In a recent professional development day, my colleagues and I heard about a science lesson on chromosomes. At the start of the lesson the teacher explicitly said, "We are going to look at this like scientists, because in this class we value scientific thinking." Out of the entire day this was the moment that stuck with me. Do I explicitly tell students what I value?
I made a list of the things I know I value the most in my classroom. Risk-taking, critical and creative thinking, specific feedback and collaborative relationships. I definitely use these words in class at different times; however, I wondered if I used them consistently and linked everything we did to these terms, would I see a change in the way my students approached their work?
I made a poster, placed it on my classroom wall and consciously began to alter my language.
"Today as you move into your playbuilding groups, I want you to remember that we value risk taking in this classroom.
I would like you to share your work with a partner today and give them some specific feedback that can move their work forward… because in this classroom we value specific feedback as a tool for personal growth.
As I move around the room I am noticing that you are all working as effective collaborators because you are listening to one another and problem solving together. I think this is because you know we value collaborative relationships in this classroom.
I noticed that this group were trying a range of different options to move their piece forward. This is exactly what critical and creative thinking looks like in this classroom. This is what we value."
Have I seen a change? Without a doubt. My year 11’s are even beginning to say it themselves. One group was showing me a section of their group-devised performance last week when a student said, "We have taken a risk here Miss, because we know that we value risk-taking in this class. Can you give us some specific feedback to help us develop it further?’"
I am not kidding. I am not making this up.
She said, “…because we know that we value risk-taking in this class."
Ron Ritchhart calls this the language of noticing and naming. I am naming the values and noticing when the students are using them. This reinforces my expectations for our classroom and places emphasis on the qualities I wish to nurture within my students.
Try it. Make a list. Hang it up. Name and notice. I promise that turning this spotlight on to your core classroom values will improve student outcomes and effect the decisions your students make in regard to their learning.