Blue field like crop rows and burgundy border, saying "Don't Just Survive - Thrive

Building Thinking Classrooms by Peter LilJedahl

I was in advanced academics throughout my school career and I absolutely thrive with the traditional method of education (talk about a thing, then practice it) but having watched how dog training and handling has evolved since I learned it – and now homeschooling my kids, I realize that a lot of the trouble I’ve had for a long time has to do with the rigid, Classical style I use to teach. This was a foray into this and I am READY for it all.

Link to free grade-based math tasks

Why aren’t kids engaged?

  • Slacking: don’t know how to do it or learned that if they wait, the teacher will do it
  • Stalling: same
  • Faking: same
  • Mimicking: think that’s what teachers want

How to promote thinking and not mimicking:

  • Engage a challenging task, but don’t explain how to do it
    • The first 3-5 miniutes are thinking tasks
    • Then you can script to scripted thinking
      • Begin by asking a question about prior knowledge
      • Then ask an extention of that
      • Then ask them to do something without telling them how
  • Visually show people that you are randomizing groups for working and they will like it more
    • K-2 – 2 people, 3 for older
    • Ensure you still know what group they are in
  • Use vertical non-permanent surfaces
    • One marker per group
    • Move marker within group
    • Cannot write their own ideas sometimes
    • Groups are responsible for the learning of each member
    • Close proximity to other groups
    • Talk to students about valuing wrong ideas and not erasing others’ work
  • Defront the classroom with randomized group alignment
    • Put main desk wherever, but move around to work with students
    • Cluster tables away from vertical spaces
  • Responding to questions:
    • Proximity questions: kids ask questions because a teacher is nearby and they are typically not useful questions. It’s a weird habit.
      • Smile and walk away
    • Stop-Thinking questions: “is this right” or “do we have to learn this”
      • Smile and walk away
    • Keep-Thinking questions: “Can we get the next task?” or “Is what I’m doing okay?”
    • Responses:
      • Isn’t that interesting?
      • Can you find something else?
      • Can you show me how you did that?
      • Is that always true?
      • Why do you think that is?
      • Are you sure?
      • Are you asking or telling me?
    • Talk to students about the three types of questions they ask after you have implemented it.
  • The first 3-5 minutes are key
    • Give the first task within that window
    • Give it verbally and with them standing around you
    • Try to use different locations to do this
    • Try to offer the minimum new knowledge needed and minimum needed to be said or written to pass on that knowledge
    • Write only on the board quantities they need to remember (or measurements, or shapes, etc)
    • When students start, ask if what is written on the board would make sense to a student coming in late
  • Students not doing their work:
    • Didn’t do it: no time, forgot, don’t know how, don’t want to (it’s not worth it)
    • Cheated: fun, lack of ability, just for marks so who cares
    • Got help: didn’t know how to do it
    • Solutions:
      • Give students a chance to check understanding with questions
        • Don’t mark it
        • Don’t ask about it
        • Use phrases like “this is your opportunity”
        • Provide answers at the same time when you give the questions
        • Provide worked solutions a day after giving them
        • Give students to discuss which questions are important for everyone to do
  • Have students write meaningful notes
    • Emphasize notes are for them, by them
    • Write notes for future forgetful selves
    • Write worked examples in there
    • 3 tasks to use meaningful notes
  • Make T-Charts to show good vs bad things to show what values you like and emphasize