Three Habits Important to Me! by Jennifer Van Allen

July 18, 2022


Three Habits Important to Me!

As a literacy teacher and lover of all things related to literacy (especially as it relates to technology), the habits of mind we have been working with have so many connections to the skills I want my students to develop as readers and writers.  Reading through the article, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind by Arthur Costa, I noted two habits that directly connect to what research tells us effective readers and writers use.

Questioning and Posing Problems

Asking questions is essential to understanding because it helps us process what we are engaged with, such as a text, and actively participate in understanding it.  To me, I think asking questions and posing problems not only helps me comprehend information I’m receiving (such as when I’m reading, listening to someone, or viewing a movie) but it also helps me think critically about that information.  Here’s how I’m making that connection.

I moved to NYC in 2016 from the warm, sunny (well sometimes) lands of Florida.  I was born and raised in Florida and had no idea about winter weather.  I used to freeze when it was in the 50’s/60’s because the temperature rarely dipped below that!  My husband was born and raised in Massachusetts, so luckily I had a cold weather expert in my midst.  Along with reading about wintry weather, I asked so many questions to my husband about snow, driving on icy roads, and even what kind of clothes to get!  I also posed problems, like what do I do if the plow comes in and buries the car and what happens if the snow gets so high we can’t open the door outside?  He was sick and tired of me to be honest.  However, asking questions and posing problems helped me learn more about the wintry weather I was so fascinated with my first couple of years in NYC.  I’ve since learned it’s not that big a deal to my relief because it really doesn’t snow that much or get that high here in the city.  =) Now driving in it?!  Well, I just avoid that at all costs!

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

And here, again, we have another strategy that effective readers use to comprehend text. Being able to recall important prior knowledge and use it to understand a text is another high-impact reading strategy.  Research is so strong on the importance of applying prior knowledge that some say it is the single most important factor in determining how much readers will comprehend about a given topic is their level of prior knowledge about that topic (Cunningham, 2006).  This habit of mind extends that research noting that you need to apply it to new situations.

Another thing you can learn about me from reading my bio is that I’m an animal lover.  I’ve had pets of all sorts including a leopard gecko, beta fish, bunnies, turtles, guinea pigs, cat, and am now a proud parent of a puppy.  This all stemmed from the toy poodle that we owned when I was a child.  From my parents, I learned that animals need basic things such as food, water, and shelter, but should also have other things that aren’t essential such as walk, play time, and treats that enrich their lives.  I applied this knowledge to all of the pets that I’ve owned but had to extend that knowledge to learn the specific needs of different species of animals.  Did you know that bunnies make two different kinds of poops and actually eat their own poop?  One is a special poop after they eat called cecotropes. Because their diet is so fibrous, their intestines can’t process all of it and much of it comes out in their poop.  They eat this special poop which is soft and looks almost like blackberries to get the nutrients that they need from their food.

Responding with Wonderment and Awe

So while those two habits of mind relate closely to my current work, another habit that I’ve developed as a lifelong learner is to responding with wonderment and awe.  As a literacy teacher, I was struck with this habit of mind since it is one of the strategies that successful readers use to comprehend text. It seems that it’s not just about what you read, but being curious and wondering are habits of influential thinkers as well!

I wonder how technology adds to these habits of mind? Does our reliance on technology expand the list or add new habits we need to develop?  I’m a bit of a technology nerd in that I love all things dealing with digital tools.  I love tinkering with new platforms, such as Kumospace and YouthVoices, and experiencing awe at the way technology is changing our lives, frankly!  Thus, I think that this habit of mind truly explains my own perspective on life.  To be a lifelong learner, you must marvel at new information, tools, and experiences and wonder what other possibilities are!

I look forward to connecting with you all!