Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thinking Thursday: Model Thinking

Created with Tagxedo and text describing each of DeBono's Six Thinking Hats
My teenagers often go at problems with everything they have. Some are easily frustrated or overwhelmed, especially at the end of the school year when final exams loom and ninth graders fear for their final grades. When making a decision or prioritizing work students have to be reminded to explore their options. They often cannot consider long term consequences and thinking through pros and cons of a situation or task is new territory.   Students are often stumped when I ask them how many ways a person can think. Thinking changes with purpose and task, just as reading does.  Edward DeBono's Six Thinking Hats model makes thinking concrete for my ninth graders.

We start by exploring the processes. I give each students six pipe cleaners to represent the six thinking hats (red, yellow, green, blue, white and black). Pipe cleaners fascinate students and give them something to manipulate. We run through a few scenarios and limit thinking process choices. I demonstrate using three thinking hats to choose a present for my mom or best friend. Then students do it and hold up their choices of hats. We talk about process similarities and differences   Then we use four or five thinking hats you'd use to create and support an argument for a new cell phone or electronic device. Then, use all six hats to convince your parents to support your college or career choice. Students delight in commonalities. Students choose the color hats, put them in order and jot down their arguments in their journals  before sharing with a partner or the class.
"I picked those too."
"Why did you focus on facts last?"
"That's just what I was just thinking."
"We thinking alike!"

Conversations at students' tables focus on what we think and why we think it. Soon, we'll analyze Romeo and Juliet's thinking from key scenes in the play, but today we're playing with thinking language and building metaphorical models of our own thinking using the pipe cleaners.  Students say it makes them feel smarter. I know they are already smart, but I'm delighted they are starting to see that too.

Find a sequence

Instructional Sequence:

Session 1

1. Think write. Respond to a question about thinking. Samples I've used include:  How many ways do you think? What does metacognitive mean? How would you describe different types of thinking?
2. Share and discuss  students' responses (write-pair-share).
3. Explain DeBono's Six Thinking Hats model. Students take notes.
4. Apply DeBono's model to decisions: use only three hats to choose a gift for a best friend or your Mom; use six hats to create an argument about your future (college, career choice, etc) to present to your parents
5. Create a metaphorical model of your own thinking and explain your model in writing being sure to say why you put the colors where you did.

Session 2

1. Turn and talk about your thinking model. Share with your table group.
2. Volunteer from each group shares out with the class.
3. Hang thinking models with explanation cards.
4. Analyze passages from Romeo and Juliet (see handout).
5. Share analysis and discuss.
6. Connect analysis to literary criticism and reading through a psychoanalytic lens.

Pipe cleaners (white, black, red, yellow, green and blue)
index cards (to explain thinking model)
model text for analysis 
Six thinking hats handout (optional)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bryan's Ironman Suit

"It all began with origami." 

One of my incredible ninth graders, Bryan, began the year interested in building models. He made guns out of glue and card board. He would watch YouTube videos to teach himself how to do it. Intricate and life-sized, his projects made me nervous at first. I know boys are interested in guns and violence and action and explosions--I have a boy after all and have taught them for twenty plus years. His fascination reminded me of what we know about boys and literacy,  of Newkirk's Misreading Masculinity and  Fletcher's Boy Writers. His models also reminded me of movie props I'd seen at a recent Maker Faire. He wanted to sell his gun models, but his parents weren't  keen on the idea.

His Dad convinced him to try building something else, so he began crafting an Ironman suit.Intrigued, I focused on the making and Bryan's interest and skill.

I talked to him about glue, paint, and current projects.  We talked about varnish. He was having trouble with the finish at one point, so I suggested maybe a thin coat of epoxy. I even loaned him some from my home studio. I shared what I knew and how I'd used it.  It didn't work for his model, but our conversations, before class, at the end of class, occasional asides, did. He shared his YouTube channel. I  subscribed.

Last Friday I stood at the door of my classroom to greet students as they arrived for class.

"It's done.  I finished it!" he said bounding up the stairs to our portable classroom.
"Awesome! That's fantastic! Are you going to wear it to the premier?"
"My Mom is calling the theater today to see if they will let me." Such a serious young man, he and his parents had the bases covered.   I encouraged him and told him that if he did wear it folks were likely to want pictures. They did. He emailed me several over the weekend and I had to share them. It's just amazing what he has created. I think one Facebook friend said it best, "Holy Cow! That's AMAZING."

It is. Even more amazing is how tenacious Bryan was about solving problems that came up during design and construction--from glue and templates to making a mannequin out of two by fours: he found solutions.

I have loved watching and hearing about Bryan's progress on the Ironman suit and was just thrilled that he finished in time to wear it to a local theater for the premier. Commitment counts. Passion matters. Join me in congratulating Bryan. Drop by his YouTube channel and leave him a comment. I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.