Friday, March 20, 2015

Parts, Purposes, and Complexities

Various researchers working at Project Zero (PZ) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) have been working to make Thinking Visible. Their work has resulted in thinking routines which are tools, structures, and patterns of behavior that give thinkers the ability to make sense of abstract ideas.

Researchers involved with Agency by Design are working to investigate the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning. They too have created thinking routines that help thinkers slow down and look carefully.

Currently, the first graders at our school have just started their unit of inquiry during which they are exploring how making careful and close observations leads to discoveries. One way G1 students are constructing understanding of this abstract concept is by investigating rocks.

During the unit, they have a rock kit that is organized in the same way that the rock layers are situated underneath the grass in our neck of the woods (to learn more about this kit, visit this website: Understanding Rocks: What's Under the Grass?) To introduce the students to the rock kit, I led them through the thinking routine Parts, Purposes, & Complexities developed by the researchers at Agency by Design.

First, I set the rock kit in the middle of the students and gave them a couple of moments to observe the entire kit.

Next, I gave the G1 students a chance to see the separate containers, so they could get a better look at the parts of the kit.

Then I asked, "What are the different parts that you see?"

As students responded, I asked them what they thought each of those parts did by asking, "What is its purpose?"

Below is the recording sheet we used to document the students' thinking.

To examine the complexities, I asked the students how the parts were connected. One student responded with:

Since we understood that the containers were there to help us organize the rocks and the papers and that the rocks and the papers were there to help us learn, we agreed it made sense to keep the rocks and the papers with their original containers as we began exploring each individual container.

Introducing the rock kit to the G1 students with this thinking routine gave them the opportunity to explore how the kit worked, gave them the chance to set up expectations about how they'd use the kit, and really got them excited about exploring the rocks further. As they were considering the parts of the kit and what purpose they had, they wanted to touch, explore, look closer, and ask questions. It was a wonderful way to start using the kit, as it really captured their minds, hearts, and attention.

After reading about how G1 students used this routine to slow down their thinking to make careful observations of a system, how could you use this routine to explore an object or a system with your students?

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