The Heroic Classroom: Trust and Ownership

By Christa Rawlings (MEd in IE; Grade 6 Teacher, Learning in Depth Teacher)

Welcome back to: The Heroic Classroom.  Over the course of this year I am on the hunt for two things:

1.  Reflections on my lessons and how various Heroic Qualities present themselves.

2.  Observations of how/if students recognize Cognitive Tools in action and how they put the tools into use themselves throughout the school year.

I hope you continue to follow along on our IE adventure!

NOTE: Are you new to Imaginative Education? Explore the range of posts about it on this blog! Including podcasts.

The Heroic Classroom: September 6

Heroic Quality of the Day: Trust

I have found that starting the year with a whole class Novel Study is essential for building community.  I find that a really important part of running Novel Study is to have each and every child in the class read aloud from the chapter regardless of reading ability.  I know this can be scary for some of the kids.  I’m also aware that this may make some teachers reading this do a double-take.  Don’t panic, just keep reading.  I adapt the length of the passage that is being read depending on the reader’s confidence.  If a student is a beginning English Language Learner I will read each word of a sentence or two and have them repeat after me.   The beauty of the story, the metaphor, the unfolding of suspense and triumph of characters is wonderful to experience all together.  We can dive deeper into one novel as a whole than 6 different groups can manage on their own.   I promise I am not trying to be mean.

I am trying to build community.  I am trying to build trust.

Yesterday, a new student was close to tears at the thought of reading aloud to the class. Confidence in her own academic abilities is quite low.  I had a private conversation with her before she headed home for the day.

Mysticsartdesign / Pixabay

With some reassurance, she was feeling a little better but still petrified.  Before Novel Study began today I reminded the entire class that we are all there to support one another.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  I agreed with them that it can be intimidating doing something you don’t feel you’re good at in front of other people.  I made sure they understood that I will help those who are reading aloud.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the kid who was so nervous yesterday was one of the first to volunteer!  She struggled decoding several words but took her time and relied on me to support her when needed.  She read an entire paragraph!  Out loud!  In front of people!!

She had trust in me, that I would be true to my word and help her.  She had trust in her peers to not tease her.  Most importantly, she found trust in her own abilities.

That success led to more victories for her.   This same kiddo beamed from ear to ear as she handed in 2 whole pages of independently written work this afternoon.   It was a great day for both of us!

(Read more about the Imaginative Tools of Story, Metaphor and Suspense/Dramatic Tension )

The Heroic Classroom: September 9

Heroic Quality of the Day: Ownership

With any lesson I teach I finish off the my ‘talking head’ portion by asking the students to give themselves some sort of rating on how well they understood the concept or assignment.  I have a large chart paper on the board with the scale I use to assess them. 1 means I have no idea what you just said or what’s going on! 2 is I think I get it but I’ll need another explanation and some help. 3 is I totally get this and if I concentrate I will be able to manage on my own.  Finally, 4 is This is too easy, when are we going to get to some hard stuff? 

At the beginning of the year I have everyone put their heads down and give me an honest self assessment by signalling with their fingers. Before we do this for the first time I talk to them about being honest with themselves and with me so I can help them the best way I can.  Giving them ownership over their own understanding has led to finding out if I need to go over the lesson as a whole again or who needs a nudge or two in the right direction. (It also eliminates the dead silence and collective blank stares that happens from time to time.)  With this particular class it has meant that I have been able to identify the group that will consistently work with me at the big table. It also allows for little celebrations throughout the year as a child who has rated their understanding at a 1 suddenly has a light bulb moment and now rates her understanding at a 3.  As the term progresses they won’t need to put their heads down to signal their understanding.  I will just ask, “How’s everyone feeling about this?  1,2,3, or 4?”.  Ownership of their own understanding gives them permission to be saying, ‘Ooh I’m not sure I get this.’, or “Hey!  I am getting good at this Fraction business!” If students can feel their progression then I can see it.


Need to catch up? Take a look at some of the other posts from my Heroic Classroom series:

#1 Introduction to The Heroic Classroom:Connection

Other posts by Christa Rawlings

Check out this post in which I describe why I use cognitive tools in my teaching: The Selfish Teacher

Using Cognitive Tools to teach Place Value to Grade 6 and 7 students:  Place Value and Really Big Numbers


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