Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Opening Minds Part 3

Today marks the third part of our blog book chat around Peter Johnston's newest book, Opening Minds. It's available from Stenhouse for 20% off right now in case you don't already have it.

Peter is also the featured author on Stenhouse's Blogstitute this week and writes about the impact of reducing instruction time while increasing engagement. Lots to ponder!

Our conversation started at Cathy Mere's Reflect and Refine blog. It continued in week two over at My Primary Passion with Jill Fisch. This week, I'm hosting our reflections on the final chapters of the book. We'll also have a Twitter chat on Thursday, July 26th. You can also find a cumulative collection of our posts on Jog the Web, too (Thanks, Cathy!)

My thoughts on chapters 7-9...

"That's distracting to me, so would you please stop?" (p. 87)
Such a simple statement, yet it's so... extraordinary. Isn't this how we'd want our students to talk to each other? I had to read and reread the "Social Reasoning, Caring, and Social Action" section (on pages 87 and 88) several times. And then I had to stop. And I immediately fired off a text to Nicole. So, you know that calendar I mentioned in last week's post? Yeah. Well... up until I read this section and talked more with Nicole, I was still using it. My reason? It was a way to communicate daily with parents about their child's behavior. Behavior. As in, did they comply with what I wanted them to do? That is so not the environment I want to have in our classroom! I truly want it to be all about learning how to get along and problem solve together. I want us to be able to respectfully ask someone to stop doing something. I want us to be able to work our way through problems and not "punish" by taking away a stamp on that stinkin' calendar. When problems arise, I plan to confer with the child (like I've been doing all along) and together, come up with a plan for how we are going to tackle the issue... together. We'll continue to use class meetings as a way to practice and plan for problem solving as well. And no more discipline calendars.

"Individual minds are nurtured in the conversations - the interactive thinking - of the community." (P. 96)
Reading all of Johnston's evidence for why this is true led me back, yet again, to thinking about this professional development opportunity we've all chosen to share. Many of us have said our thinking has been challenged, pushed, extended so far beyond what it would have been if we had read Peter's book on our own. Standing alone, the book is incredible. The book and a bunch of minds thinking about the classroom applications of Johnston's work... incredible times 100. Being able to share my thinking with Twitter friends on a range of topics deepens my thinking, expands my thinking, and sometimes, changes my thinking. Wouldn't we want opportunities like this for our students? The answer for me is a resounding yes.

So through this whole book, I've been thinking about how I can foster these conversations and opportunities in my first grade classroom. I know that I don't have all of the answers yet, but I have more questions and resources for how we're going to get there!

A few specifics I'm pondering...
*spending more time sitting in a circle rather than in an "audience" formation
*providing more time for exploring (with our reading, writing, math, and nonfiction studies)
*different ways in which we can recommend books to each other
*finding ways to connect more with people outside of our classroom
*rearranging the classroom to foster more collaboration
*being even more deliberate in choosing books to be shared during our "thinking together with books" time

"Jesse's question is the lever that makes the shift from 'reading for meaning' to 'reading for meaningful action." (p. 123)
If you haven't read Ellin Keene's newest book Talk About Understanding, it is one that I highly recommend. In it, she details her "Outcomes of Understanding" as a means of rethinking comprehension instruction and a way to foster deeper thinking. As I read the quote I listed above, my mind immediately went to Ellin's Outcomes. One of these is that deeper thinking is evidenced by wanting to take action based on something we've read. There are so many overlaps and so much similarity between Peter and Ellin's findings. It truly makes me believe now is the time to move forward with making the changes necessary to ensure that our students are getting the time they deserve to dig deeper, talk more, and share their findings, while I practice "channeling my inner Silent Bob," as Tony so brilliantly put it! :)

The conversation continues...
Thursday, July 26th at 7 p.m. CST on Twitter
After speaking with Peter, he is going to do his best to dive in to Twitter and possibly join us for a part of the conversation! He has already been peeking in on the conversation and reading some of our posts. :)

Wednesday, August 1st at Carol's Corner
Thanks to Carol, we've extended the conversation by a week for anyone who is interested! Carol volunteered to host on her blog, Carol's Corner. We'll use Wednesday, August 1st for posting final reflections, cheat sheets, thoughts after the Twitter chat, and whatever else you'd like to include.

Thanks again to everyone for making this event such an incredible learning experience!

Participating blogs this week... (check back as I'll be adding to this list!)

