As I’ve been working on thinking about “LEARNING” for the project at Thinking About Words Through Images, my camera has been my constant companion at school. That’s not unusual, for me to pull out my camera and snap pictures of my students working, but the difference is that I have told them WHY I am taking pictures and some of what I am thinking. I have shared the link to that wiki, and it’s been interesting–knowing that I am collaborating with educators from all over the world seems to have had an impact on my students. I notice them commenting on each others’ wikis more, offering strategies in class more explicitly and asking each other questions that imply accountability to the community (like, have you finished your geometry wiki page, I’ll call you tonight to remind you to bring in your iPod, etc.)
But, I wonder– am I seeing these things more because I am looking for specific instances of learning to photograph?
I have learned a lot in the first week of January, trying to take pictures of “learning.” First, it’s HARD trying to capture a still picture of the active learning in which my kids engage. I find myself wanting to describe the pictures, to explain what’s going on, to share the amazing thinking I see in my kids. While the images can capture some of what is going on, I need words as well. I find myself posting my lessons (both adult and student ones) to the web, describing what happened and what I was hoping to happen. It’ll be interesting to see what I think and how I’m looking at the world through the lens of my camera at the end of the month.
What else I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what age kids are, they still mimic their teacher.
In teaching kindergarten, one of the funniest things to watch was when kids were in “free choice” time and they chose to play school. I would hear my words coming out of their mouths, just as in housekeeping, I would hear their parents’ words. It was eye-opening in both situations, and I often changed the ways I worded things based on the feedback I received watching my kids mimic me. (In parent conferences, I often told parents I wouldn’t believe half of what their kid told me about them if they’d promise me the same–because we ALL know that age also has a very active imagination!)
Yesterday was a hoot–the mimicry happened with fifth graders. In my class, when students are explaining their thinking, I often play confused so they have to be more explicit in their explanation and they learn how to explain their thinking more logically, sequentially and in depth. I check for understanding with the group listening frequently by stopping the explainer periodically and asking the group things like, “Do you understand what s/he is saying?” or “Did you get that?” or “Does everybody know what s/he means when s/he says. .. ?” I guess my most used is, “Did you get that?” Kids in my class don’t hesitate to ask for more explanation because this is part of our day-to-day conversations, AND they see me model confusion and asking clarifying questions.
In a lesson where these pictures were taken, I was playing my confused self. I had been taking pictures, but sat down at a table to probe a student who was making an assumption she shouldn’t have been making. Setting my camera on the table, I began asking the child to show me her thinking. After several minutes of interaction, another student picked up my camera and began taking pictures of our interactions. I paid no attention to that and continued with my questions. She put the camera down, and throughout the next 5-10 minutes, several students took turns picking it up and taking pics as others gathered around to hear the conversation and support the child being questioned if they could. The pictures they got were pretty good (I had to leave out two because they have students whose pictures may not be put on the web.)
However, the funniest part was Toria taking over the explanation for the child I had begun with and explaining to me the way she saw to work the problem. (She describes class on her wiki page, MathIDidToday.) She was showing me her way, and I made her do it three different ways, apparently not understanding each time. (I asked her to, NOT because she didn’t get it, but because she was so adroit at thinking flexibly, choosing various shapes and changing her approach and modeling descriptive language for the others watching.) By the third time, she was getting a wee bit frustrated with my lack of “getting it”, so she finished and, (truly) standing up, with a hand flourish, asked, “Ya got that?”
The class erupted in HOWLING laughter. . .that’s why they all left with the red faces Toria describes!
UPDATE: the kid who picked up the camera first just wiki-mailed me and asked if I had ever figured out whether S4 was half of S5 (which was the problem we were working on that’s described in this blog.). I wrote her back this message:
Hanna, I’ll share a secret that you cannot share.
Please read this: http://tzstchr.edublogs.org/mimicry
Her response back to me was simply priceless:
wow that is so cool i have never known but i did notice that you ALLWAYS didn’t get what we were telling you