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Thinking Classrooms: Our “One Thing”

As the end of the year is beginning to appear on the near horizon, the student achievement team has been hard at work trying to organize and prepare for the next school year and the myriad of initiatives and changes coming. You will be hearing more about lots of things over the next two years: SB 191, Common Core, READ Act, Readiness plans, Unit Planning with Backwards Design, new state assessments, new state graduation guidelines, and the list will continue to grow. It will sometimes become easy to lose sight of our target and journey we set out on this year.

Those who may remember the movie “City Slickers” might remember Curly’s wisdom to Mitch about “finding your one thing”. We believe the philosophy of Thinking Classrooms is District 27J’s “one thing”. (If you have no idea what we are talking about, Google it šŸ™‚ Ā )

The idea of a Thinking Classroom isn’t something new, it’s not the latest magic pill, it’s not a curriculum and it’s not the same for everyone. A Thinking Classroom is more like a state of mind. A belief that the most important effect on a student’s learning and growth is their own thinking and hard work. A thinking classroom has relentless focus on good instruction, is about guiding student authentic engagement and discovery, and has intentional planning for learning.

One of our goals of this blog has been to offer a variety of perspectives, ideas, and videos to continue developing this state of mind for everyone. We believe this transformation could be monumental, but it starts with small yet significant steps. You must believe….believe that we can Ā and should do better for our students, believe you can do better for your students, believe they need better, and believe learning lives and happens with the student first.

Every building is working towards creating and implementing their vision of a Thinking Classroom and what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. By creating a strong foundation around instruction, the coming work of content Standards transition, new state assessments, and other external factors will fall into place as a part of the work we are already doing, rather than yet another thing to do.

The world is changing faster everyday. What worked in school for our parents and worked for us will no longer work for our own children and students. What will work for them most likely won’t work for their children. As educators and an educational system, we must become agile, flexible and quicker to respond to change. Not for us, but for them. They will be forever shaped by our actions today.

Are you ready? Have you made the mind shift yet? Have you convinced your colleagues?


photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc


Is Your Question Google-Proof?

googleproofAn important part of learning and the “student experience” is answering questions (and better yet, asking good questions). In the age of informationĀ abundance, and with more and more of our students having access to the repository of global knowledge in their pocket, how do we ask questions that are meaningful? How do we ask questions that stretch our students to think, and not just regurgitate facts?

Part of the planning process involvesĀ identifyingĀ the big idea, or the “so what?” in the learning you want to design for your students. When you ask your students a big idea question, whether it’s within a classroom discussion, a research project, a PowerPoint presentation, or a written paper, try the Google-Proof test. Are you asking a fact-reciting question or are you asking students to analyze, support an opinion, interpret or investigate? What is your ratio of Googleable to Non-Googleable questions in a week? (try saying Non-Googleable 10 times fast!)

Here are a few more education posts about Google-Proofing your next big question or project.

Google-Proof Questioning: A New Use for Bloom’s Taxonomy

Teaching Critical Thinking Skills around a non-Googleable Driving Question

An example of students classifying their own questions


photo credit: Artamir ļ£æ via photopin cc

The Voice of the Active Learner


Are you ready to educate this Active, Connected Learner? Our students are growing up in an ever changing, increasingly digital society. Will your current instructional strategies and “keep up” with her? What one small step could you take tomorrow to better serve her needs? What changes have you already made?

The video below has some interesting statistics on the use of technology by young people. Be sure to check it out! Disclaimer: This video was produced by Blackboard, however, this is not an endorsement of the company. We just liked the video!

photo credit: courosa via photopin cc

Student Achievement Team Goes Social

A new year and a renewed focus. School District 27J has started a journey to transform our teaching and learning experiences across the district. We are working towards a future with “Thinking Classrooms”, where students and teachers are constantly learning, questioning, and discovering the world around them.Ā Ā We are working every day to better meet the needs of our 21st Century learners.

To support this quest, the student achievement team has decided to go social. We have set up this blog, along with our Facebook and Twitter pages, to help promote the vision and provide inspiration to all of us on this journey. We will be documenting our journey, highlighting great work from our classrooms, and sharing ideas from outside resources as well. Join in the conversation and follow us today!

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