Saturday, January 28, 2017

Celebration: Update on Horizontal Thinknig

Last Saturday, I posted about "Horizontal Thinking" and the changes I made this year in my instruction about research. Several comments asked me to explain the shift.

BACKGROUND: I have to admit I was that teacher who thought after my students finished their research, they were ready to take their new learning and present it. I thought I was doing a great job with allowing students choice in topic. Mini Lessons including nonfiction text structures (which they have had for three years in a row) focus on summaries and finally choice in their presentation tool.

Ryan says it all....I am thankful for his honesty.
Also he made a pocket book out of envelopes. His research
was inside the pockets. Super creative.
CONVERSATIONS: I worked with our literacy coach, Heather, and we discussed how I wanted to dig deeper in the craft of writing. I wanted to have my group of writers think deeper than just repeating the answers to their 4 questions. This is where I labeled the term vertical vs horizontal thinking. I wanted my writers to look across the research. The link to how this was accomplished is here.

INTERVIEW WITH MY WRITERS in ROOM 234 I shared the comments from last week blog's post with my class, and they were excited that so many teachers had questions about this process. I asked them to share their thoughts:.

EF: horizontal means we look at all of our research and see how it is similar/connects

BV:  you have to dig deeper in your research because you want more than one piece of evidence

AD:  I want to advance my learning, so I asked more advanced questions

AM:  thinking horizontal means not thinking about one question but thinking about all questions

HA: once you found facts that were similar you wrote the facts in your own words

RS:  as a writer you had to choose the best structure which includes sidebar, timeline, index, maps, glossary, photos with captions

LS:  have to organize your thinking (chronological order) so the facts make sense
Students loved learning about sidebars and creating their own model.
JB's dad is an engineer and JB chose his topic because he wanted
to learn more about his dad's career.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As I read through their books, their writing was stronger because they saw connections between their research. Their thinking was deeper because they connected data and built their own graphs, charts or timelines. They didn't just "copy and paste" from the internet. They showed higher level thinking in the craft of writing their research.

I feel a sense of gratitude for my Celebration Community. All week I had a smile on my face as I thought about this blog and writing it. I am so thankful for my writers, and our conversations as we processed the importance of horizontal thinking.


  1. This is a great example of how learning is not just for students. Through their learning and sharing, we, as teachers, learn as well. Please thank them for letting us take a peek into their classroom. I am sure this horizontal learning is something they will take and apply to their work as they move on. Well done, Maria! And thanks to you for sharing with all of us.

    1. Don't worry Leigh Anne they are anxious to see if they get some "fan mail" in the comment section. Have a great weekend.

  2. YES! When I worked at a university library I was astounded - and saddened - to discover that so many students had no idea how to conduct research, or how to analyse what they uncovered. They would find a single article and consider their work done! Your students definitely sound like they're on the right track, well done!

    1. I appreciate you making the connections for my students. Sometimes it feels like I am just preaching...but I know how important it is to continue to send the same message.

  3. Maria, congratulations to your young researchers. They have accomplished much in a short time. Understanding that research is more than just consuming information is important as they become independent thinkers who synthesizing what they read and apply their learning. Presenting their work via graphs and texts makes their learning visible to others. Thank you to the researchers who own their horizontal thinking.

    1. Thanks Carol I am proud of my writers. They did stretch and learn several new important writing skills. Best of all how important perseverance is as a writer.

  4. Congrats to you and your writers. I love EF's comment that you look at all your research and see how it is similar/connects. Such profound thinking from your students. What an exciting process.