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Dear Colleague:

Recently, I participated in a professional learning experience with LUTE Stem at Lehman College. In one of the courses this Summer, I learned 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 to guide students toward greater self-understanding is through studying 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 of questioning what they thought they knew. Questioning and Posing Problems is one of the Habits of Mind, and I think it is a valuable tool for students who are on the verge of entering adulthood. If we want our students to be critical thinkers, they must be prepared to inspect information or ideas before accepting new information as “fact.” Our learning objective would be that students would craft a multi-modal story about a time when they questioned something they had previously taken at face value, and came to a greater understanding about the world or themselves because of their questions. 

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

The students will create a video that tells a story about a time when they they questioned something they had previously taken at face value, and came to a greater understanding about the world or themselves in the process. They will collect ideas on the paper brainstorming map. They will write their story and publish it as a document on YouthVoices. They can include a gif or image that deepens the meaning or message of the story, and/or any other modes they enjoy. Students will then record themselves telling that same story and upload the video to YouTube, then embed the video into their YouthVoices document. This multimedia story will appear on YouthVoices for our group of learners. After each student posts their story, they can listen to one another’s stories and leave written or recorded feedback.

When the students complete this activity they will have made progress on these four standards from the Next Generation Learning Standards:

  •  9-10W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • 9-10W3b: Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and plot line(s) to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
  • 9-10W3c: Use a variety of techniques to sequence events to create cohesion and a smooth progression of experiences or events.
  • 9-10W3d: Use precise words and phrases, explicit details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
  • 9-10W3e: Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.

Here’s how I think we might introduce this activity. 

  1. We can start by showing them this video: Scene from Men In Black – YouTube
  2. Then we can introduce the Habit of Mind “Questioning and Posing Problems” and define it. We can ask students to identify how the video shows “Questioning and Posing Problems.”
  3. After that, we can introduce this prompt with the brainstorming map: Think of times when you have questioned something you had previously assumed to be true, and came to a greater understanding about the world or yourself in the process.
  4. After students have a few minutes to brainstorm, they will select one idea to create into a YouthVoices doc and YouTube video.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 90-120 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 Questioning and Posing Problems 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,

Emily Staudt

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Regina
August 2, 2022 5:25 am

Dear Marina,

I am very enthusiastic to read your post about the proposed mini unit on stories of questioning and posing problems you posted in a letter to a colleague. I noticed that the unit you wrote : “ If we want our students to be  critical thinkers they must be prepared to inspect information as “fact.” Our learning objective would be that our students would craft a  multimodal story about a time when they questioned something they had previously taken at face value and came to a greater understanding about the world or themselves because of their questions.” and this is a work that is aligned with the concept of “Questioning and Posing Problems for Greater Understanding ” found in the Habits of Mind.

One sentence you wrote that stands out to me was: “They can include a gif or image that deepens the meaning or message of the story, and/or any other modes they enjoy.” This quote gives students the opportunity to differentiate the product by choosing their digital element of their preference. This also opens the door for creativity and flexibility in crafting their stories. In addition, teachers  need to be persistent in using multimodal concepts and you are including it in your activity.

Another sentence that caught my attention was: “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 Questioning and Posing Problems to create their document and video on YouthVoices and YouTube.” This stood out for me because I feel that the students will pose questions while making the video. But at the end will learn that because questioning helps them to solve problems by asking questions during the completion of the task. Though, students need support practicing their questioning and posing problems to succeed in their  goal they want to achieve, the result will be worth it

Have you seen this video on how to use “Questioning and Posing Problems? Video   It is easy and children love it because it shows how to use the concept. I thought you might be interested in this because it will help your students in using questions in posing problems. 

Thanks for writing your unit. 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 “Questioning and Posing Problems”academic activities. 

Educationally yours,

Regina
 

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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