Planning to teach in a way that encourages reading and writing for critical thinking is not a simple thing. Most teachers who come to workshops that demonstrate active teaching methods worry a little or a lot about the demands of “fitting it all in”: covering the curriculum, but allowing time for students' creativity to flourish and for their ideas to come forth.
This section approaches planning in two ways. It describes the task of planning individual lessons that encourage reading and writing for critical thinking at the same time it covers the content of the curriculum. It also describes the planning of interdisciplinary units, because these often lead students into genuine real-life inquiry. The discussion begins by considering the fundamental principles a teacher should keep in mind when planning for teaching that elicits deep learning.
How do you decide if your own classroom encourages critical thinking and active learning? How do you set guideposts for yourself and your students?
Here are three important indicators that you can consider as you plan, enact, and assess lessons. These indicators are also important for considering the “feel” of the classroom, what might be called the classroom atmosphere.
When we teach students about language, we need to think about what people who are competent or masterful users of language go about their work. What they view as valuable? We ask similar questions about scientists or artists. How do they go about their work? What do they view as valuable? In short, we need to foster in students the kind of thinking that people who are good at and love their field of study engage in. How do they ask questions? How do they evaluate their own work? And the work of others?