Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Opening Minds Ch. 1-3

I am so excited to be actively involved this year in #cyberPD. Last year I read all the blog posts and also followed the conversation on twitter but did not blog.  The book:  Opening Minds by Peter Johnston was chosen by Cathy, Laura and Jill for this summer's virtual conversations.

Chapter 1: Choosing Words, Choosing Worlds as I read this title I automatically connected back to Johnston first book:  Choice Words.  His opening statement, "as teachers we choose our words....the worlds we construct offer communities and constraints."  I began to wonder about the constraints in my classroom. Where did we have problems? Could I help to change those constraints next fall in my classroom?  Also his quote, "Teaching is planned opportunism." made me stop and reflect. The best lesson plans in the world can alter drastically with the conversations in class.  I plan on going down path A and one student takes path B yet another conversation is meandering along path C.  He ends the paragraph with the idea of intentional talk--uumm that is not anywhere in my lesson plans.  Now I am thinking it should be. 

Chapter 2:  Learning Worlds: People, Performing and Learning.  In this chapter, Johnston defines fixed performance (characteristics are permanent) and dynamic theory (ability grows based on the situation).  These two traits are defined well in this chapter, and I had to reread it to understand how these thought patterns in students really do effect the way the think, speak and behave.  There are 3 major points of influence that helped me understand these points.  #1 What we choose to say  #2 the way we frame the activities #3 how we teach students about how their brain works. Providing more of a dynamic classroom would be my goal in the fall, and I know that I would have to start first with my words and responses to my students. 

Chapter 3: Changing Learning Narratives. His opening quote grabbed me, "Turning attention to change rather than stability makes a difference in all kinds of learning." I love stability and thrive on it in my classroom but after 23 years I am focusing on moving towards change. His next idea, "Deciding which things in life are essentially fixed (can't be changed) and which things can be changed is constant tension." AMEN! With all of the changes coming in Common Core, student behaviors, state assessments, diagnostics I really need to focus on my own changes-those changes that directly impact my students' learning in my classroom.  After all even if it's a tiny bit - it is a change.

As I get ready to read the next three chapters, I have many ideas to ponder.  Thank to Cathy at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community for hosting this weeks cypberPD.


  1. Maria,
    I am so glad you are joining us this year. I find it interesting as I move from blog to blog. Everyone grabs different pieces from the chapters, expands upon them, and places them within the context of their classrooms. I am learning so much more by sharing this book with others.

    Thanks for stepping through each chapter and sharing your thinking. I appreciated your breakdown of the major points of influence. It helps me to see more concretely some of the ways we can help students to move toward a dynamic learning frame of mind.

    I hope we can get together soon. I'd love to hear all you have been up to this summer and all you are planning for next year.


  2. "The best lesson plans in the world can alter drastically with the conversations in class." I love this quote! How absolutely true! It's not enough to just plan our lessons and carry them out the way we originally intended. We have to allow for those conversations to go deeper and in different directions. You've helped me realize I really need to rethink how I am going to provide opportunities for that intentional talk. Thanks, Maria!

  3. Maria,

    I enjoyed reading about your plans for the fall and how you will be working towards having a more dynamic-learning frame.

    My favorite line was when you said that every change was important - even a tiny change. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Maria,

    I can so relate to the idea of "planned opportunism." There are many lessons and ideas discussed that were never part of my planning that have been insightful conversations, but --oops-- that last step of intentional talk is missing. Need to work on that!

    I also agree that as teachers it's a wise idea to focus on our own changes - as you say, "the changes that directly impact my students' learning in my classroom." Let's move forward together to make those small, but mighty changes starting with our words!

    Thanks for sharing today!

  5. Thanks for posting! I always enjoy reading your thoughts!

    When you mentioned, "Providing more of a dynamic classroom would be my goal in the fall..." it connected to the feeling I was getting while reading that section too. I found myself reading the column on dynamic classrooms and thinking about the evidence in my classroom last year and what I could do to support this view this fall.

    Hope you are having a great summer!!!!

  6. Maria,

    I'm so glad so many of us picked up on the idea of "intentional talk," such an important component in our classrooms that we often bypass to meet all of the requirements of our curriculum.

    Thank you for making us think about this. I will continue to reflect and ruminate on the idea of intentional talk and how I will work to incorporate it in the classroom in the fall.


  7. One of the best parts of #cyberPD are the comments. I enjoy reading all of the posts and seeing the common denominators. It is interesting to me how so many people are thinking about intentional talk. I am working on how to incorporate that more and I have decided I need a cheat sheet with sentence starters. Thanks for your comments. I am excited this next weeks Chapter reviews.

  8. I'm glad you're joining the conversation this year. The comments and feedback to one another are incredibly powerful.
    This idea of focusing on the change can be equal parts scary and powerful, but I think the latter adjective wins out every time. Like you, I have much thinking to do about how I use my words in the classroom.

  9. Maria, thanks for sharing your thoughts. They generated a great discussion of comments.
    As Dawn pointed out in her comment, "intentional talk" is a thread that keeps coming up. If you are someone who loves a tall TBR (to be read) pile, Maria Nichols digs deeper into this thought, especially for the purpose of nurturing students' intentional talk. Johnston refers to Nichols work in Opening Minds, and is well-worth moving to the top of the TBR pile