Diving deeper


Most mornings I begin the class by projecting an image of an artwork. I have been doing this to facilitate communication skills, building ideas off of each other and ultimately appreciating the beauty of art and how it helps to understand the world around us. I normally do this through thinking routines and guided discussions and have had some success. But I think my students have plateaued in their thinking and I want to push it further. I need to learn more to teach them effectively and begin building some more philosophical discussions. In our time of mass information, and a lot of misinformation, students require the skills necessary to value their own ideas, the ideas of others, and to ask questions about the world around them. I took some philosophy courses during my undergrad but have never formally taught any before. Recently, I started learning how to play the ukelele but that is a journey to continue with my five-year-old. Had I been closer to my workshop in Canada I may have chosen wood lathing or building my own forge but as that is an ocean away I wanted to learn something to impact my students in what I see as some immediate needs.

What I want to learn in the action plan are some ways to effectively teach some beginner philosophy. I was inspired by the Sandwich article which I would highly recommend, and try with your friends. While it may be a little hefty for Grade Fours, it is a great jumping off point to try an adapted structure in my class. I have also started using Structured Word Inquiry in the classroom and would like to incorporate that into a lesson as we unpack the word philosophy itself.

My action plan so far:

Made with Padlet

Some questions and ideas I have:

  1. How do I use language as an effective teaching tool considering Ron Ritchhart’s cultural forces?
  2. How do I promote considerate behaviour and responses to other ideas that they may not agree with, possibly looking up accountable talk?
  3. How do I search Twitter effectively for posts related to this?
  4. Will the learning be too big, how far should I go?

One of the readings I connected to was Learning that Connects as it made me think about how I have a responsibility to learn things on my own that I notice as immediate needs of my students. The First 20 Hours and the four steps to learning something reminded me firstly about my own life with a young child and even as a teacher where time is always a premium, and secondly it reminded me about the inquiry cycle and how our students learn best by tuning in, finding out, sorting out, and going further.

No, I won’t be an expert in teaching philosophy or playing the ukelele, but hopefully, I can find a few hours to practice and help my students and my child (yay for four chords). How will this help me empathize with my students? Understanding the time it takes to learn different skills from how to identify rocks to plotting latitude and longitude to find remainders in a division question or crafting a well thought out learning journal post will help me further develop the patience to help them through their first 20 hours and the understanding of what it takes to learn a new skill.

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4 Responses to Diving deeper

  1. megancatney5 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the Sandwich article, it was really interesting. While I was reading your post two practices jumped into my mind: mindfulness and number talks. Daily mindfulness has helped my students as young as 5 to become more self-aware and able to articulate their thoughts and feelings. Go noodle https://www.gonoodle.com/ is one resource I use often for this. It could be one way for your students to appreciate the beauty of their surroundings and take time for reflection. Along the same lines, number talks came to my mind, and something I saw on Twitter about them recently that encouraged educators to stop seeing “math talk” as something separate from other literacies as it is one other way for students to express themselves and their understandings.

    I think that showing your students your journey of learning something tangible like a ukulele is a fantastic way to model for them the importance of being a life-long learner.

    Love the post!

  2. I love the sandwich debate! I was recently introduced to it in a different way as an icebreaker with a group of people. We were shown this graphic and then told to self-identify where we were on the sandwich continuum. Connecting it to Platonic Dialogues is pretty ingenious! I wouldn’t sell your fourth graders short on having a pretty epic debate on the definition of a sandwich. Depending on how diverse your student population is, it could also be an interesting opportunity for cultural discussions about sandwich definitions around the world (which could then more broadly be directed to how different cultures have different definitions, norms, beliefs, etc…).

    I’m intrigued by your use of art to start off the day with discussions. Similar to what Megan said in her comment, it strikes me that that practice ties in well with mindfulness and starting the day off with some quiet reflection. Do you find that the piece of artwork that you choose has an impact on the mood/tone of the classroom that morning after the discussion? Very cool idea!

    • mccreathf says:

      Thanks for the questions, Mike. You are right about not selling them short but thinking about the student’s diversity may add a little mix up to the conversations. In regards to the artwork, absolutely. Sometimes I would show a Todd Schorr painting and the students would get very excited at all the things to point out, whereas if I showed Degas’ ballerinas the mood would be much more somber or contemplative. I think the challenge is in choosing a piece that is accessible to allow them to make connections, ask questions, and think about the message by themselves with little teacher prompts.

  3. mccreathf says:

    Hi Megan, thanks so much for the resources. I will add them to my Padlet. Now I have the Go Noodle song “Banana, Banana, Meatball!” in my head.

    I really like your comments about math talks and viewing it not as separate from other literacies, but as part of it. Do you know where I can find it on Twitter, I use math talks occasionally in the class but will consider this in my action plan as well.


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