26. March 2012 · Write a comment · Categories: School Life · Tags:

Inquiring Minds discovered this list created by Ron Ritchhart, and thought they would resonate with many parents. These aren’t ‘apps’ in the ‘download from iTunes’ sense of the word; but rather are approaches for parents wishing to strengthen connections for their children’s learning and understanding.  We think you’ll find them as valuable as we have.  Our thanks to Mr. Ritchhart for sharing his thinking!

  1. Name and Notice Thinking. Use the language of thinking to name and notice the thinking your child is using and thus make it more visible. This is especially important when praising and giving feedback: That’s an interesting theory. I like how you have used what you already know to make connections. That’s a perspective I hadn’t thought about.
  2. Develop a Growth Mindset. A belief that intelligence and ability grow and develop over time–as opposed to something that is fixed and set–encourages greater risk taking, collaboration, enjoyment of challenge, long-term development, and continuous achievement in all types of learning endeavors (Dweck, 2006). Develop a growth mindset in your child by focusing your praise on process, learning, and effort (You really worked hard on this and have learned a lot. You did a great job of developing a plan and following it through. You’ve really developed as a musician.), as opposed to ability (You’re so clever. Look how smart you are; you did that so fast. You’re good at math. You’ve got a lot of talent.)
  3. Challenge but Don’t Rescue. We learn a lot from making mistakes, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, and taking risks to try new things. Regularly encountering challenges, mistakes, and failure builds a growth mindset and develops intellectual resilience. When your child encounters difficulties, don’t jump in to solve the problem and rescue him/her. Instead, ask questions that will help him/her to think through the problem, identify, and choose a course of action for moving forward.
  4. What Questions Did You Ask Today? Our questions drive us as learners. When Isidor I. Rabi won the Nobel Prize in physics, he was asked, ”Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?” He replied, ”My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference–asking good questions–made me become a scientist!”
  5. Focus on the Learning Over the Work. It’s easy for parents to focus on the work their child has to do and to monitor the completion of that work. However, the completion of work is never the goal of an assignment. Learning is the goal. Take a moment to ask your child what the purpose of each assignment is, what do they think the teacher wants them to learn and get better at as a result. Then monitor the learning, not the work.
  6. Encourage Connections. Students encounter new information constantly. To learn and make sense of this information they must connect it to previous knowledge and integrate it with their experience. Ask questions of connection and encourage the creation of metaphors, similes, comparisons and contrasts when talking about the topics your child is studying or exploring independently.
  7. Support Your Child in Arguing Effectively and Persuasively. A recent study in the journal Child Development (J. Allen, 2012) showed that teenagers who argued constructively with their parents by building a case and providing evidence for their position were more able to resist peer pressure to use drugs than were students from more authoritarian households. Researchers found such arguments were training grounds for teens that enabled them to learn to speak up, voice an opinion, and use evidence.
  8. Provide Time to Pursue Passions. In the movie Race to Nowhere (2010), producer/director Vicki Abeles documents how the pressure to succeed on tests is too often robbing children of rich learning experiences, causing stress-related problems, disengaging students, disrupting home life, and leading to wide-scale cheating. One argument the film makes is that teens need the time and space to pursue their passions and interests. Parents must make sure these passions, which may turn into life callings, are not squeezed out of their child’s life. Pay attention to your child’s learning and passions outside of school and make time for them.
  9. Make Your Own Thinking Visible. The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, “Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” You are a model for your child of what it means to be a thinker and a learner. Model your own interests, passions, curiosity, reflection, learning, and thinking for your child. Make your own thinking visible to them as a model.
  10. What Makes You Say That? This simple question is the “killer app” for parents and teachers. By simply asking, “What makes you say that?”, in a curious and non- judgmental tone after someone has given a response, we are able to get a window into the thinking behind that person’s initial response. Teachers in Sweden referred to this as the magic question, because of how much it was able to reveal about students’ thinking. The reasoning behind the response often tells us much more than the response itself.  © Ron Ritchhart, 2012

As a Reggio-inspired school, we are often asked by fellow educators and families about where to find additional information, in order to delve deeper into the philosophy.  There is a wealth of resources available, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. We are always discovering new books, blogs, and other inspired-educators to learn from; and we look forward to sharing these with you too.  In the meantime, to get you started we’d like to share some of our favourites from the Richland bookshelves:

  1. Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (1998). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach – advanced reflections (2nd ed.). Greenwich, CT: Ablex Publishing Corp.
  2. Fraser, S. (2006). Authentic childhood: Experiencing Reggio Emilia in the classroom (2nd ed.). Scarborough Ontario: Nelson Thomson Learning.
  3. Project Zero and Reggio Children (2001). Making learning visible: Children as individual and group learners. Cambridge MA: Project Zero.
  4. Vecchi, V., and Guidici, C. (Eds.). (2004). Children, art, artists: The expressive languages of children, the artistic language of Alberto Burri. Reggio Emilia: Reggio Children.
  5. Vecchi, V. (Ed.) (2002). Theater curtain: The ring of transformation. Reggio Emilia: Reggio Children.
  6. Wien, C.A. (2004). Negotiating Standards in the Primary Classroom: The Teacher’s Dilemma. New York: Teachers College Press.
  7. Wien, C.A. (Ed.).(2008). Emergent curriculum in the primary classroom: Interpreting the Reggio Emilia approach in schools. New York: Teachers College Press and NAEYC.

