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Dear Ms. De Los Santos:

Last month, I participated in a professional learning experience with LUTE-STEM at Lehman College. I learned a lot about Multimodal Literacy, Habits of Mind, the Descriptive Review of a Child Protocol, and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. 

There was a lot to think about and consider about how to apply in the classroom, and in this letter, I’d like to focus on Habits of Mind because this approach helps me to learn and develop thinking skills that I need to apply in unfamiliar situations. According to Art Costa, Bena Kallick, and Allison Zmuda, Habits of Mind are dispositions people use when confronted with problems and situations to which the answers are not immediately apparent. While completing different activities and applying the Habits of Mind, I learned to consider other people’s points of view, listen with understanding and empathy, think flexibly, communicate with clarity and precision, and apply previous knowledge and thinking about my thinking. Habits of Minds are skills that apply to teachers and students. We must teach students how to be more flexible, consider and respect classmates’ ideas and reflect on their thoughts. It will be effective because we will create a learning environment where all students feel valued and respected. All classrooms should develop an inclusive environment where all students feel welcome. 

I would like to propose that we can implement in the annual curriculum restorative circles that will be conducted on Mondays or Fridays. During the circles, students will be able to speak their minds and heart out, share personal and academic stories, and give feedback and comment to each other. During the activity, students will be applying the Habits of Mind as they will be flexible, reflecting, listening, and communicating with empathy, questioning and posing problems, etc.

To do this, we will need the participation, collaboration, and willingness of all the students. We will need to set a community agreement and create a space for the students to feel safe and comfortable. We will need to ensure confidentiality and respect. Our activity will give a social-emotional approach. We will need weekly materials to read, such as the Habits of Mind article, and maybe a voice recording as an option for those students who might feel uncomfortable taking turns to speak aloud.

The students will be making a connection with each other stories and feelings. They will choose the topics of their preference to discuss during the circle and they will compose the community agreement. Also, I propose that during the academic year, we take the students outside the classroom to develop the restorative circle in different places.

When the students complete this activity they will have made progress on these three standards from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL); the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages.

  • Connections: Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations.
    • Making Connections: Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and solve problems creatively.
    • Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives: Learners access and evaluate information and diverse perspectives that are available through the language and its cultures.
  • Communication: Communicate effectively in more than one language to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes.
    • Interpersonal Communication: Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.
    • Interpretive Communication: Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.
    • Presentational Communication: Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.
  • Communities: Communicate and interact with cultural competence to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world.
    • School and Global Communities: Learners use the language both within and beyond the classroom to interact and collaborate in their community and the globalized world.
    • Lifelong Learning: Learners set goals and reflect on their progress in using languages for enjoyment, enrichment, and advancement.

Here’s how I think we might introduce this activity. We could give these directions to the students:

Objectives:  

  • The student will be able to connect and feel empathy
  • The student will be able to analyze life situations

Do Now / Anticipatory Set

  • Share a personal story with the class
  • Define/explain the cultural significance 

Benchmark Lesson

  •  “Persisting” (Habits of Mind) 

Guided Practice (in a class circle):

  • Read paragraph (students annotate)
  • Review with class (teacher asks probing questions as students summarize)
  • Answer the following question by completing the task in verbal form. 

   -Why persistence is important? 

Independent Practice: Each student will independently complete the guided practice activity.

Closure:  Share your biggest learning of the day. 

I would also propose that the students give each other feedback on their work. They could use this checklist to self-assess and give each other feedback:

  • I can listen with understanding 
  • I can be flexible 
  • I can think about my thinking 
  • I can think and communicate with clarity
  • I can be creative, imaginary, and innovating

This activity should take at least 45 to complete, which should allow time for productive struggle. To encourage persistence, I think we might save time at the end of each section for the students to express the biggest learning of the day. 

When they have finished this activity, it would be great if we could ask the students to write and talk about how they used one of these two Habits of Mind.

  • Finding Humor
  • Responding with wonderment and awe 

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.

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Jesse
August 3, 2022 2:11 pm

Dear Marlen,

I think that your proposal brings up some important points in relation to social-emotional learning. The central vehicle of the Restorative Circle lessons in which students can “speak their minds and heart out, share personal and academic stories, and give feedback and comment to each other,” will no doubt provide a rich learning environment in which information can be shared in a multidirectional fashion, through a complex network of formal and informal channels.

A part of your proposal that stood out to me was that in which you said, “[t]he students will be making a connection with each other stories and feelings. They will choose the topics of their preference to discuss during the circle and they will compose the community agreement.” This statement seemed to be at the heart of your approach. That is, for the instructor allow the students to take the reins over their own learning by guiding a discussion from within rather than imposing a conversation from without. In my (limited) professional experience leading Circles, the strategy certainly lends itself to successful learning — if not at least some rich, interesting and thought-provoking discussion.

Another section of your proposal which I found compelling and interesting was actually the one on the academic standards. “Connections: Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations,” “Communication: Communicate effectively in more than one language to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes,” and “Communities: Communicate and interact with cultural competence to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world.”

I’m not so familiar with the standards of language education, since it’s outside of my content area, but I was struck with how clearly these three different anchors outline paths to linguistic fluency. Although I’ve never really thought about it so specifically before now, communication, connection and community have indeed been at the heart of my own ability to learn and understand new languages and skills, and I’m sure that of many others as well.

