Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thinking Routines & Inquiry

I have been implementing many thinking routines throughout the year where the boys are routinely asked to think a specific way for certain results.  I have intentionally chosen thinking routines that would help to develop or enhance inquiry as well as lend itself to an English classroom.  The following are thinking routines, their explanations of how they have been implemented, and how they expand and deepen students' thinking:

Ladder of Feedback:
The students worked on varied sentence structure, word choice, specificity, and reflexive pronouns to answer a writing prompt. They read these aloud and then received feedback from their partner by clarifying with a question (what they didn't understand), valuing the work (what they found impressive, innovative, and strong), sharing concerns (problems/challenges), and suggestions on how they can handle the concerns.

This thinking routine allowed the students to practice asking questions when they needed clarification.  The following are some examples that I heard:


What I know, what I want to know, and what I have learned
The boys used this before research of a topic to distinguish between what they already know and what they don't. This helps to use questioning to get a clearer understanding as they sort through what they know to guide their research for what they don't know.

Question Starts: 

The kind of thinking that this routine encourages is developing good questions that lead to inquiry of a topic.  As stated on the website Visible Thinking at Harvard Project Zero, "The purpose of asking deep and interesting questions is to get at the complexity and depth of a topic. "  The site further states how Question Starts deepens the thinking of students and has them more curious and questioning about the what they are learning. It is ideal to use them to introduce new material but can also be used in the middle of a study of a topic to 'enliven students' curiosity.  Using the thinking routine at the end of a study of a topic is a way to revise questions using the knowledge gained to ask even more interesting questions. The following Question Starts are being used in my English classroom to have the boys to look at parts of speech in a different way and to gain a deeper understanding.

Before even asking the questions from the thinking routine Question Starts, my 5A boys were doing it on their own!!!  I was so excited to see how inquisitive they were about reflexive, demonstrative, and interrogative pronouns.  One boy asked if there was a pattern to distinguish between demonstrative pronouns (dp) and demonstrative adjectives (da) and they immediately noticed that dp's always come before linking verbs and da's always come before nouns.  When we were discussing the demonstrative pronouns this, that, these and those, a boy commented on a sample sentence of "That tastes good."  He replied, "We are expected to write with more specific information." I then clarified that it is usually a sentence that is in addition to other sentences written together to convey a certain message.  Another student then recalled the study of clauses and asked, "Suppose we add that sentence beginning with a demonstrative pronoun and have it to interrupt another one like, "The candy that tastes good is on the table." Does that change the function of the word that.  Before I could answer, another student replied that it sounded like a dependent clause and would the word that be a subordinating conjunction.  I couldn't believe the connections they were making to previous learning, especially since we weren't covering relative pronouns during this unit.

Another boy asked about his own sentence, "Is this piece of bread over-cooked?" and wondered if this was a pronoun or adjective.  His question was answered by another student who indicated that "piece" was a noun and therefore the pronoun this was functioning as an adjective.  Then I had a student to add, "What if the sentence said, 'This is over-cooked bread'?" Some students chimed in and said that it would change the function of the word this from an adjective to a pronoun because demonstrative pronouns stand alone.

5D decided to use What if questions when discussing indefinite pronouns.  They really started to inquire in ways that I had never experienced before.  We were looking at all singular and plural indefinite pronouns and one student asked, "What if we put an indefinite pronoun in front of a noun? Would it be like the demonstrative pronoun that would then function as an adjective?" It was then asked, "What if we put an indefinite pronoun in front of another indefinite pronoun like several others?"  I answered his question with a question, "Would they both function as a pronoun?" He then said, "One will remain a pronoun and one will function as an adjective."