Dear Colleague:

Recently, I participated in a professional learning experience with LUTE Stem at Lehman College. I learned a lot about Costa and Kallick’s Habits of Mind, Pat Carini’s Descriptive Review of a Child protocol, and multimodal composition.

I had some time to think about how to apply these new ideas in the classroom, and in this letter, I’d like to explain my enthusiasm for supporting learners as they work to understand themselves better. I believe that an effective way guide students towards self-discover it to build awareness around the Habits of Mind. Costa and Kallick, the authors of the Habits of Mind Framework state,” Habits of Mind are dispositions people use when confronted with problems and situations to which the answers are not immediately apparent.” The introduction of these habits to our learners will benefit them greatly while they work through academic, social, and emotional challenges. One realization that I had while diving into the depth of the Habits of Mind Framework was that I had many moments in my life that I could link to a specific habit. Frequent reflection during and after activities offered me opportunities to pause and identify the habit that I used to work through a task. I think that this metacognitive work is essential for all people, and I am eager to introduce it to the learners in our classroom.

I would like to propose that we develop a mini unit on stories when problems were solved or learned a new skill. Applying past knowledge to new situations is one vital Habits of Mind and I feel like it is a fundamental backbone to building upon prior knowledge from our multicultural students. Transferring knowledge according to new material conditions resonate with this Habit of Mind because student need help how to think dialectically to understand a world in constant motion. Our learning objective would be that students would craft a multi-modal story about a time when new insights of knowledge was discovered, emphasizing the stages of that process of struggle.

To do this we will need a brainstorming map, laptops/chromebooks/ipads, and access to, and Youtube.

The students will create a video that tells a story about a time when they applied past knowledge to new situations. They will collect ideas on the paper brainstorming map. Then, they will create discussion posts reflecting on their work and publish it. Using Youthvoices students, can include music to connect with emotions, a gif or image that deepens the meaning or message of the story, and/or text that highlights and emphasizes certain phrases and words from their story or other language modalities. This multimedia story will appear on a student’s Youthvoices wall for our our group of learners. After each student posts an idea, they can listen to one another’s stories, view each other’s post and leave written or recorded feedback.

When the students complete this activity, they will have made progress on these four standards from the New York State Social Studies Middle School Standards:

STANDARD I: HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES AND NEW YORK Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York.

STANDARD 3: GEOGRAPHY Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the geography of the interdependent world in which we live—local, national, and global—including the distribution of people, places, and environments over the Earth’s surface.

STANDARD 4 – ECONOMICS Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of how the United States and other societies develop economic systems and associated institutions to allocate scarce resources, how major decision-making units function in the United States and other national economies, and how an economy solves the scarcity problem through market and non-market mechanisms.

STANDARD 5 – CIVICS, CITIZENSHIP, AND GOVERNMENT Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments, the governmental system of the United States and other nations, the United States Constitution, the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy, and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.

We can start by showing them this video:

  • Animation studios when they start a new anime – Animated video – YouTube
  • Then we can introduce the Habit of Mind “Applying past knowledge to new situations” and define it. We can ask students to identify how the video demonstrates this.
  • After that, we can introduce this prompt with the brainstorming map: Think of times when you endured productive struggle in the process of discovering new insights of knowledge related to something you care about in the world.
  • Consider changes in your life and the social circumstances of the world, the opposing forces in them, and moments of development in your consciousness (thinking).   
  • After students have a few minutes to brainstorm, they will create a discussion post on Youth voices and select a YouTube video.
  • We will demonstrate and model how to tell a story. We will also think aloud and show them how to make decisions on how and when to add other multimedia features to the video.
  • We would confer with students while they work and provide personalized feedback that is responsive to their immediate needs.

I would also propose that the students give each other feedback using YouthVoices. They could use this protocol to provide meaningful and relevant feedback:

  • Leave your partner a star by telling them something that they did really well.
  • Leave your partner a wish by telling them something that you wish they would continue to do more of or try next time.

This activity should take at least 45 minutes to complete, which should allow time for productive struggle. To encourage students, I think we might set up practices where students support one another with technical components such as an expert board.

When they have finished this activity, it would be great if we could ask the students to write and talk about how or if they encountered the Habit of Mind of Applying past knowledge to new situations to create their document and video on YouthVoices and YouTube.

I will also use these Habits of Mind to give the students both written and oral feedback while they are working and once they finish their work!

Thank you for taking the time to consider this proposal. I hope you see how valuable this activity could be for our students. Please let me know if you have any revisions that I might consider for this activity. I look forward to working with you on this. Who knows – if it works well – maybe we can do this for all of the habits!

Your Partner in Education,

Rafael Peña

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August 29, 2022 6:43 pm

Dear Rafael

This lesson plan was really. It was organized and clear. The way you high-lighted the different sections was really good. It helped to separate every single part you were talking about. I like how you connected this activity into teaching history. One sentence you stated that stuck out to me was when you stated ” I believe that an effective way to guide students towards self-discover is to build awareness around the habits of mind. I believe that one of out responsibilities as a teacher is to help students find who they are and help find their voice and gifts. If we help them find these things, they will be successful in whatever they do in life. Keep doing the great work you are doing.

August 9, 2022 1:57 pm

Dear Rafael:

I am intrigued by your lesson proposal, “If You Wish to Know What Justice Is, Let Injustice Pursue You,” because you developed an idea that would allow for learners to be metacognitive while discovering other skills connected to technology, speaking, and listening. Your ideas show a commitment to the individual’s life experience, and this is significant when nurturing a classroom community.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “Applying past knowledge to new situations is one vital Habits of Mind and I feel like it is a fundamental backbone to building upon prior knowledge from our multicultural students.” I think this is true as well, because throughout life, experience offers humans a vast wealth of knowledge. By dedicating time to reflecting and identifying the elements that can support us in future endeavors, we can work towards overcoming challenges and become stronger in assessing solutions based on what we already know. I think it is important that we highlight our learners’ lives and offer them opportunities to use their prior knowledge to make new connections. It’s wonderful that your students will be able to learn about this.

Another sentence that I agreed with was: “Transferring knowledge according to new material conditions resonates with this Habit of Mind because students need help on how to think dialectically to understand a world in constant motion.” This stood out for me because it does always seem like the world is moving at a fast pace and things are evolving so quickly. However, an activity like yours invites students to slow down and pause and to discover the ways that they can connect and transfer learning (academic and life) from one setting to another.

Have you seen this strategy, Hexagonal Thinking: A Tool for Colorful Discussion?  I thought you might be interested in this because of the strategy’s capacity to make connections between ideas and build conversation. Your lesson reminded me of this strategy because the habit of applying past knowledge to new situations is all about making connections to build deeper understanding. I have enjoyed using this strategy with my students because it is open-ended and leads to deeper, more critical thinking.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because it is evident that you are committed to helping students understand themselves and the world. It is inspirational.


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