NCTE19: Seeing Student Thinking

I remember when my oldest was in fifth grade and was ready to give up on a science project, I said, “You can’t! I’ve worked too hard on this!” I think of that time when I am working really hard to teach something, and I make myself stop.

Learning is done by students. I can’t force learning.  For so many reasons. I need reminders to listen and look for what the student is doing in their context, not my lesson. What they are doing makes sense to them. Most likely, what I intended to teach them won’t unless I can understand their understanding. It’s my job to see their thinking.

This message I heard, again and again, at NCTE19. 

Shift the paradigm of teaching from what is in our heads to what is in the student’s head.– Vicki Vinton

The teacher should not be the protagonist. — Carl Anderson

We need to let go of our thinking and listen to theirs. — Maria Nichols

Don’t rush the reseach. Don’t interpret. Just take notes. — Dan Feigelson

Learning is consensual. — Cornelius Minor

My NCTE notebook is full of wise words from master teachers and writers. And while I have many ideas to plumb around action research, informational writing, revision, poetry, and the teaching of reading, all are deeply impacted by the need to become, as the Minor/Anderson/Feigelson Sunday session called it, a radical listener. To be able to hear the process by which students are attempting to tackle their learning, one must listen for what they are doing with nudges to say more or show me. All moves to engage the learner in doing so that the next challenge might be revealed to me. Setting my teach aside is necessary to be able to see what students might be ready to learn.

This is not to say I haven’t shown a math strategy, suggested a transitional phrase to help a writer, or told a student the meaning of a word.  But, when I do, I try to remember that science project. I was the learner, not my son, and it wasn’t about science.

 

 

6 thoughts on “NCTE19: Seeing Student Thinking

  1. Thanks for writing this post. There is so much wisdom at NCTE. My notebook is full of quotes. We need to be reminded that the students should always be at the center of what we do. Hope you had a good trip home. I miss you already!

  2. Sigh. NCTE2019 was an OUTPUT conference for me. SO looking forward to Denver, when I’ll have time to go to sessions and soak up wisdom! In the meantime…thanks for sharing your learning…and your story. Priceless. I will remember your words when I accidentally co-opt student learning!

    • Thank you for giving. Presenting is exciting, but you pay the price interns of energy and time. We all benefit from your output! I’m looking forward to sitting with you in Denver!

  3. We sat in the same room, soaking up the same wisdom…that’s the joy of NCTE that keeps spreading; enlightenment and pass it on. Thanks for this!

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