Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Put your thinking cap on

Critical and deep thinking. How do we get students to do this? Regurgitation of information is great for Trivial Pursuit but what about thinking, relating, and understanding information? I always strive to get kids to THINK about things. How does what I am teaching relate to them? This can be a challenge but one I enjoy trying to manipulate.

For the past few weeks, my fifth/sixth grade students have been comparing Wikipedia to our databases for formal research purposes. I find that when I try and teach them how to evaluate resources I get the automatic nodding heads and "uh huh" probably to appease me. I discovered a few years ago the best way to get kids to understand what  I am saying is to have them figure it out for themselves. So I informed them I was going to give each pair of students a random topic. One of them was going to evaluate Wikipedia and the other was going to use one of the databases. They were going to become teachers. As a class they needed to decide on a concrete grading method. They created a checklist and developed the criteria they were going to use for grading. Once they did this, I typed up their sheets and they were given their topics.

Students warily printed out articles from the sources. Many were nervous at the amount of pages spitting out of the printer. I let them know, for this project, it was important to actually print the articles so they could dissect and share thoughts and results with their partner. The following week students grabbed highlighters and underlined words, sources,  checked multi-media, updated editions and all sorts of things. Noisy conversations were held with colorful articles strewn everywhere. I think it looked like being on the stock market floor during trading time. Deep and critical thinking was happening. Kids were validating their opinions and sharing them.

Presentations were interesting. Only three students in the entire 5/6 grades decided to defend Wikipedia. I felt like I was in a courtroom hearing them validate their thoughts and grades. For the most part, the students reflected on what they had read and how it would work as a resource for a research paper. Collaboration and conversations had happened and were continuing to do so.

The following week I showed them an article I had seen about a sting operation in regards to reliability and journals accepting scientific papers.
We had a discussion regarding the repercussions of the article. Students really began to see the impact and difficulty of recognizing reliable resources. I was asking them to do HARD work, and they knew it! They also rose to the challenge and some good problem solving and out of the box thinking occurred. I will keep hammering away at how we disseminate information and use it. Hopefully, you too, can have some meaningful conversations with your child about how much information we receive and how we can THINK about it in our very fast-paced world.

QW Who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

WOW eerie: adj Definition: spooky