*Tracy from Thinking Stems speaks to the power of connections in her post Opening Minds...Cyber PD... Part 3.

*Maria from Teaching in the 21st Century reflects on what's been going well in her classroom and some things she'd like to work on as she begins thinking about the new school year in her post Opening Minds Ch. 7-9.

*Dawn from Literacy Toolbox encourages us to think about how we can make each moment count in her post #CyberPD - Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston.

*Suz from Heart of a Teacher challenges our thinking with some big questions in her post #CyberPD Opening Minds Chapters 7-9.

*Jill from My Primary Passion shares her goals for the upcoming school year in her post Learning to Talk, Talking to Learn: Opening Minds Chapters 7-9.

*Val from The Sensibly Savvy Teacher discusses the importance of taking the time to listen and to notice things in our classrooms in her post The Power of Listening - #CyberPD Part 3.

*Cathy from Reflect and Refine shares her insight to how she establishes a learning community in her first grade classroom in her post Building a Learning Community: #cyberPD Part 3.

*Michelle from Literacy Learning Zone emphasizes how she plans to "use language to change lives" in her post #cyberPD: Opening Minds - Part 3.

*Carol from Carol's Corner reflects on events in the past week to help explain her thoughts in her post Cyber PD - Opening Minds.

*Kim from Learning Tour Writing Stop gives us a glimpse into her new discipline plan in her post Thinking About Behavior and Discipline.

*Amanda from Snapshots of Mrs V thinks about how Johnston's book will impact her work with students in her college courses in her post Opening Minds: Chapters 7-9.

*Amber and Lisa from focUS: Clarity through Collaborative Research share their newest thoughts (and titles) about social imagination in their post Thinking Together About Books: Building Social Imagination.


  1. Laura, Thank you for hosting! Your list of "specifics you are pondering" about fostering conversations and opportunities was on my mind as well. With the start of school approaching on the next page of the calendar, I am reflecting on my "planned opportunism" for the start of school and the type of evidence I want to develop in my classroom. Great post!

    I have posted my thoughts at:

    Have a great day, Tracy

    1. Thanks, Tracy! It will be exciting to check back with #cyberPD friends throughout the year to see how we're all doing with our new thinking.

  2. Laura, Thank you for hosting this week. As I read your post I felt like we were on the same page. Your list of ideas to ponder are exactly where I am in my thinking at this point.

    I posted at
    Have a terrific Thursday.

    1. Maria, I agree! Like you mentioned in your post, I will be working on doing a better job of fostering those conversations and social development with my first graders. It will be a learning-filled year for sure!

  3. Laura,

    Thank you so much for hosting! This has been a wonderful learning experience. Reading the last three chapters made me think about a program I used in my classroom years ago and I'm looking to use again in my current school. It's the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program ( A lot of what Peter said in the last three chapters reminded me of this program. It's a way to have students set their own goals and hold themselves accountable.

    I have loved having my thinking challenged and I think you hit the nail on the head when you made the connection between dialogic classrooms for students and this blog book club for teachers. We are certainly learning more collectively than we would have if reading it alone.

    My thoughts about chapters 7-9 are here:

    Thank you!


    1. Dawn, I'm not familiar with that program but am interested in checking it out. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Laura,

    I too have been thinking a lot about behavior as compliance. I have been supervising student teachers for the past four years and classroom management is the first issue they bring up. I've always thought about classroom management as lesson planning. If the lesson is engaging and relevant, students are so interested that there are few "off-task" behaviors. If the lesson is boring, confusing or irrelevant, students will make their displeasure known through their behaviors. Students want to be heard, respected and be active in their education and Johnston has done a wonderful job of providing specific examples of how to create that kind of environment.

    I've posted my thoughts on chapters 7-9 here:

    Thanks for hosting,

    1. Wow, Suz! You really made a powerful point. When students are engaged and invested in what they are working on, those "off-task" behaviors seem to melt away. Your student teachers are lucky to have you!

  5. Laura,
    I was reading your list of things that you're pondering, and I could see that the book has caused you to rethink a lot of your practices. Good for You! I think we are all growing so much in our thinking and teaching as a result of reading this book.

    Two of the things on your list are things I've been thinking about, too. First, I'm considering how I might change our meeting area to accommodate a circle as well. Secondly, I'm also planning to be more deliberate in choosing the books I read aloud and build conversations around.

