Monday, July 15, 2013

Chapter 4: Self-Awareness

This week's question comes from my husband who is a high school social studies teacher. How can self-awareness be taught in a core content area classroom while still teaching all of the content? Do you have any ideas of how to fit some self-awareness lessons into your busy schedule?


  1. I really like this chapter because it forces an introspective look at how one learns--in eduspeak-- metacognition. The author acknowledges how so many students spend all their time focused on gaining knowledge, which is a certainly understandable, but does little to help kids understand how to approach learning when they do not have a teacher, etc there to help them. If kids can develop the ability to honestly assess their own abilities, then they can better match themselves to opportunities and challenges. I know that I did not do this when I was in school, and I wonder if this type of introspection requires a certain level of maturity? Or if maturity plays a role in one's self-awareness? I do not think I have really answered the question...but I am certainly thinking about it and am more "aware"...

  2. I really enjoyed this one also! It has given lots of ideas that I can do with my students this year. I think this information can go right into their data notebooks, to tie-in what they have learned about how they learn, to the results (data) of their learning!

    Meri Carnahan, tell your husband that he might be able to have a lot of fun with the: What Makes Me, Me handout as a way for his older students to "report" on a historical character from what they have been studying. This might be a fun twist way to learn more biological information on a real person. They could learn enough about the character to "assume" to know how they would answer the questions if they were that person. For example, if they chose Abraham Lincoln, they would explain how A.L. would answer the questions. (Like number 5....What occupies my mind even when I do not have time to do it? What do I think about the most?) As they finish these "reports" they could reflect on, or compare how their character is similar or different from themselves.

    Also, a great time to do some of these lessons might be those times that you have a messed-up-schedule week and don't have time to start the new content that you want to start. You could possibly use those awkward days
    to do some of these lessons. Also, sometimes these lessons might be great transition lessons after heavy content lessons.

  3. Ironically, I incorporated a similar version of the learning portfolio into my curriculum this year, which could be utilized in any core class. Using Blogger, students developed digital portfolios. As this was my first attempt, two of the tabs, what I learned today and goals, contained many of the questions mentioned in this chapter. However, after reading this chapter on self-awareness, it's clear that I need to develop these learning portfolios a step further.

    How do we incorporate these self-awareness activities into our curriculum? I agree with the author in that confidence does come from within. As an adult, I am very aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a learner. Modeling these self-awareness activities is something I need to do more of in the classroom. Although I teach English, I think all core subjects could incorporate some of these ideas through reading and writing activities. I especially like the idea of the two types of voices that we hear as we read. Additionally, by middle school, students are aware of how they learn; unfortunately, most of them have probably not been encouraged to really investigate their inner self.

    As I think about this chapter, I am forced to reflect on this past year. How many times has a student asked if they could sit on the floor to read because they read better that way. How many times as a teacher have we responded that students need to sit in their chairs when reading. If we are to really take to heart the idea of self-awareness, then the culture in our classroom must reflect and support the many ways in which students learn.

    If we truly want students to be independent, thoughtful, and self-directed learners, then we need to support students in the discovery of who they are, what they believe, and why they make certain choices.

  4. Great question: how do we find the time for just about anything these days, when more and more is packed into the instructional schedule? If you are a teacher with 6 classes of around 30 students each, how well can you get to the know the students... but this is about the students getting to know themselves.
    In middle schools with advisory programs, these lessons would be easier to incorporate. But high school? The idea of using the time in "broken schedule" days is good, but those days would have a very irregular pattern. I used to include a closing question every day, and most of the time I tried to label it as "metacognition" by asking students what they had learned, what surprised them the most, what they would most remember, what they would tell their parents they learned in class that day... but it didn't go into much depth. And did I ever give them time to share.. probably not.

