Turn Your Thinking Into Teaching

This post has been in my drafts for awhile.  I've dipped in and out of it, adding thinking here and there.  I've been part of many conversations lately that revolve around this idea...today I'm attempting to jump fully in and synthesize my thinking.

Teachers are experts of their content.  You're an expert reader or writer, mathematician or historian, scientist or musician.  More likely than not, you teach what you teach because you love it, you're passionate about it, and you'd love to pass that fascination on to your students.

If you teach science, chances are, thinking like a scientist, comes much more naturally to you than it does for me.  Or for your students.  The same is true for all content areas (ELA included!). The way a scientist reads an article about genetics is different than the way you read a novel to prepare for a book club, and it's different than the way a historian reads a primary source.

The challenge for experts is to realize the thinking they are doing, even though it is second nature to them.  As teachers, we must first notice our thinking processes when we are accessing text so that we can turn our THINKING into TEACHING.

Too often we put a historical document in front of kids and TELL them to annotate it.  Or we hand students a science text book and TELL them to take notes.  Instead, imagine the power in SHOWING them how to do it.  And not only showing, but making your thinking visible to students as you are doing it.  Let students in on what you are thinking about as you are annotating.  Let them see how you puzzle around pieces of the text, how you struggle at times to make meaning, and let them see how you problem solve these issues.

Too often we just assign a task to students or we show them an exemplar.  The problem with only showing an exemplar is that it doesn't show the PROCESS.  Without showing the process we can unintentionally give students the impression that their work should automatically be the quality of the exemplar, without the puzzling, struggling, revising, etc.

Modeling is different than assigning.  Thinking aloud is different than telling.  Modeling and thinking aloud turn your thinking into teaching and make the process accessible for students.  And isn't the process really what it's all about?  The process is what will enable them to continue to become passionate and fascinated by your subject area, long after they leave your classroom.


  1. What a great post! I love how you framed this idea and put it out there! It is such an important message!

  2. I like how you explain this. Sometimes, when my lessons aren't as fully planned, my students get to see me thinking in an authentic way. I think these are some of my best lessons.

  3. this: The challenge for experts is to realize the thinking they are doing, even though it is second nature to them.
    is so true! It can be challenging to slow your thinking down... but we have to use metacognition to help our students learn!

  4. I think you would really like this book based on your slice: http://www.amazon.com/Adolescent-Literacy-Academic-Disciplines-Principles/dp/1462502806/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427075289&sr=8-1&keywords=teaching+disciplinary+literacy+shanahan


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