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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

English Companion on Ning

New articles on the use of the internet for creating community and collaboration.

The World's Largest English Department

A Ning group for English teachers reveals the potential of online social networking to break the culture of professional isolation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Book Whisperer

On October 4, there will be a new book discussed on the English Companion.  The Book Whisperer is written by Donna Miller and explores how to awaken the reader in every child.  Teachers who have read this book thoroughly enjoy it and have found it useful in their classrooms.  It can be found online at

Donna Miller will lead the discussion.

Join your colleagues on line and explore your thinking together. 

Sharing your own thinking process makes it easier to share with others.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Role of Metacognition in Habits of the Mind

 This past summer, I spent time reviewing Costa's work on habits of the mind.  His work made me rethink our traditional definition of metacognition.  He has broadened the definition to include: Being aware of own thoughts, feelings, intentions and actions; Knowing what I do and say affects others; Willing to consider the impact of choices on myself and others (number 5 below).

This broader definition addresses many of the concerns teachers share with me when I visit schools, i.e., students' inability to see the results of their choices and actions.

My thinking at this point in time is that metacognition is to some extent the lynch pin that supports the other habits.  If you can not identify your thoughts, feelings, and actions - can you engage in the other habits?

Throughout the year I will be reflecting on these habits.  I recently posted a reflection on  my blog, Literacy Strategies in Real Classrooms that began a conversation about the role of the habits in collaboration. 

His list of habits of the mind are listed below. 

Please let me know what you are seeing in your classrooms.

Post a comment.


(After Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, Habits of Mind: A Developmental Series, Copyright © 2000) 
The Habits of Mind are an identified set of 16 problem solving, life related skills, necessary to effectively operate in society and promote strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity and craftsmanship.  The understanding and application of these 16 Habits of Mind serve to provide the individual with skills to work through real life situations that equip that person to respond using awareness (cues), thought, and intentional strategy in order to gain a positive outcome.

1. Persisting: Sticking to task at hand; Follow through to completion; Can and do remain focused.
2. Managing Impulsivity: Take time to consider options; Think before speaking or acting; Remain calm when stressed or challenged; Thoughtful and considerate of others; Proceed carefully.
3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy: Pay attention to and do not dismiss another person's thoughts, feeling and ideas; Seek to put myself in the other person's shoes; Tell others when I can relate to what they are expressing; Hold thoughts at a distance in order to respect another person's point of view and feelings.
4. Thinking Flexibly: Able to change perspective; Consider the input of others; Generate alternatives; Weigh options. 
5. Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition): Being aware of own thoughts, feelings, intentions and actions; Knowing what I do and say affects others; Willing to consider the impact of choices on myself and others.
6. Striving for Accuracy: Check for errors; Measure at least twice; Nurture a desire for exactness, fidelity & craftsmanship.
7. Questioning and Posing Problems: Ask myself, “How do I know?”; develop a questioning attitude; Consider what information is needed, choose strategies to get that information; Consider the obstacles needed to resolve.
8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations: Use what is learned; Consider prior knowledge and experience; Apply knowledge beyond the situation in which it was learned.
9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision: Strive to be clear when speaking and writing; Strive be accurate to when speaking and writing; Avoid generalizations, distortions, minimizations and deletions when speaking, and writing.
10. Gathering Data through All Senses: Stop to observe what I see; Listen to what I hear; Take note of what I smell; Taste what I am eating; Feel what I am touching. 
11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating: Think about how something might be done differently from the “norm”; Propose new ideas; Strive for originality; Consider novel suggestions others might make.
12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe: Intrigued by the world's beauty, nature's power and vastness for the universe; Have regard for what is awe-inspiring and can touch my heart; Open to the little and big surprises in life I see others and myself.
13. Taking Responsible Risks: Willing to try something new and different; Consider doing things that are safe and sane even though new to me; Face fear of making mistakes or of coming up short and don’t let this stop me.
14. Finding Humor: Willing to laugh appropriately; Look for the whimsical, absurd, ironic and unexpected in life; Laugh at myself when I can.
15. Thinking Interdependently
: Willing to work with others and welcome their input and perspective; Abide by decisions the work group makes even if I disagree somewhat; Willing to learn from others in reciprocal situations.

16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning: Open to new experiences to learn from; Proud and humble enough to admit when don't know; Welcome new information on all subjects.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Students Need Knowledge to Think Critically

A great article to make us think about balance in the classroom.   This is an excellent article that supports teaching metacognition within the context of content area teaching.

A timely article for Maine teachers at the high school level as their students receive laptops.

Taken from ASCD Smart Brief

  • A single-minded focus on skills without teaching knowledge is a strategy that has never worked, writes Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and co-chairwoman of Common Core. Ravitch argues that schools can't teach 21st-century skills without teaching knowledge. "Until we teach both teachers and students to value knowledge and to love learning, we cannot expect them to use their minds well," she writes. Boston Globe, The (09/15)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Collaboration - A Best Practice for Adults as Well?

Best Practices work for adults as well as students. As a follow up to Stephanie Harvey's and Harvey Daniels' new book Collaboration and Comprehension, I am offering this article to provide some information to compare to the key ideas of collaboration in the book. Take a minute and read the article and let us know what you think.

School districts share effort to develop staff abilities
An annual leadership academy that brings together teachers and staff from two Georgia school districts is being praised by participants and district officials for enhancing professional development. The cooperative effort, now in its fourth year, includes training and sharing between employees of the Dalton and Whitfield County school systems. "It definitely focused my efforts and also refined my actions. It made me more efficient and effective," said a participating teacher. Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tenn.)

The Role of Metacognition in Coaching

Yesterday during a meeting with high school teachers at Mt. Blue High School, we began defining our roles as peer coaches. We were using the book, Building Teachers' Capacity for Success, as a jumping off point.

During our discussion, we kept returning to the role of meta-cognition in self-reflection - the end goal of the process. The conclusion we arrived at was: in order to shift thinking, adults and students alike, must be able to trace their thinking and establish links. How else can rationales be established or theory put into practice?

The challenge is how do we support others when developing meta-cognitive strategies? Best practices for students provide us with Vygotzky's theory involving the zone of proximal development - in other words, we assist or support by doing think alouds modeling our own thinking, connections, rationales, etc.

Does this work with adults? Why not? All too often in education we save best practices for students while staff development sessions employ well known ineffective instructional practices.

As a team, we made the decision to go ahead with what we know are best practices and follow the results of our efforts.

Stay tuned!

We will be updating you on this blog.