Capturing Thinking

Capturing thinking about being a mathematician.

How can we best capture and build a picture of where learners are in their knowledge, skills and conceptual understandings? How do we capture thinking? At a time where learning experiences have been so diverse, I have been wondering how to best capture our student’s thinking and develop an understanding of where students are in their individual understanding of a concept. There are a host of tools that help us be able to document and capture thinking moments from our students such as using Visible Thinking Routines, Seesaw and learning portfolios, students recording whiteboard explanations or teaching a strategy. Recording audio responses provide a wonderful way to engage and enable all students to share their ideas. These are all methods through which we can capture the student thinking process.

This podcast below was shared with me recently and so much of it resonated in thinking about student ‘thinking’ in mathematics and literacy.

https://blog.heinemann.com/podcast-jennifer-serravallo-marilyn-burns-reading-and-math

The importance of listening, really listening, to be able to understand where students are in their thinking and therefore be able to guide them in their next steps. At my current school we have a process of conferring with students individually about their learning in different domains. This enables us to form a picture of where students are as learners, as thinkers – not just what can be checked off as ‘can do’ and ‘can’t do’ but understanding how students come to form their responses creates the opportunity to meaningfully inform next steps in their learning.

“…correct answers can mask confusion, just like incorrect answers can hide understanding. The answer is just the starting place. It’s really how you got to the answer and how you reason that is just as important.”

Marilyn Burns

The question of how time consuming this process is often comes up. Listening to the podcast above just reinforced for me that really being able to support learners to grow must be all about taking the time to get to know them as thinkers, to understand how they are constructing their responses, their thought process. Of course conferring is a process that requires focus, time and space but what could be more important than listening with focus and purpose to understand our students better? Surely this is what impacts learning growth – even better, building strong relationships along the way!

Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn!

School seems eerily quiet at the moment, you know that feeling when something just isn’t quite right?

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Well, the thing is, we have yet to actually welcome any students into school for the new term and, in reality, a school is not really a school at all unless you have students. I had blogged about this concept of students making the learning environment previously in, ‘What is a classroom?’

https://jennyofee.com/2012/08/27/what-is-a-classroom/

In many respects, it seems the wrong way round for teachers to be creating, planning and preparing everything students are ‘going to learn’ in the year ahead when we haven’t even met the students in our classes yet!

It made me think of this wonderful TED Talk by Adora Svitak, ‘What adults can learn from kids’:


So, when the students do arrive at school, we need to listen to them to learn and to facilitate learning; learn what they need from us, learn where they are in their learning journey, learn how they learn and learn what interests them to challenge and ignite a passion for being curious to learn more.

We also are blessed with possibility to learn new skills and knowledge from them, for example, I hope to continue to develop our ‘Digital Leaders’, a role that @mrJonesICT  began to develop with Primary School students last year. These ‘Digital Leaders’ can teach and support learning in classrooms immensely with their extensive skills and knowledge in ICT. Adults learn from kids.

We all have curriculums to follow, standards, benchmarks and perhaps exams to prepare our students for, but ultimately, if we want to connect with and help students achieve their potential we need to listen to them and believe in their capabilities. I fully intend to listen and to learn from the young learners around me. Building self-awareness around listening to our students can only serve to continue strengthening learning in our community. As @adorasv said, ‘Learning between grown-ups and kids should be reciprocal’.