Have you had a real conversation lately?

Time has managed to escape me and leaves no room for writing. Today, I will write.

Life in the classroom has had its ups and downs over the past month. I’ve seen some little glimmers of hope between the normal issues that second graders believe are so important. I started my kids blogging. I have my para back and have actually been teaching, instead of assessing. I’m still trying to figure out the best structure for my literacy block to maximize time and meet everyone’s needs.

Last week, I tried something different with this group. I started the conversation. I began the first lesson of the set of curiosity lessons from Angela Maiers’ Classroom Habitudes. I had no expectations from them because this group is different than last year. As a teacher, am I allowed to say that? I had no or little expectations from this lesson? Well, if I’m being honest, that’s what happened. Working with a large group of English Language Learners definitely gives you a varied perspective on how they will perform. I started the conversation by asking what the word “curiosity” means. That was it. Now, knowing effective ELL strategies, I had to give a definition, show a visual of just a question mark, and use example of when I thought students were being curious. That was all it took. Activating prior knowledge never looked so effective! They gave me amazing answers! I wasn’t planning on taping that lesson, but I quickly paused and ran to get my Flip cam so I could. Then we continued the conversation and I learned the things that my students are curious about or have unanswered questions to. We wrapped up and they continued to ask me questions that afternoon, the next day, and this week.

I attended the Plum Creek Literacy Festival in Seward, NE with Angela Maiers last week and had the rare opportunity to share this lesson with the educators who came to her session. I hope that they saw just how surprising it really was for me and that I was completely caught off guard by what occurred with a simple conversation. But as I listened to Angela’s presentation on the Habitudes, it made sense. When students enter school in Kindergarten, 99.999999% of them already possess the skills of a 21st Century learner. However, as they progress through school it declines – seriously. Studies show that by 8, it’s down to 32%, by 13, it’s 10%, and by adulthood, it’s 2%. School is literally sucking the life and skills of a 21st Century learner out! Yes, there is a crisis. So how do we stop that and cultivate these skills instead? Well, it’s not going to be handed to us in a 3-ring binder like all of our other curriculum. Instead, it’s going to take place in simple conversations that we have with students. We name the habitude that we want to talk about. We claim it by noticing it taking place around us in our lives and discovering mentors that have the essence of the habitude that we can create a DREAM TEAM to refer to when we are in doubt of what we’re capable of doing. We sustain it by practicing its use. Our brains are muscles – they can be trained just like any other muscle.

So what does this mean? Well, stop doubting students for one! But dare to have conversations about habits and attitudes, or habitudes, that will sustain life in the 21st Century. Don’t just overlook the fact that students are creative, curious, perseverant, or insert characteristic here, and leave it at that. Name it, claim it, sustain it. Cultivate these characteristics and traits in your own students. It will take them much further in life than the scope and sequence in that 3-ring binder ever will! We can so do this!!

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2 thoughts on “Have you had a real conversation lately?

  1. I LOVE this entry! Being a preschool teacher with English Language Learners I have found conversation is the best lesson. I learned from Angela Maiers that preschoolers are getting chances to talk and learn. That gave me hope that I am going in the right direction. Children will open up and through discussions they learn. Great wrok:)

  2. Excellent point about teachers needing to take the time to explore “habitudes” that aren’t found in the curriculum and that can’t be tested. They are so critical to success in life. I know in my classroom it was so easy to get caught up in the schedule and to zoom through the day from one thing to another that “had” to be accomplished.

    Thank you for taking the time to blog and giving us insight and little glimpses into your classroom!

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