Thursday, February 14, 2008

Split screen thinking

I read an excellent presentation written by Guy Claxton yesterday. He was talking about the importance of teaching students how to learn. He begins his presenation with these quotes:
‘The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge that pupils take away
from school, but their appetite to know and their capacity to learn.’ Sir Richard
Livingstone, 1941

‘All skills will become obsolete except one, the skill of being able to make the right
response to situations that are outside the scope of what you were taught in school. We
need to produce people who know how to act when they are faced with situations for
which they were not specifically prepared.’ Seymour Papert, 1998

‘One of the core functions of twenty-first century education is learning to learn in
preparation for a lifetime of change.’ David Miliband, 2003

‘Pedagogy should at its best be about what teachers do that not only helps students to
learn but actively strengthens their capacity to learn.’ David Hargreaves, Learning for
Life, 2004

‘Effective teaching … should aim to help individuals and groups to develop the
intellectual, personal and social resources that will enable them to … flourish … in a
diverse and changing world.’ ESRC TLRP Evidence-informed principles for teaching
and learning: No 1, March 2006
This paper is well worth reading all the way through. There is a practical section where Claxton talks about split screen teaching and he had me so fired up I was ready to demand a class to teach to try out his ideas! I always think the best ideas are ones that when you read them you think, "why didn't I think of that?" Anyway, split screen thinking is when you keep two things in mind when teaching your lesson, both of equal importance. Firstly the content you are teaching, this is still important, but of the same importance is the learning to learn skill you are teaching at the same time. He tells the story of a teacher who was doing a lesson on electricity.Her learning to learn skills was questioning. She sent them off to explore the elements of electrical circuits as we usually do but set them the task to gather all their questions as they carried out their experiment. They then discussed the different questions a scientist might have about electricity than a mum, or a farmer, or an actor etc.

Another example he gave was when you are reading a novel to your class have them identify what kind of learner the main character is with examples. This idea led me think about something we were doing at Pine Hill. We had introduced the students to the Habits of Mind over the last few years. A way to revise these habits of mind would be to have the students identify what habits of mind famous characters use with examples. I have a set of cards with the habits of mind on them with explanations. I thought you could put students in groups with a set of cards for each group. Then give the group a well known character, say Harry Potter, the BFG or goldilocks. Give the group a few minutes to agree on a habit of mind they think that character uses with an example. Each group reports back and then you give them all a new character. This could be a quick 5 - 10 min activity to keep the kids thinking about thinking. If someone is lucky enough to give this a try please leave me a comment. I have been out of the classroom for one week and you can see the withdrawal symptoms are setting in. :)


Mr Lietze said...

Jane The Habits of Mind idea is great! I have been working through the Multiple Intelligences with my kids so we have now identified our "Smarts". With this knowledge we can now apply it to book characters like you suggested! Thanks.

P.S - on a stink note...I am unable to make it to L@School :=( My cluster got onto it a bit late.

Jane Nicholls said...

We will miss you at the Bloggers' Cafe! Let me know how the Smarts lesson goes :)

Suzie Vesper said...

I like the idea of HOB with character study. I can also find it very frustrating to try and live vicariously through other teachers - especially when they don't do things quite the way I would envision doing them :-) (or don't do them at all despite being all fired up initially)

Mr Leigh said...

Thanks for the reminder about Habits of Mind. I had a go at using some of them with my Aussie kids in 2006 but it's time I revisited them.

This is coming to you from Baku, Azerbaijan, where I'm teaching at a great international school.

Paul Wilkinson said...

Hi Jane

I have been flat out teaching I have hardly had time to browse let alone comment for ages but this post caught my eye. I think Guy Claxton speaks the most educational sense I have heard in ages and his concept of Learning Muscles is one we use in our learning team all the time. Every day our class write a response to four questions/statements one of which is, "Describe your use of a learning muscle today". We have a muscle man on the wall (drawn by one of our class artists) and around him are pictures demonstrating the learning muscles. This was a great activity at the beginning of the year getting the children to think about our focus question, "What will help us become more powerful learners?" Claxton's idea of split screen thinking is just great and if you do it frequently they really soon latch on to talking about learning. I had amazing discussion with a group the other day about meta-learning and why that might be a useful idea for them to understand.

I do so enjoy that sort of discussion in the classroom.

Hope your year is going really well.