Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Circle of Viewpoints

During the first several weeks of school, students and teachers must "spell out expectations, articulate rules, and establish predictable structures," say the authors of The First Six Weeks of School. Denton and Kriete go on to explain that students are able to participate, focus, ask thoughtful questions, cooperate and collaborate when they know what is expected of them.

Arguably one of the most important expectations to lay out during the first few weeks of school is how students in your classroom will be expected to THINK. They'll be expected to participate, to engage, and to dig deeply into life's big ideas, called key and related concepts in the Primary Years Program (PYP).

Therefore, during the first six weeks, in addition to knowing how to care for materials, to fill out their agendas, and to walk in line, students should also be introduced to the thinking routines that they'll use throughout the year.

One sixth grade teacher has been using various thinking routines since day one as a way to not only introduce her students to the expectations and routines of sixth grade, but also to introduce the particular thinking routines they'll use during the year. In this post, I'll explain how she used the visible thinking routine Circle of Viewpoints (from Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison) to help her students investigate not only how to walk in line in the hallway, but also why they should walk that way.

First, to introduce the concept of perspective, the teacher invited her students to sit in a circle and take note of what they were able to see. Then, she had the students sit in a different spot and take note of how their viewpoint had changed. As a class, they discussed that when you have a different vantage point, you see things differently and your perspective changes.

Then, as a class, the students identified the different perspectives that could be present in or affected by them walking down the hall in line.

Their original list included:

  • 6th graders
  • teachers
  • kindergartners
  • friends
  • Mr. Riley/Mr. Bretoi (the building principals)
  • other classes
  • lunch ladies
  • specialist teachers
Then, students choose one of those perspectives to explore further, using the following prompt as a starting place:

"I think ... [describe the topic from your viewpoint. Be an actor - take on the character of your viewpoint]. Because ... [explain your reasoning]"

To begin, the teacher modeled taking on the perspective of a kindergartner seeing a group of sixth graders walking in line. Then, students worked in small groups to investigate the other viewpoints present. Students took turns sharing their newly adopted perspectives with the rest of the class.

Some groups decided to tackle the prompt: "A question/concern I have from this viewpoint is ...," but not all groups did.

The next day, students wanted to further investigate the perspectives of:

  • substitutes
  • WIN teachers
  • parents
  • visitors
  • janitors
  • secretaries
  • nurses
  • cameras
Here are some students' thoughts that they shared:

“We’re looking at line basics from the viewpoint of the cameras and we think it is going to be Miss Linda watching the cameras. There are cameras everywhere so even if you think you’re hidden and not being in line, you’re still being watched and you could still get in trouble.”

“We’re looking at line basics from the viewpoint of other sixth graders and I think that if the sixth graders are watching the other sixth graders and the line is straight and no one is talking, they can do the same thing.”

“We’re looking at line basics from the viewpoint of friends. If I see one of my friend talking in the hallway, I would want to talk to them, because they’re my friend and I would want to talk to them. The question I have is, ‘Will I get in trouble for talking to them?’”

“We’re looking at line basics from the viewpoint of the custodians. One concern I have is that if kids aren’t in a straight line, they could end up bumping over our cleaning supplies.”

The teacher plans to continually remind her students of the understandings constructed during this thinking routine. Since this lesson that spanned two days, the teacher noted that the students have added the perspective of "art on the wall" to their list.

After reading about how this sixth grade teacher used Circle of Viewpoints within the first few days of school, how could you use visible thinking routines to expose your students to the kinds of THINKING they'll be expected to do throughout the year?

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