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Slice of Life: If Only Every Monday…

… could be like today.

After weeks of cold and rain, including one snowy April day, it seems Spring may finally be here. It’s amazing what a little bit of sunshine—that familiar warmth on your back—can do to lift the spirits.

I also had some unexpected wonderful news this morning—news that I’m not sure I can publicly share yet—but let’s just say it left me smiling ear-to-ear all day long. I’m actually still pinching myself.

So as I sat at my son’s baseball game this evening, with the sun setting behind me, I dug my toes a little deeper into the soft, pliant spring grass. No more winter socks; summer flip flops will be here soon. 

In between innings, I paged through my latest pedagogy reading, Making Thinking Visible. I actually finished the book last week but I brought it with me to do that much needed “second draft” reading—the one where I take notes, make lists, find all the “applications and implications” (as a former mentor liked to say) for my classroom. Sometimes I wonder if it’s odd to be reading pedagogy books in my spare time. I have a pile of fiction titles—both adult and YA—that are waiting for me at home. I could (and probably should) pick one of those up, lessen the pile even if by one. And yet the piles of will-one-day-read-books just grows. The Japanese even have a word for this: tsundoku.

tsundoku

‘Tsundoku’ and other unique words from other cultures are shared in the beautiful book Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders.

The thing is, I like reading pedagogy books. There, I said it. In fact, there are times I find as much pleasure in reading books about teaching reading and writing as I do some of my favorite narratives. There may not be compelling plot twists, but there are compelling possibilities—possibilities for what I can do differently in my classroom. I enjoying thinking about how I can tweak a lesson or revamp a unit to make it better. What’s so frustrating about teaching is that what works in one class or one year can fail miserably with the next class or the next year. Yet it’s a frustration that also challenges me to be better. I like the challenge. And when I read a pedagogy book, I feel like I’m moving at least a few steps in the right direction.

So far, one of my favorite parts of Making Thinking Visible is the distinction between thinking routines versus thinking strategies. The authors—researchers at Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero—advocate for the use of thinking routines. Routines, they argue, act as important “culture builders” in a classroom. As they write:

Whereas an instructional strategy may be used only on occasion, routines become part of the fabric of the classroom through their repeated use . . .

Although the word routine carries with it notions of ordinariness, habit, and ritual, it would be a mistake to characterize thinking routines as simply mundane patterns of behavior. Classroom routines are practices crafted to achieve specific ends in an efficient and workable manner.

Other words the authors use stand out to me—words like internalize, uncovering, connecting, wondering, questioning. And so I’m left wondering: how can I make thinking a routine in my classroom? Routines are automatic. For example, my students know the routine for checking out books from my classroom library. I no longer have to direct them about when, where, or how to borrow books. On any given day, students will spend the first or last  five minutes of class browsing and borrowing. They know what to do unprompted.

Too much of my students’ thinking must be prompted. So how can make thinking as routine as borrowing books?

This is the question I ponder sitting along right field, watching a double-play unfold.


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, a weekly invitation to share a snapshot of life through writing. To read more or participate, click here.

8 Comments

  1. I’m so glad I read your post this morning. I’m a baseball-game-watcher and huge reader, too, and I found your enthusiasm for pedagogy books wonderful! I’m not a teacher, but I am a writer, and my critique group has just decided to make every other meeting a book club-type discussion as well. We all read a book on the craft of writing, and it’s been a really good burst of creativity for us individually. But it’s also been fun to share our love of and passion for writing on a whole other level, and that’s been really great, too. Wonderful, thoughtful slice (and I love the Japanese word, and congratulations on the thing-you-cannot-say-yet as well)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is much to celebrate in your post! Spring, good news and the potential application of new ideas! I also am delighted by the Japanese word, tsundoku. I’m intrigued by the idea of making thinking a classroom routine–this resonates with what I know about the importance of metacognition, especially in the teaching of reading. Thanks for a thoughtful post and congratulations! I hope you share your good news here when you can!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tricia, your post is inspirational on so many levels. I wonder if “routines” become “routine” in students’ lives. What I mean is, if we establish routines in our classrooms, do those day-to-day experiences transform in students’ day-to-day habits. When I was teaching, I wrote every day, several times a day. Once I retired, that “routine” didn’t become my everyday routine. I had to think about when, where, and how I would make time to write every day. The habit of writing wasn’t really established in me.
    Thanks for sharing your optimism and excitement about pedagogy and spring and good news!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning, Tricia! I will certainly purchase Making Thinking visible to add to my pile of unread books – I hope it does not topple over! Thanks for the new word – tsundoku – yes, I need that word! Your post made me think that spring is finally here and I will plant flowers soon. I enjoyed reading this post because I felt your positive energy and your enthusiasm for learning and life. Kudos, Tricia, on your good news! I also saw through twitter that you are in the video series with D.I.Y. by Kate and Maggie Roberts, another professional read in my pile. You are the energizer bunny! I don’t know how you do it all!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed following you through your thinking here. It is inspiring to read PD books. I find I don’t want to read them all of the time but then I visit the pile and make a huge dent all at once. I am also curious about your news . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nothing wrong with enjoying good PD books. Making Thinking Visible is certainly a book that gives both theory and practice. I hope you have other colleagues reading the same book so you can try out various routines together. Your slice with the quotes form the book mingling with your thoughts was a pleasure to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. rosecappelli

    Thanks for the new title – I think this is a book I would like. I read so many pedagogy books when I was teaching, and now that I am retired that has lessened some. But I still like to stay on top of things, so I think this will be on my list. Thanks for sharing your passion and your thinking, and congratulations on your good news, whatever it may be!

    Liked by 1 person

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