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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pathways in the Brain - Information Processing?

We have known for sometime that reading is a strategic process of problem solving.  Marie Clay and Frank and Yetta Goodman were among the first to receive public attention for their work in this field.  Later on, the idea was refined when the use of technology impacted the theory and people started to refer to the process as information processing - the brain using the sources of information (meaning, structure, and syntax) presented through text in order to "read" the material in front of the eyes.  Some of the core terminology we used indicates our concept of the process: predicting or anticipating, confirming, rereading to gather further information in order to make sense, etc.  Wilhelm received attention for his work on units of inquiry when he made the connection between reading strategies and thinking strategies we use everyday,  - This is a gross over simplification and I apologize.

For an example of this type of problem solving, go to the following site and think about how you are processing the text in front of you.

From this perspective, I don't believe the following articles hold any surprises. As I read them, they confirmed much of what we have believed for years, but gave educators a physiological basis for our observations.  The new standards for the 21st century confirm and expand on this knowledge.  Hopefully, we will be able to help our students develop the thinking strategies necessary for survival in a ever shrinking, information prolific age.

Taken from  ASCD Smart Brief.

Research shows brain connections improve with reading practice
Students who practice reading can strengthen their brains -- especially the white-matter connections essential to learning, according to research by scientists at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Researchers scanned students' brains, then enrolled struggling readers in an intensive reading program. Researchers again scanned students' brains, this time after 100 hours of reading practice, and found the training improved "not just their reading ability, but the tissues in their brain." National Public Radio (12/9) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette(12/10) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Habits of the Mind - In Classrooms

Following is a resource for those of you who are interested in developing habits of the mind in your students.

It is a great book!

Developing Habits of Mind in Secondary Schools: An ASCD Action Tool

Habits of Mind are thoughtful behaviors that allow us to cope with a complex and rapidly changing world. ASCD's new action tool, "Developing Habits of Mind in Secondary Schools" provides a series of ideas -- based on ASCD's groundbreaking Habits of Mind series -- to help secondary-school teachers plan lessons and classroom activities that teach students thoughtful behaviors and promote successful learning in the classroom and beyond.
Read a sample chapter

Meta-Cognitive Language

Recently, during coaching sessions, teachers asked for a list of core terms they could use when coaching peers.  Soo...I have begun to compile a list.  I am beginning by looking at what I consider universal cognitive processes - those we use every day.  Please add some by using the comment section at the end of the post.

Connections - making connections between self and text, text and text, and world and text. 
Connections can also be made between ideas - orally as well. 

Clarifying - asking questions or making comments that clear up confusions.

Rationale - explaining the thinking process or reason for a decision - tracing your thinking that lead to that choice.

Predicting - anticipating what will come next based on text or other information - forming expectations.

Monitoring - following one's thoughts or a process to be sure the thinking is making sense or the steps are being adhered to - checking to be sure it is done "right."

More to come!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Problem Solving Taught Through Engineering?

In a recent post about China, you will recall I made the point that Chinese schools are still focusing on retention while American schools are looking for ways to teach collaborative problem solving.  The Derby school district in Kansas has introduced engineering at the middle and high school to use as a platform to teach theses strategies.  Next year, they will introduce a similar program to their elementary schools.  This pilot program looks very promising to me.

Kansas school to be first to offer engineering at the elementary level
A Kansas school district is set to become the first in the nation to offer engineering classes at the elementary-school level. The Derby school district began offering engineering courses in middle and high schools this year, but a pilot program next year will bring aerospace engineering lessons to a district elementary school. The curriculum is designed by Project Lead the Way and will include hands-on and computer-based activities. The Wichita Eagle (Kan.) 

When discussing this project with Jake Bogar, physics teacher at Mt. Blue High School, he shared the following information: 

" Excellent article. I have been interested in the potential of incorporating engineering/technical classes in the elementary grades. Project Lead the way is an extensive program. I had looked at these interesting books to potentially use with younger students."

What a great way to teach young students strategic problem solving and develop their meta-cognitive awareness!