Thinking Visibly with Building Effective Relationships

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My partner and I facilitated the thinking and learning of nearly 50 teachers at Building Effective Relationships with Students.  This is a favorite session of mine because of the topic:  student engagement.  The challenge for us was to inject some new learning about facilitation into the lesson plan for adult learners.  Having just been to several sessions of Harvard’s Project Zero and Cultures of Thinking, we had some new tools in our belt.  Specifically, we would be using some of their thinking routines.   Our goal:  deeper learning; more engagement; richer assessment.  We were hopeful that the day would be valuable for everyone and that they would walk away with a slightly different mental paradigm regarding students who are reluctant to bond with everything “school”.

The morning conversations hovered around motivation, engagement and relationships.  The afternoon was spent unpacking Robyn Jackson’s book How to Motivate  Reluctant Learners.  They left with plenty of tools to use on Monday.

The Thinking/Learning

We created the lesson plan with outcomes in mind.  The main goal was that teachers would move to a more internal locus of control around student engagement.  While many factors lie outside of us, there is plenty we can do to increase the likelihood of students engaging in their learning, their school and their classes.   The routines we used from Making Thinking Visible were from the Understanding thread.To assess progress toward that goal, we decided to do the 3-2-1 Bridge Routine.  The outcomes of this activity would reveal both pre and post thinking so that we could see if there was a shift in how they viewed students who failed to engage.  The results from the bridge portion of this activity were awesome!

We used several other routines to assist at different parts of the day:  the headlinecolor, symbol, image; and chalk talk.  These routines can be used with any age group and any content area!  There are also routines around creativity, truth, and fairness.

The Engagement

What struck me most was how engaged the learners were throughout the day.  We created many opportunities for people to digest and synthesize concepts through thinking ,  discussion and application.    The beauty here was that the learning was collaborative in nature.  People thought carefully about what they already knew and felt, synthesized new concepts,  then shared with one another.  Discussion happened often.  People incorporated the thinking of other’s into their own learning.  There was reading, drawing, movement.

Additionally, we were able to weave texting polls and back channeling with  When relevant, we lead them to websites, blogs, and other resources (twitter, Additionally, five people joined twitter and three now are curating their own!

We are using Edmodo for implementation support.    Our space there is loaded with resources and will be updated regularly.  Fifteen participants have joined.  The handouts were not given to participants but are on Edmodo electronically.  We hope more people will join.

Preparing for this event was exhausting because the routines were newly learned.  But I am quite certain the outcome for most everyone was what we had hoped.  I can’t wait to try more routines soon.  Hoping the days of “sit and get” professional learning will be over for everyone, including the facilitator!


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