Monday, September 5, 2016


You know that moment at the grocery store when you've spent FAR too long staring at the stacks of toilet paper, trying to find the best deal for the best brand of paper? You're activating all of your prior knowledge in that quick moment, "Which ones cause TP dust on the roll? Was it this brand or that brand which felt like sand paper? Can I recall the one that started an argument at home last time, because I certainly need to avoid that one..." only to choose the package that "looks right" and as soon as you get home and load up a roll, you realize the TP feels different. "Why is it so thin? and course?"  A slight moment of panic overcomes you as you grasp for the newly purchased package with a roll now missing. Scanning...scanning...scanning.... yep. There it is....

... "One-Ply."  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? You just spent all that time refreshing your memory on the "best brand for your buck" and you come home with ONE-PLY!? Why is that still a thing!? Regardless, it certainly reinforces the need to "read for clarity" and "challenge assumptions" as well as "pay attention to detail." 

I was fortunate enough to visit Towles MS in Fort Wayne, IN last week and the staff is currently engaged in conversation around identifying ways to ensure all students are reading at grade level. (Boy, did I need to enact these strategies myself, or what!?) As we talked initially about strategies to support student's ability to read, we eventually began to discuss that there's a need to start with supporting students ability to "think out loud." Once students would be able to articulate what they were thinking, we could then implement strategy x, y, or z that seemed to best meet their needs.  I quickly realized....THAT'S WHAT I DO AT THE GROCERY STORE!!! I need to process what I'm thinking about prices, quality, double vs single rolls and what will fit on my dispenser, etc. before I begin to touch a package for purchase! Students do this too. They process, often to themselves, for fear of taking a risk and failing or "sounding stupid" in front of their peers, and they don't even DARE reach for a package to purchase. Could you imagine if a student said, "Mr. Smith, I'm not sure that I understand what this paragraph is saying?" *gasp* Yes...we would be THRILLED!!! But rarely do we get that celebratory moment. If we can FIRST teach students to articulate what they are thinking, feeling, understanding, then perhaps we can support them in diving deeper on the content we desire for them to understand. 

These "Say Something" prompts are great to keep on student work tables, but only if you, as the teacher, remember to allow the time for students to pause and figure out what they are going to say based on the discussion, reading, video, etc. they are investigating. Or what about these Visible Thinking Routines? Are you willing to offer up 10-15min. for a routine like this NOW to support your student's ability to think, process, and comprehend rather than 2-3 weeks remediating their ability to read at the end of the grading period?! Perhaps you want to up your game beyond figuring out what students "Know" and "Need to Know" about information presented and what they might do to support their next steps. In that case, give this KWHLAQ structure a try! 

It's scary to take a risk when you're learning something for the first time, or you don't know what you need to know, or you do know what you need but you're nervous to take the first step. Now that we've identified this challenge, choose 2-3 routines, prompts or activities that you can implement alongside your lessons this week and know that you're dedicating that time to be PROACTIVE about student thinking now so you don't have to be REACTIVE about their comprehension later. After all... there's nothing worse than starting your learning adventure only to reach for the toilet paper and be filled with instant panic and regret.

Peace, love, and two-ply for life,

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