. To help with learning conversing roles, use simple "Talking Sticks" as seen below.

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2. Start with Collaborative Meeting

Collaborative meeting is a large circling of students that meet up to discuss a guided topic or questions. It helps to start with a topic that they feel strongly about, such as "Should students have phones during school hours?" One student will respond to the question and then choose another students to speak next. This gives the students the opportunity to "own" the conversation and learning. Educators can participate or facilitate.

3. ELL's Aquire Language Through Practice

Discussions are an opportunity for our ELL students to practice a new language. Not only will they be speaking but they will be hearing other's modeling using language as well. Practice makes proficient. A great tool for helping all students acquire appropriate language is by having each student use an accountable talk card.

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4. Discussion Circles (smaller groups)

Students can break into daily discussion circles of 3-4 students to hold their own collaborative meeting. These groups will need to change periodically but need to stay the same to help build relationships among students. This also will give students an opportunity to converse with all of their classmates throughout the year and hear many perspectives on the learning.

Ideas for K-2 Grade Students

  • Use picture cards about content they are learning to stimulate the conversation
  • Use "talking sticks" to learn the roles of conversation

Ideas for 3-12 Grade Students

  • Use Accountable Talk Cards (PDF above)
  • Use brief videos to stimulate the conversation