Pine Knob Elementary CoT Lab Tour
Focus on Art, Science and Math
Jodi Yeloushan, Principal
Clarkston, MI. November 13, 2014
Background: Pine Knob is a K-5 Title I building with 475 students. There are four sections at grade two and three sections at each of the other grade levels, two resource rooms and one basic classroom in special education. There are two Title I teachers for reading and math. The agenda for the tour included: a) Welcome and Overview, b) # 1 Pre-observation with host teacher and classroom observation, c) Gallery Walk of the building, d) # 2 Pre-observation with host teacher and classroom observation, and e) Debrief with classroom teachers, Community Loom and Wrap-up session.
Welcome and Overview
Jodi Yeloushan, Principal, and Karen Kumon, teacher, gave a presentation on the school’s CoT journey that began five years ago. They reported that Superintendent, Dr. Rock, (present at the tour) brought CoT and Making Thinking Visible to the attention of the district. Clarkston already had IBS at H.S and along with other initiatives, CoT was aligned with the direction they were going. Members of the Pine Knob leadership team have presented at Project Zero conferences in Michigan, Tennessee and San Francisco.
Staff at Pine Knob started their journey with a teacher leadership team doing a book talk on Making Thinking Visible. They repeated this book talk the second year with other staff members who tried routines and brought them to the book talks as part of the discussion. They established as their goal, Reasoning with Evidence, and through Gallery Walks of their own school, they surveyed their environment and asked: What do we value?”
Jodi Yeloushan and Karen Kumon emphasized that at Pine Knob culture is who and what we are; it is not something we do. Cultures of thinking are places in which group’s as well as an individual’s thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted as part of the regular day to day experience of all group members. The eight cultural forces are our focus. “We started with the routines but the eight forces are the heart of our Cultures of Thinking journey. We know we are making progress by observing the interactions of students and teachers, using the language of thinking, modeling thinking, and allocating time for thinking. All these are critical parts of developing a culture of thinking. Visitors were asked to look for these indicators rather than just focusing on a routine as they observed the lessons.
Anticipatory Set/Engaging the Thinking of Tour Visitors
Jodi and Karen engaged visitors in a Chalk Talk routine as a way of making their thinking visible, developing a mindset for their observations and getting helpful information for the closing discussion. They put one of the following questions on each table and asked visitors to respond in writing only. Each responded to the question on his/her table first and then walked around and contributed to questions on other tables. The questions were: 1. What do you think you will se at Pine Knob? 2. What do you hope to see? 3. What does culture mean to you? 4. When you tell someone you are thinking, what might be going on in your head? 5. What questions do you have for us? 6. What do we want the children of today to be like when they grow up?
Pre-observations and Classroom Visits
All visitors were divided into three color-coded groups and each group was assigned to visit one classroom during the first session and one during the second. Since this was a Lab Tour, each session had art, science and math opportunities. To give visitors some background on the lessons they were about to observe, the teachers came in at the end of the opening session and briefly provided an overview. For a sample of the classroom observations/stories, see the posts for Art (Jody Sebring) and Science (Janice Driver) under classroom stories on this blog.
Before leaving for the observations, we were asked to notice the red thread in our folder and the Loom next to art room. Pine Knob is emphasizing that we are all connected globally and inviting all who come into the school (visitors, parents, students, staff) to add their thinking by weaving it into display using a red thread. They are making a weaving to show how we are all connected.
Between classroom visits, tour visitors had an opportunity to engage in a Gallery Walk at Pine Knob. The hallways show student thinking using a variety of routines and/or modified and combined routines. One display showed kindergarten students doing a chalk talk all in pictures. Throughout there was evidence of depth and complexity in student thinking. The hallway displays are mixed up across the grade levels so students, parents and staff can see the growth in thinking across the K-5 spectrum.
Closing Q & A Session
The courageous teachers who opened up their classrooms to tour visitors came to the closing session to answer questions observers might have. The pre-observation and post-conversations are very important parts of the learning experience for visitors.
Q: What a great job!! With the science, do you have a kit? What program do you use?
A: We are part of the Maker/Tinkering Movement: Exploring the thinking and learning that takes place during maker-centered learning experiences. Students are engaging in creative thinking and playing/tinkering with ideas and materials, problem solving, etc. They get excited and make things. We exploring our thinking and have a variety of resources, books, Delta, supplements.
Q. How often do you use routines?
A. We use them when they are purposeful. The hardest part was learning that it was not about the routine but using the routine to get the thinking. We are now finding that the routine is just part of the way we instruct. We use the language, and immerse them in thinking by having a culture of thinking in the classroom.
Q. Did your building decide to make the shift or did each teacher make the shift from routine use to establishing a classroom culture of thinking?
A. It was a growth factor. As a building we talked about getting to that place. We looked at what this meant in our book talk for two years. When we introduce a new routine, we use the name, but when we know the students know the routine, we don’t use the name. Instead we use language like: “what do you see, what do you notice, what makes you say that, what are you wondering about?” We are noticing a progression of thinking with our students. They naturally say: “I think it is this because…” Often we don’t have to ask what makes you say that?
Q: Tell us more about 2 years of book talk? Why again?
A: When the learning started to take off, we focused on particular routines and digging deeper into those routines. We looked not only at student thinking but each other’s thinking. It helped to go through the routines as a learner. I learned how difficult the thinking could be.
A: We learned that we need to disturb ourselves to keep growing. Going through the routines ourselves did that. Thinking is messy and not always pretty; you find misconceptions and work through them. One of the biggest turning points was when we took one routine (See Think Wonder) across grade levels and saw the progression across the grade levels. Then we began to tweak routines like asking students to justify their thinking when using See Think Wonder. This helped us see how we could push student thinking more. We don’t always do the entire routine; sometimes we do a part or modify or create our own.
Q: Do you notice a difference from K-5 and how do you keep students motivated/ willing to participate?
A: We do lots of writing using routines like chalk talks. This helps booster their confidence. I have gone away from hands up to thumbs up. I wait a little longer; have students write ideas first, etc. It has to be okay to share thinking rather than give the right answer. This kind of instruction guides the thinking to the goal by pulling evidence. I used tot each second grade now I teach fifth grade and I notice that students grow in their risk taking through this approach.
A: It is about engagement. We are interested in your thinking not the right answer. Set up environment of respect for each other’s thinking. The teacher models this. I also make mistakes and invite them to challenge my thinking.
Q: How do you decide on which routine to use?
A: We use the understanding map to help pick the kind of thinking they want to get in a unit. Then, we select the routines that helps structure that kind of thinking through instruction. First we determine the goal of the unit or lesson. Then we decide how deep we want to go. See Peeling the Fruit Protocol.
Q: How do you get everyone to come aboard?
A: We keep doing the work as grade levels and this gradually pulls individuals on board. It takes time for some. We are in our fifth year. We keep moving forward with conversations and noting the positives.
Q; What do you consider your greatest success to date?
A: Our greatest success to date is that we can challenge ourselves with data and new information. We know we are about learning and we need to open our doors to learn from each other and from visitors. We are so glad we have so many here today.