Let’s continue education month here on Imagination Soup by looking at best practices for encouraging divergent thinking in children with reading and writing workshop.
Linear thinking, or convergent thinking, is about learning facts, follow instructions, and solving problems with one right answer.
Divergent thinking is generating unique solutions and seeing various possibilities in response to questions and problems.
To foster divergent thinking, learning activities must be designed for inquiry, reflection, pondering, wondering, curiosity, self-assessment, and no right answer. Divergent thinking is found with:
- Constructivist approach to learning
- Learning styles, multiple intelligences
- Learner-centered, learner-directed
So, I’d expect in a classroom that encourages divergent thinking to be one that implements reader’s and writer’s workshop.
Workshop Instructional Model
Workshop Approach to Writing and Reading
In a reading or writing workshop, you’ll see these basic elements:
1. Short lesson (5 – 10 minutes)
2. Application of lesson (30 – 60 minutes) with choices
2.5. Confer with individual students
3. Reflection, sharing (15 minutes)
– – – – – – – – – –
In a workshop model, thinking is valued and learning is individualized.
Merriam-Webster defines workshop as a “usually brief intensive educational program for a relatively small group of people that focuses especially on techniques and skills in a particular field.”
More writing workshop info.
Conferences in a workshop instructional model are valuable opportunities for the teacher to both assess and teach each child individually.
1: 1 conference example: (from first grade room I worked in last week. The kids were picking out the main character and writing 3 descriptive words about that character.)
Me: It looks like you have a book about dogs. Can you tell who is the main character?
Student: Brothers. I want to write down brothers, can you help me spell it?
Me: Well, good readers know that they can find the word in the story and copy it down. Let’s look and see if we can find the word brothers.
[Student and I flip through book – it’s only about 10 pages so it’s quick.]
Me: I don’t see the word brothers. Do you?
Student: No, but I know they are brothers.
Me: Oh, how do you know that?
Student: I just know.
Me: Well, sometimes we can tell from the pictures and clues in the book. Let’s see if we can tell from the pictures.
[pictures show two different sizes and breeds of dogs]
Me: I notice that these two dogs look quite different. Do you notice that, too? I wonder if they’re aren’t brothers since maybe brothers would look the same.
Student: They are brothers.
Me: Well, we can’t know for sure, for sure though because the book doesn’t say. That’s so disappointing isn’t it? We just have to go with what the book says. I see here that the book says the dogs are pals.
Student: [almost crying] I am going to write down that they are brothers.
I stopped because this poor guy was so overwhelmed. But, what fantastic information I just got! Do you see how this experience can help me plan for the next few weeks with this child? What would you jot down in your notes for this student? Would you start by writing his strengths of using the pictures to make up stories and details? For a teaching point, wouldn’t you want to be sure he was reading just-right books?
Next, I’d have the student read to me in case the issue was book selection. Did he just pick a book that he couldn’t read? If not, where was the comprehension break down? Was he not understanding that the author writes the story and we can’t add or subtract our own ideas? Or, was there some other issue with reading, or memory?
Conferring with a child, who is reading a book of his choice, allows you to differentiate, to teach him specifically within each workshop time. It’s essential in reading instruction – even in the older grades. I conferred with all my fifth graders every week.
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If you’re a homeschooler, how could you replicate this at home?
If you’re a teacher, are you teaching using workshop?
If you’re a parent and you’re not seeing workshopping in your child’s school, ask for it. It’s worth it.
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