Introduction to the August Teacher Workshop

Author: Alythea McKinney

Posted by Alythea

In addition to finding interesting materials, Critical Explorers and the people who have inspired it have developed ways of asking questions, listening to and responding to students, and looking at students’ work.  Some of these approaches are different from the ones teachers are usually expected to use.  Yet they are also very effective at helping teachers accomplish things they are expected to accomplish—for example, helping students think critically and independently.

We created this workshop because we would like to have a chance to share these strategies with you, and to look together at what they can accomplish, so that they are available for you to draw on not only when you are using or adapting the investigations that appear on this website, but also anytime you want to use them in your teaching.

Describing these strategies and their impact in words that are isolated from experience generally doesn’t work very well.  Because they are different from more familiar protocols, the best way to get a clear view of them—and to prepare to use them well in a familiar context—is to step away from the familiar ones for a short time and to allow yourself to see these from the inside.

So we plan to spend some time actually experiencing these approaches through several different kinds of humanities activities.  After each experience, we plan to move into small working groups to plan, write, and test out specific activities and assignments, for your own units, that integrate these strategies.

A central focus of the workshop will be thinking about what can come next after looking at something with students.  For example, after we’ve asked what they  notice and/or used the “What Do You Notice?”  sheet, what are some options for keeping the exploration going, and for deepening it—and even for moving toward articulating themes, for example—while the ideas and even the themes are still coming from the kids?  And at the same time, how can we find out what the students are learning and understanding, and use what we discover to help us plan next steps that will support them in thinking still further?  We expect that these will be some of the key questions.

Alythea McKinney is the director of Critical Explorers.

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