Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Opening Minds 7-9

     Social action...moral development....problem solving. I read chapter 7 the day after I finished Wonder by RJ Palacio. My mind was already turning before I began this new chapter of Opening Minds about teaching kids to choose kindness, about teaching empathy. (Side note if you haven't read Wonder, you should. If you have kids in middle school, you must read it with them. I know this will be a book I will save to read with my own kids when they are old enough to discuss choosing kindness in our world.)
     Nurturing moral development isn't something that I will be assigned a color on, based on my performance but it is something that we all know is essential to build, discuss and teach in the classroom. We may never know how we touch student's lives by building their character, but we know we do when we help them look at situations differently, and help them solve problems, and chose kindness. When we talk about books or study writers we aren't just developing reading and writing skills we are learning about people and thinking about our own lives as well as the lives of others in a larger context. Yes, these talks build comprehension but I want kids to read books as a way of understanding themselves and others. Big comprehension is found when kids can take their thinking to the next level after reading and think about how what they read applies to their own lives, to their own world.

     As the heading in chapter 7 reads, "Taking moral development seriously", this chapter was a good reminder of how we as teachers can do this and help kids solve problems through language.

"Conflicts offer opportunities to make clear that we value considerate, empathetic behavior and disapprove of non considerate behavior, making casual links to emotional consequences." 

     My hope for my own daughter is that their teachers all take moral development seriously. It is not enough to just learn the content, I want my children to also learn how to be good people, productive members of society that care. I know that what I teach at home may not be enough. They will need teachers helping them problem solve along the way when school conflicts arise. This reminds me that I am teaching kids throughout the year to choose kindness, and nudging them to understand others who are different from them.

     Chapter 8 reminds us of the power of thinking together. It reminded me of how I need to model what it looks like, sounds like to REALLY listen. (I myself need more practice at REALLY listening to others in my life!) To have dialogue with each other that is meaningful. I hope to as the chapter says, to teach my students to become adept at listening, set goals to learn their partner's views. This is something I worked hard on last year. We talked a lot about how other people's comments, thoughts and experiences help build our own understandings whether we agree or disagree. Hearing another point of view makes you think more clearly about your own point of view, whether it changes your mind or not.

I loved when Johnston reminded me that "turn and talk" doesn't mean merely turn and talk; it means building a conversation. Building a conversation means building on each other's ideas. Listening is the foundation of our conversation and it requires that we are open to the possibility of changing our thinking.

I LOVE this language for introducing turn and talk at the beginning of the year!

Thank you to everyone who has been posting about this book. This reminds me of the power of sharing refelections. So many posts have made me think about this book in ways I would not have done on my own.



  1. Hi Amy! I finished Wonder this summer and my "soon to be" fifth grade son has read it twice this summer! When I read it, I flagged some powerful quotes about kindness and told him to let me know when he reached the post-its. We had two amazing conversations about kindness using the text as our common ground (and...mommy victory...he left the post-its in!) Great book on so many levels!

    "building a conversation means building on each other's ideas. Listening is the foundation of our conversations and it requires that we are open to the possibility of changing." the language I want to put front and center at the beginning of the school year and then all year! From our classrooms to professional development as adult learners...being vulnerable to change is a powerful learning tool!

    Enjoy this beautiful Ohio day...for once :)

  2. Amy,

    I loved Wonder, too. My 7th grade daughter is reading it right now. She loves this type of book. I love that you made the connection between these two books.

    We have such important work to do to help our students develop their social imagination. Thankfully, it is also very engaging work.


  3. Amy,
    I love the connection between Wonder and Opening Minds. Johnston made some great points about social imagination, but I think just keeping the words "Choose kind" alive in our classroom will accomplish all of the greater goals.

    You and I have been thinking a lot about "really listening" in our classrooms. It isn't easy for me to always remember to do myself, and I know it isn't easy for the first graders in my classroom either.

    Amy, I look forward to continuing this conversation across the year. As you said, this has been such an amazing way to read the book. I've learned much much more than I would have reading it my own. I also know everyone who has participating will help me across the year.


    P.S. I just got this post added to the JOG. Please let me know if I've missed any others. It has been much harder keeping track of the increased participants this year (but wouldn't want it any other way).