Slice of Life Day 10: Messy Charts Surround Me and Questions Surface

For the month of March, I am writing in the Slice of Life Challenge. Hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Find more slices here. Today’s slice is a slice of classroom life.
11454297503_e27946e4ff_hCharts surround me. They threaten to take over my classroom. Kind of like clothes.  Some get used more than others. They wear out, don’t fit,  or no longer serve a purpose, so they are put away or recycled. Most are made with students.  It’s pretty messy. The ones you see in these shots are for opinion writing.

2014-03-07 17.58.552014-03-07 17.52.58

On Thursday, teams of students worked on pulling evidence for the reason they were trying to prove. The charts hold their thinking and are now displayed for review and use. This is sort of note taking blown up. The interesting thing is not so much the charts themselves, but how students use them.

Students crowd around the one they are interested in, reading and jotting in their notebooks.

“Mrs. Harmatz come look at this. This evidence doesn’t prove that reason. It goes with another reason,” one student tells me.

“Interesting. Well then don’t use it,” I told him.

“Should I cross it off?”

“Note your thinking on the chart, ” I tell him.

After this conversation, I made his observation a mid workshop stop and notice moment, “Check out this thinking,” I announce. “M. questioned the data. He didn’t just take it at face value. He asked himself, if it made sense.  Did it fit. Bravo! Standing ovation for thinking and questioning.”

He took a bow.  And he became a bit of an expert on questioning the evidence.  A super cool job, one he enjoyed for the day.

Even if the writing falls short, the steps toward questioning and thinking that have gone into these charts represents big moves towards understanding argument. And for a moment I’m pretty pleased with it.

Later I look at the smattering of charts, the messiness that surrounds me, and I wonder if students will hold on to what we did here. Will they be able to recreate it?. Do they see what we are trying to do here? Tomorrow these charts come down. They’ve served their purpose for now. I’ll set them aside for later. Hopefully when we reach this moment in the next argument piece, a quick review will trigger the thinking they did today.

It’s complicated. When it gets too confusing, we slow down and work it through. In this messy process, if all goes well, questioning happens and along with that,  I hope mini steps toward learning happen too.


9 thoughts on “Slice of Life Day 10: Messy Charts Surround Me and Questions Surface

  1. I love these charts and student who wonder about the evidence. I hope they can reuse this knowledge. That’s always tricky, isn’t it?

  2. The power of the charts is the thinking was collaborative and they discovered the information that needed to be held. Thinking is never neat, always a little messy.

  3. I love the “Should I cross it off?” and your “Add it to the chart” because it is nice to leave the “messy” trail that is the evidence of thinking!!!

  4. The process is paramount. I love those charts and love even more the track your thinking. Don’t erase old thinking, modify it. Kids keeping that knowledge and transferring it- you’ve made it more likely for that to happen.

  5. I’m trying to get better at making charts that students will use. Thanks for your example! Charts can look pretty and just become wallpaper that no one notices. Your chart draws kids in and makes them think. I love that your student noticed the mismatch – maybe the beginning of a debating career!

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