Learning to Learn

As discoverers we dare to question, reflect, collaborate, and share our reasoning with others.


Better Writing or Better Thinking?

We often hear comments from parents expressing how their child’s writing has improved.  While building students’ abilities to communicate well in writing and discussion is a goal we strive for, there is an underlying skill which is far more important to develop first: the ability to reason effectively.  Better thinking supports better writing and deeper understanding.

Classrooms, like households, often rely on routines to manage the behaviors and procedures which make things run more smoothly.  Once a routine is practiced and well-established it becomes habitual.  Classroom routines often include processes for beginning class, recording assignments, passing out or collecting papers.  Family routines can center around managing mealtimes, homework, bedtime or morning preparation.  While these routines often vary from family to family and classroom to classroom, once established they support the outcome desired.

Developing students’ abilities to think can also be supported by routines for thinking and each subsequent post on this page will share a routine you might consider using with your children or your students.  But first let’s consider what we mean by “thinking”, because our brains are almost constantly thinking.  This blog’s title is Learning to Learn.  So what do we mean when using the word think in the context of learning?  How often does class time for students involve actually thinking as opposed to doing?  As a result what do students know, what are they able to do, and most importantly what do they understand about the content within each subject they study?

Ron Ritchhart and colleagues from Harvard Project Zero identify eight “high-leverage thinking moves that serve understanding well.” (1)

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

As thinking routines are shared in later posts you will notice the following similarities:

  • they have a specific purpose in supporting reasoning
  • they are easy to learn, consisting of just a few steps
  • when used frequently they can support student engagement and learning
  • they can be used in multiple situations or contexts
  • they can be used by an individual or a group

We hope you consider following this blog or entering your email address on the sidebar so you will receive notifications when new posts (new thinking routines) are shared.  Please also comment on your own experiences with any of the routines.  Your input is valuable to us.

Source:  (1) Ritchhart, R., Church, M.,Morrison, K, (2011), Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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