Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In My Own Words???

As I have mentioned in several other blog post over the last two years about our use of Interactive Notebooks within our Gifted Laboratory.  Implementing Interactive Notebooks have been somewhat of a challenge for me, as an eductor, but the benefits they provide have been so worth the effort. One of the benefits that I had not anticipate was how their use has effected how I both access and instruct. I believe that learning takes place in the process and before implementing of our Interactive Notebooks  I was doing my best to assess and instruct there as well. With the use of our Interactive Notebooks it has been much easier to recognize patterns in individual students and groups. Identifying where an inquiry process has first stepped off the track can be difficulty at times, but correctly diagnosing can save a lot time and frustration on everyone's part.The latest of these revelations has to do with asking student  to put things in their own words. While exploring a topic of research students will simply just copy information directly from the book or website into their notes. Then when they are asked to put the information into their own words they are truly confused about what to do. Sure we have discussed the issue of plagiarism and students usually become insulted that you are accusing them of cheating. Besides, I honestly believe that students weren't copying for copying sake, but that it is done out of a lack of knowing exactly what to do.

At first glance, one might think this situation stems from either a reading or a writing issue, but most of the time it is a combination of the two. To spite the numerous reading strategy lessons given by myself and general education educators my students' blank stares still remain when asked to put what they learned into their own words. We, as educators, do a wonderful job of introducing students strategies and calling them readers, but how are we doing about the follow through of those beliefs. Honestly, this whole thing has left me with some tough questions to answer. Most of which have more to do with how I, as the educator in the room, has been approaching the process. Such as: Am I truly guiding students  in their process or have I limited them by defining everything from the task to the process in which students report out on that process? Are the mini-lessons, graphic organizers and/or task encouraging students to be independent thinkers? We read our manuals, find ideas on Pinterest, buy a Teachers Pay Teachers Unit ......... we assign students graphic organizers to fill out, but many times these things just become a different set of blanks to fill in. We might even call it a think sheet, but the real question we should be asking ourselves is, are my students doing any real independent thinking hereHave we left a safe place for students to struggle and fail within the reading process? Have they watched and learned enough during our mini-lessons to be able to get information into our organizers to look efficient? Have we designed our lesson or activities in such a way that allow my former question to be true?Last year, I wrote a blog post about scaffolding and I realize now this scaffolding needs to happen early and often. When possible students should be encouraged to select their own graphic organizers. Choice and voice should not just be considered in the what of research, but also the how of research. Yes, I understand that not all students are ready to self select tools and that in having all my students use the same one it makes the assessment process easier. However, I do believe it is never too early to begin to discuss with students about why certain graphic organizers are used and if another could be used in its place. The truth is real-world problems do not come in a nice neat packages and learning to tackle them will take practice. I must find a better way for my students to do just that, which too will take practice. Right now, I am still sorting out these nagging questions. 

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