I would assume that you’re already familiar with the learning theories of Lev Vygotsky. He proposed that learning takes place within a social system, and that relationships are key to learning new skills. I found a document online published by Explorable.com which gives an overview of Vygotsky’s work. You can read the document here: https://esteemjourney.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Social-Development-Theory.pdf. I think and hope that you find it as interesting and applicable to your own work as I have found it to mine, since it gets at the heart of the relationship between social environment and intellectual development.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I’m interested in seeing the outcome of your lesson plans and thinking about how they might be applicable to my own methods and learning.

Sincerely,

Jesse

Regina
August 2, 2022 4:54 pm

Dear Marlen:

I am amazed how you were able to relate your proposal to the professional development of the teacher, and then transfer that knowledge to teach the students in restoractive circles. In the meeting you mention that the Habits of Mind principles will be the main objective to develop these concepts in students and to teach how to use these skills or approaches when “confronted with problems and situations to which the answers are not immediately apparent.” 

One sentence you wrote that stands out to me was: “There was a lot to think about and consider about how to apply in the classroom, and in this letter, I’d like to focus on Habits of Mind because this approach helps me to learn and develop thinking skills that I need to apply in unfamiliar situations.”, because I had the same feeling after reading the article Habits of Mind for the first time, but you took it one step further by adding that you were going to apply the Habits of Mind in the Classroom for your students to learn. At first, I had the belief this article was aimed to teach educators how to apply them in class management.

Another sentence that caught my attention was: “I would like to propose that we can implement in the annual curriculum restorative circles that will be conducted on Mondays or Fridays.” 

This stood out for me because I noticed that your proposal met the correct way of implementing a new curriculum area in which first, you trained the educator and then the educator taught the curriculum. You also selected two days in which you would meet a circle to teach the Habits of Mind approaches giving flexibility about which approach is the most needed for the group.

Have you seen this video Restorative Circles: “Creating a Safe Environment for Students to Reflect”?  I thought you might be interested in this because it will help you better to conduct a restorative session with your students in developing the Habits of Mind approaches. The presenter offered some strategies that I found to be helpful. 

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because your post is very detailed and gives important ideas and activities on how to use the Habits of Mind in restorative circles in the classroom. 

Educationally yours,

Regina

Marina
August 1, 2022 5:38 pm

Dear Marlen:

I am overjoyed by the proposal that you created. Restorative Circle is a powerful practice that helps to build strong relationships within a classroom community. I think it is fantastic that you are enthusiastic about introducing this approach to your future learners and I believe it will give them a genuine opportunity to develop the habits while collaborating and connecting through meaningful and honest conversation.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “We must teach students how to be more flexible, consider and respect classmates’ ideas and reflect on their thoughts.” Like you, I think this is important because it is common to assume that young people already know how to do all of these skills. As educators, we can mentor them to name and identify skills and provide them with strategies to facilitate their awareness of when they are using or working towards those same skills. Incorporating restorative circles is excellent practice that will give your students an authentic and safe opportunity to work on the habits with guidance from a skilled leader such as yourself.

Another sentence that I strongly agree with is: “They will choose the topics of their preference to discuss during the circle and they will compose the community agreement..” This stood out for me because I agree that students need to be involved in the creation of community agreements. When we allow each student to contribute their thoughts on how they want to feel in the circle and what they expect from others, students gain ownership of the learning space. Taking the time to do this before beginning restorative circle practices is critical and will be the first conversation that the group will need to have. 

Have you seen this video describing more about Classroom Charters: Classroom Charter? I thought you might be interested in this because the teacher shares how she reflected on some of her teaching practices and realized that she wanted her students to have more ownership over their classroom community. She had her learners collaborate and compose a classroom charter. Hearing her story and beliefs about what she wants to offer her students reminds me of her ideas for your proposal.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to hearing how restorative circle works out for your community!

Marina

Emily
August 1, 2022 4:19 am

Dear Marlen:

I am blown away by your plan for restorative circles because of how well you integrate the Habits of Mind into this opportunity for connection and community building among your students. I especially like that this plan is not only for one day, but it begins and ends every week so that students can continue to advance their social and emotional skills with their peers. This truly feels like a special activity.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “[Students] will choose the topics of their preference to discuss during the circle and they will compose the community agreement.” I think this is vital to the success of the project because when students are given choice, they are more engaged and invested in the outcomes. If students compose their own agreement, they may be more likely to follow it, and to hold one another to its standards.

Another sentence that struck me was: “I propose that during the academic year, we take the students outside the classroom to develop the restorative circle in different places.” I wondered if you meant having the circles outdoors, or in another space in the school, or if you meant taking the students to a coffee shop or to another off-campus location. Could you elaborate? How do you think this would influence the group?

Have you seen this video, “Classroom Discussions: Strategies and More”? I thought you might be interested in this because, at 2:50, there are several different styles of discussions explained that you might want to consider for this project, and perhaps in different areas of your teaching. There were certainly some strategies I had not personally seen before – we are always learning new techniques!

Thanks for sharing your ideas. I look forward to seeing what you write next because your work centers so clearly on allowing time for your students to grow as complete and kind human beings, not only as receptacles of knowledge! Your love for your students shows through your lesson plan and your writing.

Best wishes,
Emily

Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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