Tools that Facilitate Documentation

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
Document4LearningI am on a quest to make documenting FOR learning a topic to think about in all educational conversations. How do we document our own learning? How do we make learning visible to others, so we can share, collaborate and improving how we teach and learn? What role does documenting play in the process of learning?

Documenting is more than staying organized or writing down what will be or was taught. Documenting is part of the learning process!

Finding and sharing tools to help create these documentations and make it easier and more time efficient to do so is important too. This is the first post in a series to showcase such tools.

As part of the 5 day bootcamp with a cohort of teachers from the Goethe Schule, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, participants experienced the learning routine, LEARN-REFLECT-SHARE.

One of the first activities of the week together was to draw an illustration to make their view of themselves as teachers visible to others. Directly afterwards, I asked them to use Post it notes to reflect on their thinking as they were drawing their illustration. Throughout the 5 days the teachers had many different opportunities of experiencing the power of metacognition (thinking about their thinking) and to use different kinds of media to make that thinking visible in order to document it and share it.

postitnotesI chose for the first time to use the app Post-it Plus to document the activity.

postitI collected the sticky notes and scanned them in via the app.

IMG_8577
Post-it Plus:

  • allowed me to annotate each note
  • organize all notes on a board
  • re-arrange the notes as I pleased
  • gave me various options to export the notes.

postit2 postit3 postit4 board-overviewIt was super easy and convenient to export the sticky notes as images and upload to the cohort blog to give participants the opportunity to download their written reflection as a file in order to use it on their blog and reflection of learning.

note01 note02 note03 note04 note05 note06 note07 note08 [Goethe] note09 note10 [Goethe] note11 [Goethe] note12 note13 [Goethe] note14 [Goethe] note15 note16 [Goethe]

Notice, Think, and Wonder: A “Close Reading” Upgrade

In the Fall of 2007, a close friend, Nancy Cook, and I wrote a piece for the New York State Middle School Association’s Journal, In Transition. The article, titled “Notice, Think, and Wonder: New Pathways to Engage Critical Thinking” asked the reader to consider using a discussion rubric that Nancy developed to increase the rigor of questions and answers around text. The link is to the entire journal, but the article and embedded rubric starts on page 15.

I still share the Notice, Think, and Wonder rubric that’s in the article while engaging in professional development with teachers. It’s become particularly useful in this age of Common Core standards and increased rigor in instructional activities, particularly around the close reading of text.

I’ve been teaching different versions of “Close Reading” to teachers, evolving over time as I strengthen my relationship with Common Core Reading for Literacy/Informational Text Standard 1: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make inferences from it.” What started out as teaching teachers to write text dependent questions evolved into setting strong purposes for reading, understanding text complexity, relating the close reading to personal experiences and world events, and now, coming full circle back to Notice, Think, and Wonder.

The impetus for this blog post began with another blog post around Close Reading, written by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts, authors of the popular blog, indent. You can read their blog post, The Five Corners of the Text, by clicking this sentence. In the post, they stress the importance of engagement and inviting students’ experiences into the way they think critically about the words they read. What they wrote invited a warmth back into this instructional strategy that was missing from my initial interpretation of the standard.

As I read their blog post and reflected on my current and previous work, it dawned on me that a merger of ideas and an additional instructional strategy around close reading was in order. Hence, I’m revisiting “Notice, Think, and Wonder.” The original Notice, Think, and Wonder strategy asked students to collect details around what they notice in text; what jumped off the page at them. It asks students to think about those details and make connections. Finally, it asks them to wonder about the “what if’s,” the “what next’s,” or the potential additional meaning-making that comes from deep engagement with text.

To use Notice, Think, and Wonder in a way that reflects the close reading of text, one simply needs to tweak the intentions of these areas of interaction. In this upgrade, students should be invited to do the following:

Notice:

  • What are some of the big ideas in the text that’s being read?

  • What are some of the main points that an author wants the reader to know as a result of reading this?

  • What’s the major message or point of reading what we are reading?

Think:

  • Where in the text did we see support for what we noticed?

  • What in our experiences, as related to what we read, make us think of connections to the big ideas?

  • How do parts of the texts explicitly lead us to the major message?

Wonder:

  • What might the evidence we found in the text, as related to what we noticed, mean?

  • What potential conclusions can we draw from the evidence related to what we noticed?

  • Is there evidence in the text or in our connections to the text to support anything we might potentially wonder?

I like believing that students would be engaged by deep conversation about text–particularly texts that they are interested in reading, not just texts that the teacher thinks they should read. I’m reminded of high school, when my teachers were adept at drawing me into a text by both relating to my personal experiences while guiding me through metacognitions that created mental velcro for me. Everything stuck, from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales to my empathy for Benji, a central character in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I want students to live inside texts the way that I was allowed to. I want them to have rich literary experiences that feed their souls for the rest of their lives but also teach them to be evaluative thinkers and questioners of the status quo.

I want students to read voluminously and develop a love of reading that goes beyond the cold and analytical “close reading” and explores what I guess I would call “Close Reading Plus.” Evidence plus experience equals Deep Learning, versus just evidence alone. If we look at the standard and the key words: “close reading,” “what the text says explicitly,” and “make inferences,” then we are doing all those things with this upgrade of Notice, Think, and Wonder. We are also inviting a deeper analysis, a raise in the rigor beyond the standard, which represents the zone to which we should aspire with our modern learners.

Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy, coming this Fall.

Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

Addendum (10/3/13)

I thought about this a little more and decided to add some additional information to this blog post in terms of extending Notice, Think, and Wonder to writing about evidence and connections.

For one thing, the “Wonder” could include a question about claims, such as, “What claims can you make about what you read? or “What do you wonder about any bold statements that the author made in the text?”

The answers to those questions would be an excellent jumping off point for writing about claims and evidence, engaging both the Reading standards around Key Ideas and Details as well as the Instructional Shifts around Writing from Sources and Text-Dependent questions.

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