Thinkabouts About Thinking Classes

Challenges and Realities of PBL-Thom Markham  Appropriate vocabulary, exchange of ideas, cogent solution explanation, insight, evidence perseverance, self-management, flexibility, resilience, creativity

Washington post Valerie Strauss  What a classroom engaged in real learning looks like: “Letting kids move in class isn’t a break from learning. It IS learning,”

Independent Problem-Solving  It’s a place where students are doing as much of the talking and thinking and problem solving as the teacher. It’s a place where students are tackling questions and problems that are relevant to their daily lives.

Students Struggling and Persevering: The teacher intentionally creates the kind of classroom environment where this productive struggle can occur, knowing that it encourages independent thinking and supports deeper learning.

Physical Movement and Serious Play  teachers can incorporate physical tasks such as “indoor ice skating” allowing students to deepen their understanding of concepts from geometry to geography as they simultaneously refine their motor skills and build spatial awareness.

Students imagining creative approaches to challengesShe makes way for students to use their imagination: “Instead of handing them an entire lab that’s already mapped out for them, step by step by step, like all the old lab manuals do, I have been much better at stripping away all of the unnecessary so they can discover it themselves.” In order to teach a unit on osmosis and diffusion in her ninth-grade biology class, Eileen tasks students with planning and carrying out their own investigations into what happens when gummy bears are soaked in a variety of solutions.

Real World Connections. For the high school students enrolled in Real World History, an Inspired Teaching course offered in partnership with D.C. Public Schools, drawing connections between textbooks and the world around them is a critical part of coursework. In one project, students learn about the Great Migration by interviewing elder Washingtonians who migrated from the South about their reactions to Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series,” featured at the Phillips Collection.

 Wide Variety of Student Work and Types of Assessment.…displays student work that can’t be captured by tests alone. There are pickles students made in chemistry class, statistical graphs showing results from a survey of their classmates on gardening habits…

Student-led Discussions. After participating in a Paideia seminar on reparations, Real World History students independently organize a viewing and discussion of the film “Selma” with students from a local independent school. Students engage in a discussion about the civil rights movement, the current state of civil rights in the United States, and the role they might play in movements such as #blacklivesmatter.

 Social-Emotional Skills and Empathy….empathy is seamlessly integrated into their lessons, both as a cognitive skill — building understanding of others’ perspectives in order to develop a more sophisticated worldview — and as a social-emotional one. When a student is disruptive, she is asked, “How is your behavior affecting the classroom community? Are you it helping it or hurting it?”

The next time you have the opportunity to visit a classroom, take a moment to observe closely. Do you see compliance or true engagement? Are students pulling facts out of a book or are they building independent problem-solving skills and meaningful connections?

Just as in life, the answers in excellent classrooms need to be earned and never spoon-fed. The same is true for the questions. When you visit a classroom and are able to fill your bingo card, you’re seeing inquiry-based instruction that empowers students and positions them to be leaders of their own learning. Every child deserves that type of education.

What other “bingo card boxes” would you add to the list?

The next time you have the opportunity to visit a classroom, take a moment to observe closely. Do you see compliance or true engagement? Are students pulling facts out of a book or are they building independent problem-solving skills and meaningful connections?

Just as in life, the answers in excellent classrooms need to be earned and never spoon-fed. The same is true for the questions. When you visit a classroom and are able to fill your bingo card, you’re seeing inquiry-based instruction that empowers students and positions them to be leaders of their own learning. Every child deserves that type of education.

What other “bingo card boxes” would you add to the list?