What's in Your Pool Bag? Summer Reading Recommendations for Critical Thinking

04 June 2016



A simple search on Amazon Books for "professional development in education" yielded a return of 32,396 books.
Thirty-Two THOUSAND

It's easy to become overwhelmed by the multitude of Professional Learning books recommended for teachers. At times, it even feels like the books we're asked to read directly contradict each other. How in the world are we as educators supposed to hone our craft, professionally grow despite the increasing demands placed on us and engage students who's attention span shrinks by the year?

Are you on the edge of your seat waiting for the answer?



Well, I don't have a magic formula for you.

Sorry.

I wish I did.

I do, however, have a little book that not only gives practical advice HOW to put the reading into action, it only tells you to do one thing.

Make Just One Change

Click to view on Amazon

It seems both overly simplistic and pedagogically challenging to teach students to ask their own questions. Who has time for that? The SOLs don't explicitly state that it's a necessary skill!

This book has been referenced by people I esteem who are innovating education through Ed Tech and Project Based Learning. This book is not for teachers who want to keep doing what they've been doing and getting the same results. This book is for the Dreamers of Dreams. Still with me? 


An excuse I can already hear you uttering is "this might work for upper grades but my ______ graders will NEVER get this". 

I can't speak for Pre-K and K, but after reading this book and collaborating with a FIRST GRADE teacher on a Pollution PBL Project our entire project was framed around the QFT (Question Formulation Technique) outlined in this book.  Those first graders took some prompting, but some of the questions they came up with were EXACTLY what we would have asked them. One student, Phillip, is often the class clown and tends to not be taken seriously in the class on an academic level. His question became the lynch pin the entire class rallied around. Needless to say, he was engaged in the entire process. That tiny change of using the QFT took an assignment from the teacher's hands and placed it directly in the student's. 

Now, let it be known that a lot of backward design went into this and the teacher gave the illusion of the student's complete ownership and design- she really knew where the learning would end up, but allowed the students to guide the discussion. The students used the QFT to create a "Need to Know List" that answered the driving question of  "How can we inform others about the need to conserve natural resources?"

Some of the questions they asked were:
"What are natural resources?"
"What does Conserve mean?"
"How do we tell people?"
"Where does trash go?"

These questions would all be answered in the unit this teacher and I designed, but the students had a vested interest by being the ones to ask the questions.

I could give chapter and verse on how powerful a tool this tiny change can be, but I'd really just encourage you to read the book. 

There's a decent chance it's at your local library (or online at Overdrive), but you can also get it through Amazon. I bought the Kindle version, and I wish I would've bought the paperback for notes and stickies. There are some outlines and additional resources at http://rightquestion.org/education/ It's a good jumping off point, but you really should read the book! (I get no $$ by saying that...it's just a good read)

Enjoy the read and please share out if you get it how you've made changes to your teaching practice!

You can tweet me at my school twitter: @ErinWest_ITRT


Happy Summer!
I work until 30 June...so if you're on break...this one's for you




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