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Day 5 - This Idea that Must Die

The concept that I think must die is the treating of content and disciplines as discrete and completely isolated from each other. We as humans are designed to learn best when we can make conceptual connections and identify patterns across big ideas. I would suggest replacing this approach with something I call "meaning-making experiences"  

Creating meaning-making experiences for students can be difficult because of the variety of schema our students possess.  One way to address this issue is to engineer what I like to call "touchstone" experiences.  Essentially a touchstone experience is a common endeavor by a group that ensures a shared commonality in order to share conversations and dialogue to deepen individual understanding. 

A touchstone experience must meet a few requirements: 
1.  Must allow for multiple entry points
2.  Must be of sufficient cognitive complexity
3.  Must be engaging for students
4.  Must allow for individual reflection and cooperative work

As a literacy geek I like to engineer touchstone experiences around texts.  By not only encouraging students to make meaning for themselves, but also empowering them with strategies that support their own specific learning behaviors, I can build habits of mind that are transferable to future tasks, students build stamina for growing complexity of future texts, and students access content in more meaningful ways.  All of that is great, but what is truly powerful is that as these touchstone experiences layer upon each other, then the students are able to engage with each other in concrete ways that will allow them to continue to grow and learn. 

Touchstone experiences aren't routine daily work or part of rote memorization.  It is not a routine.  It is not an opportunity to "grade" students.  It is not a way to build barriers. 

Touchstone experiences create classrooms where students activate themselves and each other as learners.  It allows for differentiation.  It allows for formative instruction.  It builds upon prior knowledge. 

What kind of touchstone experiences do you like to use?  Please feel free to share them.

Day 6 - Awe Inspiring

April 5th - This Idea must die