Principal's Corner

Principal’s Corner

“What Makes You Say That?”

The questions we ask students play a critical role in extending thinking and promoting deeper learning.  As part of our work to cultivate habits of mind at Lawrence, some of the faculty have begun working with a book called Making Things Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Senior Researcher at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, and others. In the book, the authors offer a framework for “putting thinking at the center of the educational enterprise.”  As they point out, the Oxford English Dictionary identifies “think” as the twelfth most used verb in the English language.   And yet, they ask, “How well do we really understand what it actually means to think?”  They go on to describe the goals of thinking should be building deeper understanding, as well as solving problems, making decisions and forming judgments.

The authors suggest using a simple question, “What makes you say that?”  as a way to facilitate students’ thinking and help them clarify their thinking.   This question has a different feel than “Tell me why.” or “What is your evidence for saying so?” Asking, “What makes you say that?” instead conveys a level openness and interest.

So next time, your child makes an observation or expresses an opinion, try asking, “What makes you say that?”  Then listen (really listen) to the response. Follow where the question and response lead you.  In this way, you can help make your child’s thinking more explicit– or visible.

Habits of Mind Update

The above example is drawn from our work to help students develop the habits of mind necessary to be successful learners. As I outlined in September, the entire faculty is engaged in studying and experimenting with the intentional and explicit use of selected habits of mind language and strategies. During October, we organized ourselves into 7 self-selected study groups to focus on one aspect of the habits of mind. Each group is comprised of 9-12 cross-grade faculty members.  The groups’ topics include:

  • Making Thinking Visible
  • Metacognition & Communication
  • Creating, Imagining & Innovating
  • Social Emotional Habits of Mind
  • Executive Functioning & Dispositions
  • Managing Impulsivity
  • Continuous Learning

With the generous support of our PTO, we have purchased books for each study group to inform their work.  We will use the learning from our study groups this year to formulate a school-wide approach in the future.  Watch this space for periodic suggestions for how you can support the use of habits of mind language and strategies at home. We invite you to join the conversation by talking with your children about how you use habits of mind in your life – and asking them,  “What makes you say that?”

Rick Rogers
rick_rogers@brookline.k12.ma.us

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