    I've have posted my thoughts at:


    1. Last year, I chose "why" as my one little word. I really feel like so much of what I'm doing and changing goes right back to the "why" of things. And if I don't like the "why," it's time to reflect and figure out a better way. Thanks for adding to my thinking!

  6. Laura,

    When I read your post, I noticed how open, honest and willing to change you are. You are putting into practice one of the points from the book -- that true conversation requires an open mind and a willingness to change. So you are really walking the talk. I think you will be happy about giving up your discipline calendar. It will be a big change but obviously one that you are up for. At my school, we have one rule and this might help you in your transition:

    I can do anything I want as long as it does not cause a problem for me or anyone else in the world.

    I did not write it but I do like having that one rule for our school. It really does make students think about what they choose to do and how it affects others. I haven't had a situation yet that it didn't "cover". It frees me up from being "in charge" and makes students have to figure out how to "fix" problems or make things right again after a poor choice.

    1. I remember chatting with you about your one school rule, and I still love it! It encompasses so much, and yet is empowering. I may have to pick your brain for more ideas! Thanks, Jill!

  7. Laura,
    Sorry to be late to the party. It's been a busy day, and this post wasn't easy to write. Actually none of them have been easy to write as Johnston's book has me thinking about learning in our classroom at many different levels.

    Your post is much the same. There are so many things I'd like to sit with you to chat about together. It was interesting that you brought up behavior and discipline. Though I know it wasn't Peter's main purpose of his book, he has had me thinking about management in our classroom. Last year I quit using clips in my classroom. For several years I had been using a system of clips to help students to understand when they might need to make a better choice for their learning. Last year, I gave them up. I wanted students to make the right choices for the right reasons....not just because I said that was what they needed to do. It wasn't easy, but I found myself thinking more about why things happened in our room. I realized my language, the support I gave during learning, the authenticity of the task, and other factors were a big part of the choices students made in the classroom. Peter's book has given me even more things to think about and more language to use to help students to understand the impact of their choices on their learning and the community.

    This event has also helped me to rethink learning opportunities for students. I've been thinking a lot about commenting in blogging. Next year I'd like my students to understand the significance of commenting on friend's learning. Every time I read a blog and take time to comment I gain a new perspective and greater understanding. This falls right in line with listening and building in conversations. More to ponder...

    My reflection is here:

    Thanks for hosting,

  8. Hi Laura!

    I so agree with you that the book is a great PD read, but I've gained so much more out of sharing my thoughts in writing and then "conversing" online with others. A real conversation would even take learning to an entirely different level and this is the opportunity our students deserve, as it happens in the real world. :)

    I love that you are already thinking about the changes you want to make come day one in your classroom. I'm still soaking all my learning and focusing on my words, but I look forward to learning more from everyone about the changes they are willing to make to keep kids at the center of learning. Thank you, as always, for sharing!

    My thoughts on the last 3 chapters:


  9. Hi Laura,
    Way late on my post today-- just way too much going on this week, both schedule wise and intellectually. I'll come back tomorrow and read everyone's posts.

  10. Thank you, Laura for hosting this week. This community has given me so much. I am analysing my Classroom discipline plan, and creating something new as a result of reading and thinking together. Here are some steps towards meeting this goal.
    With deep appreciation,
    I posted at

  11. Laura~
    Your post has given me so much to think about. I have been reading and following along with #cyberpd. (disappointed I have been too far behind to post!) I have grown professionally and personally.

    Last year I stopped using my behavior system because it seemed to be the only memory kids had of our time together. Kids would return a few years after leaving me and say, "So, did you have anyone on blue today?" I wanted kids to return and say " Remember the story I wrote about my dog? " or "what was the favorite book this year?"
    I also found I had this system in place for about 2-3 kids, other kids didn't seem to need it and they were the ones missing the feeling of accomplishment of their self-control. So I have been clip free for a year, and plan to make it two years! I found my instruction and language were more explicit and I was acutely more aware of the underlying needs of my kids. Honestly, I found the clip system was a crutch for ME! I am not saying there weren't days I wished I had a clip system, but I held tough and I am proud I did and my kids benefitted! I think I know my next blog post.

  12. Thank for hosting! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about specific aspects that you want to change as well as what you are still pondering. It seems this book does give a lot to ponder and revisit again and again.

    I posted here:

  13. The week got a little away from us! Our post "Thinking Together about Books: Building Social Imagination" is now up @

    We'd love to read your thinking on this!

    ~Amber and Lisa