Saturday, April 18, 2015

Invitations to Learning

My colleague told me I am a master at “Invitations to learning.” I was honored for her to give me such a compliment, and a little curious because I have never heard the term before.  She used the phrase to describe the way I encouraged a student (I will call him Ben) to join in our writing sharing activity (inside outside circle , I wonder painting).

I wonder… did Joan invent this phrase?

I thought, I’m not a master… you just happened to be here to see my Ben work through a difficult moment.

Ben had been arguing with his table mate… "I didn’t push in the line, I was there first."
When I asked about it, the friend (call him Chris) defended himself and my Ben cried.
Chris looked like he felt bad.  I said, I’m going to leave you two friends to take care
of each other and fix your friendship.

Writing time began, and I introduced the lesson.  I raised my arm with the stack of 
paintings and wonderings in my hand. “Remember that we did whole class I Wonder 
About the Sun, and private Wondering about Earth and moon?  Today you get to share your thinking in the inside outside circle.”

Ann, told me Ben was crying.  I said, “Yes… I know, lets give him some space, he will 
join us when he’s ready.  He just needs a minute to feel calm inside.”

Reminding the class Laura is new, I asked for a volunteer to explain inside/outside circle and Rachel explained the process.

I placed paintings around the room to make the outside circle.  Coming to Ben's I 
placed it like all others.  Ann said, “Mrs. Davies,  Ben is still upset.”  I said, “It’s ok, his 
painting will be here when he is ready.”

We made outside circle, then I asked Ben if he’s ready.  He shook head no, but was

I stood in the place that would be Ben’s and said, “I will take your place and 
share my wondering, but when you are ready your writing is waiting for you.”

After one rotation, I said “Your spot is ready… are you coming?”  Ben said yes, and
joined in the activity.

Joan asked in her observation notes after visiting my class, “Would you lead a workshop on invitations to learning?  I thought, there are no strategies to teach. This isn’t planned.  And, it certainly doesn’t come up every day.

But on reflection….

This morning Elizabeth said “Mrs. Davies I think my stomach ache is because I am nervous about swimming”  I said, “I was wondering about that!” She had been asking to go home about 10am each day for 2 days (swimming starts today).  I said, “You know Elizabeth… the teachers at the pool are fantastic.  They want you to learn and they want you to have fun too, just like I do.  They won’t make you do anything you are not ready for, and they will not ask you to do anything hard without being right there to give you whatever help you need.  It’s just like in reading.  I want you to try new things, work on tricky words.  I will only ask you to work on things you are ready for.  You know how sometimes I tell you the word but other times I ask you to use a strategy?  Or I ask you to work on part of the word, but I help with another part?  We will only ask you to do what we know you can do, and and we will be right there to help if you need it!”

Same day… with another Ben.

Each trimester we get a new group of 5 high school helpers during reading.  I provide activities, and kids are paired with a helper for 30 minutes.  Today Ben said, “I don’t want to do it!” when I called his name and introduced him to Marie.  Marie got materials together and Ben hid behind the classroom door as HS helpers and buddies walked into the hall to work together.  I knelt down to talk with Ben, who immediately said “I don’t want to go with her, I don’t want to read.” So, I said to Marie the helper (while Ben is listening in) “Let’s set you two up inside the classroom right here.  It’s ok if Ben doesn’t want to read at first.  Marie can read, and Ben, you show her what word to read by pointing with your finger.  You get to set the pace for Marie.  Marie will read and re-read and when you are ready you can join in.”

So maybe this happens more often than I first thought.  These three incidents took place on Friday.  I will reflect on Monday’s class to see where else this is occurring.

What makes all of these interactions similar?
  1. I start with the premise that every student is needed in this community.
  2. I meet each student in the place where they are, right now.
  3. I offer a choice that will bring this child one step closer to the goal I have in mind.
  4. I give decision making power to the student.
  5. I check in, and encourage the student to move a little closer.
  6. Yes, Joan, I invite the student to learn!   

So, some research... Joan didn’t invent the phrase!
And, thank you Joan for the wonderful compliment!

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Article 
Invitations to Learn by Carol Ann Tomlinson

That’s a familiar name!  Gotta go look on my bookshelves, I might just have one of her books.

So… its about differentiation!

Carol Tomlinson Ed. D.

A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction

Differentiation - definition

Methods of differentiation in the classroom