Do You See What I See?
Encouraging our learners to notice, observe, and to look closely helps build an important thinking skill. Observations serve as foundational evidence for one’s interpretations and theories. Getting intentional about teaching thinking moves and connecting them to language is an important gift we can give our learners. Ritchhart’s work about Making Thinking Visible is of particular interest to me as an educator. I feel inspired by the intentionality behind the teaching he describes and I am seeking to bring as many of these thinking moves into my classroom as possible. The context he describes is wildly different from an early primary second language context like mine, so I have been doing some thinking about how to bring this into my teaching into my practice.
There are many ways to introduce the idea of looking closely. Provocations involving things from the natural world together with magnifying glasses are an easy first step.
The language of thinking is of particular interest to me. Since I tend to restrict my language significantly in order to gradually build upon previously introduced vocabulary.
Let’s take a look at one type of thinking: making observations. There are many ways to introduce the idea of looking closely. Provocations involving things from the natural world together with magnifying glasses are an easy first step. The invitation itself will encourage the type of thinking you are hoping for. However, as a language teacher this is not sufficient. We must connect this thinking to the language in order to make the thinking visible. As such, we need to be explicit about teaching the vocabulary supporting basic observation making in the target language.
How do I do this? Slowly and with purpose. Initially I use the stem « je vois » and colour words. I usually place an emphasis on one colour word per day, working our way through the rainbow. The feature image is a simple « I spy » tablecloth which is a fun and interesting way for daily practice with noticing, looking closely, and speaking. I begin by finding ways to connect the thinking to language; I know giving the learners a chance to practice using their words is so important.
Next I introduce the concept of dark and light in relation to the colour words. As I seek to expand on the vocabulary surrounding the sense of sight, I introduce words describing size next (grand/moyen/petit). Then come the position words (loin, près, sur, sous, dans, à côté). Next come words describing the texture (mou/dur, sec/mouillé, lisse/rugueux). Everytime we extend the learning, I am careful to highlight the thinking move we are practicing. « Regarde très bien, qu’est-ce que tu vois? » When the learners are speaking confidently with « je vois » sentences, then I may consider introducing « j’observe. »