As always, we welcome your feedback and hope you have an opportunity to explore some, if not all, of these valuable resources.  If there is something that you would like to see from Inquiring Minds, please let us know, we would love to hear from you!

Every year the children in Senior Kindergarten go on a “Shakespearean Adventure”.  Many may think that the children are too young to understand the complexities of the plot, and the ‘flowery language’.  You would be surprised!  Each class, over the many years I have taught Shakespeare, have remembered the numerous characters, laughed at the foolishness they portray, and along the way embraced the moral values embedded in such tales.Exposing young children to such wonderful language and literature will inspire them to become better writers, become aware of cultural references, and assist them when they return to Shakespeare in their later years.  Being introduced to literary classics now, by retelling the stories, will enable them to become familiar with the plot and characters, and give them a strong foundation to build their future understandings on.Starting with the life of Shakespeare, there is a wonderful opportunity to introduce history first hand, as the children explore the clothes Elizabethans wore, the houses they lived in, the differences in the lives of children then and now. This year, using a quill and ink to write, is a particular fascination, along with the burning down of the original Globe Theatre, and rats (who were thought to be involved in the spreading of The Plague) has provoked many questions.  The children have begun creating using plasticine, pen and ink, paint, collage materials, block and building rods to build their own understandings.In the block area The Globe has begun to be recreated, including a trapdoor, “For the actors to magically appear.”  Constructing The Globe Theatre in our ‘loose parts’ area has led to much problem solving, as the children voiced, “How can I make a circle, because these rods are all straight?”  Exploring the material, and realising the rods would bend, has led to a circular three levelled structure, complete with rectangular stage.  In our Studio the children have been painting portraits of Shakespeare, and also ladies and gentlemen’s clothes from Shakespeare’s time.  In our drama area the children have begun re-enacting some scenes from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, as well as creating their own puppets. Tatiana and her fairies, seems very popular!Over the coming weeks the children will explore, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, and building on from our box project, create a Globe Theatre for all our community to enjoy.

If you have any ideas, objects of interest, or thoughts on what our curriculum in this area could include, we would love to hear from you.  

Thank you to Richland Academy’s Inquiry Animator and Grade 4 and 5 Math Teacher, Ms. Megan Pearson, for sharing her insights and the inspired math work of her students with Inquiry Minds We welcome your feedback!

“’Innovation must be part and parcel of the ordinary, the norm, if not routine.’ This presents a formidable new challenge: how to develop citizens who not only possess up-to-date knowledge but are able to participate in the creation of new knowledge as a normal part of their lives.” –Scardemalia and Bereiter

Sal Khan, creator of Khan Academy has thousands of videos that explain all kinds of concepts in math, science and even history!  By breaking down concepts into step by step instructions, with examples, he makes difficult to understand ideas, understandable.

During some parts of our math program, the Grades 4 and 5 classes “flipped the classroom,” using Khan Academy videos at home for instruction, and using class time for collaborative and individual practice.  Using a program called Educreations, students are creating their own Khan Academy–style videos, explaining and breaking down how to convert units of measurement, a concept they have struggled to gain a full understanding of. By thinking about how we might teach a concept, we also examine how we, and others, might better learn and understand it, because we are forced to deconstruct and examine its parts more closely than we may have otherwise been inclined to do.

We at Inquiring Minds encourage you to find a few minutes out of your day to read this insightful post by author Warren Berger. Mr. Berger is the author of a booked called, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. In this article, Mr. Berger reflects on the beliefs of Albert Einstein surrounding the importance of questioning as a skill, and considers how schools are building this capacity in students.

With Badminton and Ball Hockey competitions taking place later this month, we can reflect upon what our Huskies have accomplished on the basketball court, and what we hope they will achieve looking forward.  The Huskies entered two teams into the SSAF Basketball competition: an Under-10 team, and an Under-12 team.Both teams played in their respective tournaments at the Hoopdome at Downsview Park; and worked hard, showed competitive yet sportsmanlike behavior, and made it to the Quarter-finals of both events. Awesome!This was a great achievement for our Huskies, and in both tournaments we lost in those finals to teams from UMS. For the U-12s, UMS simply had a much larger team and ultimately ran us down; and for the U-10s, we battled right to the final buzzer and only lost by one point. Both teams won 3 of their 4 round-robin games, and this placed them into 2nd place in their divisions, thus launching them into the Quarters. Coach Pearson was magnificent as coach for both events, and got the players ready to compete at the level they ultimately did, and has paved the way for future successes in player development for next year at Richland.Other schools commented on how well we played and our overall development, so our Huskies have much to be proud of. Many thanks to our Grade 4 girls as well, who played up on the U-12 team. They learned a lot and competed well, even when playing against players a little bigger.Teamwork, cooperation, fair play, hustle and determination, were all Husky trademarks for these tournaments. The building blocks are now in place for the future.Looking ahead, the Huskies are currently training for the SSAF Badminton Tournament and the Ball Hockey Tournaments in a few weeks.  We look forward to sharing their success, and supporting our teams as they represent Richland Academy.  These are two new events for our school, so it will be great competitive experience for our students.Go Huskies Go!

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