How to Help your Readers Become Deep Thinkers

Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.

Imagine life as a happy teacher. 
You have enthusiastic children eager to learn.
Every hand is raised.  
Everyone is smiling, and there is 100% engagement. 
A teacher's dream, right?

The reality is that many of our students require us to scaffold instruction for them and do not get concepts with our first lesson. For many tasks we do in the classroom, deep thinking is the goal and this takes hard work for some of our kiddos. We aim for the higher level of Blooms because we're hearing the request for rigor in the classroom, and we know all kids can do it. We can't and shouldn't "dumb down" the curriculum to make it easier. Yet, we hate to see our kids hit frustration and/or fail.

What does deep thinking look like?

thinking beyond the basics
analyzing and explaining
demonstrating creativity
decisions supported with evidence
compares and connects ideas to other learning

We are closing in on end-of-the-year testing now, and we know that these assessments require deep thinking, but here's the deal. We can't hold our students' hands during the assessments, so eventually, they have to do it themselves, and folks, the struggle is real! I have been teaching my heart out with two intervention groups I've been asked to help, and in the past few months, I am definitely hearing deeper thinking and kids process the texts better. I know that some won't make it, but yet the bar is set high because even if they don't make it, they achieve more when more is expected from them.
Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.
Today, I want to share teaching strategies for deep thinking. There are certainly methods that get you more for the teaching buck than others, so why not make use of the most effective techniques.

Help Your Students Connect

One of the first steps we need to make as teachers is to hook the kids in. An engaging story, random object that you can connect to the lesson (Check out Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor for great examples.), or an element of suspense work well. As you hook them in, use think aloud to model your thinking. This provides the scaffold for kiddos who need to see the connection more concretely. 

Talk It Out

Group discussion offers the opportunity for all students to share their thinking AND hear other points of view. You can embed discovery into this by using open ended questioning. Having kids brainstorm ideas and problem solve together encourages deep thinking to find different solutions. Collaboration in the workplace leads to better ideas, and collaboration in the classroom can pull the best from all.

Take Advantage of Technology

Man, when I first began teaching, we had one computer available for games and it was black and white I think. Fast forward 25 year, and I am glad to say that our schools now are headed to one-to-one laptops. We use Google Apps for Education, and the kids have so much more at their fingertips than I ever thought possible 25 years ago. With all the devices, it has become necessary to balance the amount of screen time and ensure that we use technology in effective ways which lead to increased thinking and interaction. Making use of technology to research, create, and expand ideas is what we need for deeper thinking. 

To Save Them or Not...That is the Question

You've got your kids into groups, and they're in deep discussion. Suddenly, the hands shoot up. Do you answer the questions or run?  Well, running probably isn't an option, so how do you avoid saving them? The answer is to reflect their questions back to them. When the student asks you for help, ask him/her what he/she thinks the answer is. If you get "I don't know," reply back with, "Let's figure it out together." You can continue with questioning that puts the workload into the hands of the student.

Require Expanded Responses

Oh, the groans... We all hear them, but do not give in to groans. The reading-writing connection is huge, and by expecting our kids to elaborate in their responses, we're growing writers (and readers who are deeper thinkers), and if at first they don't succeed, have them try, try again. They may not be happy to redo work, but they will thank you later. If we accept mediocre, then our kids get the message that it's okay to accept mediocre of themselves. 

Praise, Praise, Praise the Effort

We know a growth mindset is necessary for our kids, and that effective effort leads to growth. Growth takes time, so we need our kids to put forth hard work over longer stretches of time to build stamina. We don't get deep thinking just because we ask for it. It takes lots and lots of practice. With written responses, I am always thrilled to see how vocabulary grows, sentences expand, and how kids explain their connections.

In my room...

Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.During the past few months, I've been working with a few intervention groups on test taking strategies. Well, I think of these strategies more as thinking strategies than test prep. As part of our sessions, we've tackled the following: Close Reading with PROOF, Question-Answer Relationship, Text Structures, Reading for a Purpose, and specific reading skills such as main idea, drawing conclusions, etc. Throughout this process, I've been working on using the same five step plan to provide my kids with a basic checklist.

When we complete a big project for our administrators or in our coursework, we like having a checklist or rubric to follow, right? Well, I have noticed that transferring what kids have learned to the testing situation doesn't happen easily. By having a checklist, I am hopeful they'll be more successful, and so far, this PROOF anchor chart seems to be helping. 

To begin, we PREVIEW the chosen text. The kids record their observations prior to digging into the reading. Then, the kids READ to get the gist. (surface reading). I suggest they number the paragraphs and record one sentence summaries in the margins. Next, the kids OUTLINE AND UNDERLINE the important details. They may draw arrows for connections, box or circle key words, star main ideas, etc. [close reading practices] After they've read for the second time and feel ready to tackle the questions, they ORGANIZE THEIR THOUGHTS by matching information needed to the questions. Finally, they FLAG the evidence with their highlighter. We do not use highlighters until the last step. Last year, I found my kids overdo the highlighting, so this has eliminated that issue. You can download your copy of the PROOF chart if you'd like to give it a try.
Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.
As we gear up for our state testing, my kids are growing their thinking portfolio. The notebooks are a record of all of our lessons. I love what I am seeing and how our discussions are shifting. I may not get 100% over the mark, but I know they are connecting these lessons to their approach with reading and thinking.

If you are interested in checking out this growing bundle in my store, you can click on the image below. I've tackled the most challenging part for the kids first with comprehension and vocabulary, but there will be additional sections added for word analysis and poetry. If you have questions or specific areas of need, please feel free to message me to let me know.

So remember, deep thinking doesn't happen overnight or easily, but with strategic methods, we can help ALL children become deep thinkers who use the strategies we share.

Have a great week, and until next time, happy reading!

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