man leaning on bridge

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.

  • We can start by showing them this video: Scene from Men In Black – YouTube
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • After students have a few minutes to brainstorm, they will select one idea to create into a YouthVoices doc and 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 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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Crystal
August 8, 2022 5:40 pm

Dear Emily: 

I enjoyed reading your proposal, “What You Thought You Knew.” I think this will be a good proposal to implement with students because it will help them realize the importance of habits of mind. This activity will also serve for them to reflect on their experiences and use the multimodal approaches we learned during sessions. 

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is, “Habits of Mind are dispositions people use when confronted with problems and situations to which the answers are not immediately apparent.” I think this is an important point the “Habits of Mind” document raised. This is something that I learned while reflecting on the activities because it made me realize the habits of mind I use the most when faced with a problem and the habits that I need to work on. I like how the document provides strategies to implement when you encounter an issue. 

Another sentence that I found interesting was: “The students will create a video that tells a 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 in the process.” This stood out for me because it provides students with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the habits of mind you proposed. This will be a beneficial and fun activity for students to complete. 

Have you seen this article? Question and Posing Problems. I thought you might be interested in this because it talks about the importance of posing questions and how beneficial it is for students to learn this habit of mind. I thought it would be helpful because it relates directly to your activity. 

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because your proposal was very detailed, and I think it will benefit the students, especially those who are entering adulthood, as you mentioned.

Claudia
August 4, 2022 3:59 pm

Dear Emily:

I am excited by your proposal, What You Though You Knew. I liked how you present this topic because it clearly explains the idea of what the habits of mind and multimodal learning can be supported. Also, you support your argument with facts that have proven its impact among students and people in general.

One sentence that you wrote that stands out for me is: “I believe that an effective way to guide students toward greater self-understanding is through studying the Habits of Mind”. I would like to say that up until now, I wasn’t familiarized with the habits of mind and how most of the time we are led by our emotions when facing a situation without the proper knowledge. 

Another sentence that got me was:” 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.” This statement is so accurate because most of the time children are forced to become part of learning stages, they are not yet ready to embark on. Like you I believe they must prepare beforehand and provided with tools and the knowledge to face such high-level functioning towards responding to new situations. 

Have you seen this? https://youtu.be/1dO0dO__wmE. I thought that you might be interested in this because it explains the importance of asking question when don’t know the answer. Asking questions shows you are curious, and you care, it shows that you want to learn and understand. Through asking questions, a person learns the most important aspects of communication.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next as I would like to hear good stuff about this proposal.

Respectfully,
Claudia

Marina
August 3, 2022 5:47 pm

Dear Emily:

I am excited by your proposal, What You Thought You Knew, because you envisioned an idea that will support the Habits of Mind and multimodal learning. Not only that, but your letter also shows that you are committed to encouraging your students to sharpen their skills around assessing information. This is a beneficial mindset to develop in our fast-paced and media-filled world.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “If we want our students to be critical thinkers, they must be prepared to inspect information or ideas before accepting new information as “fact.”” I think this is a significant point that you make because we want our students to learn how to vet their information sources and seek out multiple sources that confirm or challenge the information. This will support them as they research for academic and personal projects throughout their lives.

Another sentence that got me thinking was: “The students will create a video that tells a 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 in the process.” This stood out to me because you are inviting your students to reflect on their past experiences in order to determine a bigger idea or concept that they can apply to life, history, literature, art, music, etc. This is not only great work for building the habit of Question and Problem Posing but can be a good segue into work on theme. Additionally, it could also support a bridge into other literacy strategies such as the Notice and Note Signposts such as “Aha Moment” and “Memory Moment.”

