Asking students to make thinking visible

I am a firm believer in Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. I am also a firm believer in letting students read with no strings attached. Some might claim that these two positions are at times in conflict.

As my students read I ask them to note their thinking if it is in the margins of a printed article or in their notebooks in a style of their choosing. We pay attention to the Big 3 Questions that I have rephrased as What Surprised Me, What Confused Me and What Challenged, Changed or Confirmed my thinking. We look at the text and our thinking and our feelings within the BHH framework and we look for those breadcrumbs that authors leave for us in the signposts. We pay attention to our reading with paper and pencil to unlock the skill that we continue as conversation and internal noticings.

Students need to be guided as we explore digging deeper into the text. A balance needs to be found in how we teach these skills, like all skills, it is a fine line between helping students learn and being complicit in Readicide. The idea that everything needs to be direct instruction, that every minute of our day much be devoted to teaching with no time to freely explore a book is crazy to me. The balance that can be achieved where students have enough time to just enjoy the art of reading but also the instruction that supports them through the tough parts, to clear up the fog that sometimes gets in the way of seeing where we are in the text that is also important and really when I think about it I feel the instruction is the most important and at times does have to encroach on uninterrupted reading time.

Looking at the balance I see conferencing as a happy medium. I spend far more time working on strategies in my class and addressing areas of weakness than I do with independent reading. My students learn and practices skills together and then show their understanding through their notebooks and independent reading time. I check on their work through conferencing and address the gaps that I see. Despite the idea that is floating around the internet I don’t think there are a lot of teachers that spend their time with their feet up and nose in a good book during that independent reading time. They are beside their students, guiding them, providing some one on one work so that they can better utilize the tools provided.

We start with making our thinking visible so that we can see the connections we make, just like learning the layout of a house so we can walk in the dark we need to learn our way around the different elements of reading with it right in front of us before we can do it from memory.

I don’t see it as work and my students are starting to see the benefits to their understanding of text by putting it on paper in front of them.

We discuss what surprises us and why. We clear up the confusions and we challenge the thoughts we have or that others present and weigh them against our understanding. I love the process that we have started this year and am inspired by the steps my students take.

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