09 May 2009

Why Didn't I Think of That?

In my most recent years in the classroom, I became a fan of using a Think Aloud (sometimes called a Read Aloud) to illustrate different reading strategies. Science textbooks are not the easiest things to read and comprehend, so I liked modeling my own metacognition for kids when I could. I even did this for AP Biology students. They were good readers in that they had the mechanics down, but the college level science text would often kick their butts. They struggled to modify their strategies applied to reading novels for English class.

As much as I liked this strategy, it ran the risk of being overused---just as with any other classroom tool. I was kinda sad that there weren't more things like it. It seemed like there were many areas in which students could have used more support in me modeling my own thinking.

And then, Clay Burrell posted this incredible idea on How to Write Timed Essays That Aren't Crap. It is about how he noticed that students were struggling to let go of the almighty Five Paragraph Essay scaffold as well as create something meaningful from the prompt for a timed essay. What did he do? He made a screencast and basically did a Think Aloud for writing. He posted the screencast for students and it was their homework to watch and comment.

It's freaking genius. But beyond that is my personal "D'oh!" moment in which I keep wondering why I never thought about doing something like this. Sure, part of it is that the technological aspects weren't readily available when I needed them...but beyond that, just getting away from seeing Think Alouds as purely a reading strategy stymied me.

Now, I'm thinking about other applications, especially in the realm of PD. What ways can I support classroom teachers through modeling my own thinking about how I organize my gradebook or deal with grading or a host of other things?

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