 Have you seen this blog post from WeVideo: How to Use Video to Promote Student Discourse?  I thought you might be interested in this because Dr. Nathan Lang Raad encourages the use of videos as a meaningful and relevant way to engage students in their learning. Additionally, he offers some tips ( think-pair-on air, which I am definitely going to try). He closes out the post by saying, “This student discourse video experience provides students with multiple opportunities to share, compare, contrast, reflect, revise, and refine.” I think this statement applies to the proposal that you created as well. It is incredible to think of all the skills and experiences that you will offer learners by allowing them to share their stories of Questioning and Posing Problems through a video recording.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing some of these videos and hearing more about where the project took you and your learners.

Marina

Jesse
July 31, 2022 2:14 am

Hey Emily,

Really cool stuff here! First off, I like how you’ve used the formatting that Marina incorporated in her original letter that we looked at. Secondly, and most importantly, this seems like a really solid unit plan. Getting students to use YouthVoices as a way to finalize their project seems like a great way to get them to start thinking multimodally.

(I also like the Men in Black clip as a motivator. Fun, funny and definitely relevant to learning anything in today’s world… You don’t know what you think you know…)

I’ve been struggling to incorporate the many useful platforms that we’ve covered in these sessions into music education. It isn’t that they aren’t applicable or useful. It’s more that I’m reluctant to take away valuable and limited time in which students have the opportunity to be playing an instrument with other people. The concepts however — multimodal thinking, Habits of Mind, can certainly be used in conjunction with hands-on time.

I wonder what you think about that?

Sincerely,

Jesse

Jesse
Reply to  Jesse
July 31, 2022 3:44 am

Whoops, I meant to say this:

Dear Emily:

I am interested in  your discussion post, “What You Thought You Knew,” because of both the form and content of your material. I think you’ve gotten at the heart of what Multimodality is all about, it seems. 

One thing you included that stands out for me is the Men in Black clip as your motivational activity. I think this is strong because it accurately conveys that existential kind of unsettling that one might feel when you’re compelled to ask big, probing questions. Maybe it’s an experience that is a little strange and scary for some, but it also means that your understanding is changing on a fundamental level. That is to say, well, you’re learning!

Another thing you included in your document that I thought was strong was your formatting. I know that it’s more a cosmetic aspect of your proposal, but for me it was effective because it visually told me where the important information was. 

Have you been through the Interconnected Framework for Assessment of Digital Multimodal Composition document?  (https://nowcomment.com/documents/312304) I thought you might be interested in this because it outlines some really strong theoretical concepts for thinking about evaluating student multimodal creations. It’s worth a read through the whole doc, if you get a chance.

I’ve been interested in trying to figure out how this can apply to the music classroom, to meagre success. As I’m sure you’re aware, precious time in the music classroom in which students can play instruments together is somewhat of a limiting factor in terms of time which could be used for the creation of digital presentations.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I’m always on the lookout for new ideas as to how to get my students engaged. 

Sincerely, 

Jesse Bartlett-Webber

Jesse
Reply to  Emily
August 2, 2022 6:48 pm

Hi Emily,

It’s a good question about the students having seen MIB. I feel like you can never quite be certain about what students will take to that is older than their living memory… It’s always a gamble.

Thanks for your suggestions about incorporating multimodal composition into the music classroom. The anecdote that you shared about a student who broke her arm is a perfect example of how it would be helpful to have this kind of material prepared. Also, Shostakovich is certainly a fine choice for such an activity!

I guess it’s sort of a conundrum… For students who can’t (also who WON’t) participate in regular music instruction, it provides the teacher with a great proving ground for multimodal types of activities. But having students not being able or willing to participate in class is ultimately the opposite of the desired outcome.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that so much music creation happens now using personal computers, and in an asynchronous setting — beat making, music production and multitrack recording using popular DAW’s is a case in point. For this mode, multimodal platforms such as YV could be a perfect online environment for refining musical ideas.

It is also important to note that since remote learning has really taken off in our lifetime, it opens up huge possibilities for asynchronous music creation to become a big part of school curriculum. It’s possible that minimal class time can be used for technical instruction while valuable work can be done in the form of outside of class assignments.

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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