    I could see this as being easier for teachers with a flipped format; you could utilize technology to have students fulfill some of this outside the classroom, and then hold the discussions during snippets of class time (I heard a management expert talk about how we often waste the "Swiss cheese" holes of time, which I do a lot)

    I really liked the idea of students interviewing each other; somehow I think those answers might be a little more authentic. Students often try to answer questions for teachers the way they think the teacher wants them to answer. Plus, making the questions more objective might be easier for some students. ("Things I'm good at" can be morphed into "things I've done") To be able to incorporate it, I think you need to do it regularly, even if for a few minutes a day, but I don't see this necessarily working in high school every day. I always tried to include some type of reflection piece on every test I gave. You could probably use some self-reflection aspects more easily at the beginning or end of a unit.

  5. The heart maps that are described would be a good activity for the beginning of the school year. They could be connected with Writers’ Workshop in the elementary grades. I googled “heart maps” and found several examples as well as a lesson plan for heart maps that includes color coding to categorize the things the children put on their heart maps. The web address is:

    Georgia Heard is a big proponent of Writers’ Workshop. I’ve heard her speak, and she is excellent. The “What Makes Me, Me?” activity would also be good for the beginning of the school year. These would be ways to work the teaching of the habitudes into our already packed school day. Many of the habitudes fit in well with Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop.

    The modeling of thinking by the teacher that is described when reading is exactly what is done in Readers’ Workshop in the primary grades. Good readers are aware of their inner voice and what it is telling them. It helps them connect to the text. The inner voice can also help students to question if they are understanding what they read. Teachers model this for their students. I agree with the author that it is also important to teach students that sometimes our inner voice can distract us and get us off track. We need to model for our students how to get ourselves back “on track” when this happens.

    I think it is vital that children know themselves as learners. I know we are all working hard at avoiding the “one right answer” atmosphere in our classrooms. We need to continue with these efforts to boost children’s metacognitive skills.

  6. Your husband and I have the same question. I plan to "pilot" the Habitudes on my own with self-awareness lessons during our end of the day 15 minute homeroom 2 times a week. These are the same kids I have for 1st hour (homeroom) and also the "advanced" class (which remains to be seen) so I'll have a little bit of a different focus and hopefully some extra time with them. I already do some of this "metacognition stuff with kids- making students aware of how they learn with learnng styles, a little brain-based research, etc. It helps them to trust that even THEY can learn- everyone can learn something, just in different ways and at different times- and validates some of why I teach the way I do. I also teach Social Studies, so I can always explain what I'm doing to adminstration as working on the citizenship stuff, if asked. As a high school teacher though, I'm not sure how you'd work it in- except I know you need to at least be aware of it and slip little teachable moments into your class as often as possible. Kids desperately need to be responsible for and aware of how they uniquely learn. I love the idea of "What Makes Me Me"- sort of like using Fakebook to make a historical fake Facebook page for a historical character. Kids love that- in fact, I just saw on Twitter that an idea for Fakebook is to have kids make their own fake page as an autobiography to share with the class as a "get to know you" (and themselves) activity. Pondering using this idea!

    1. I think it is so great that you help kids see that everyone can learn, just in different ways. I think it is so easy for kids to get down on themselves even at an early age if they do not feel successful at school.

  7. "Successful learning is not about getting things done, but rather knowing how you got it done, so that you can do it again later and better." (Chapter Takeaway). This sentence sums up the chapter on self-awareness for me. The majority of the ideas given in this chapter would fit into any of the subjects/programs/systems that I teach; however, for teachers like your husband, Meri, this could be a bit tricky.

    I am very fortunate to teach in a school system that allows and promotes us to think outside of the box and try new things. We have small PD groups that meet one morning every other week for 30 minutes (TALL--Tiger Academy of Lessons Learned) and we teachers determine the content of the small groups and lead the groups. There are very few "rules" or "boundaries" except that every teacher on staff MUST be involved in a TALL group but if you are in a group where you are no longer gaining information, in your opinion, you may request to change groups or start one of your own.

    A couple of years ago I was involved in a group on Student Engagement. Our group looked at various factors that enhance or are detrimental to engagement in the classroom. Several of us decided to try an experiment and use a few minutes each week to assess our students on how they learn, what they want to learn, etc. Once the students in our class had been assessed we had to agree to use the data to change our classroom learning environment to accommodate all of the learning styles and to see if this changed engagement of the students.

    I started by giving a Learning Styles Assessment. First I asked the students how they learned best by thinking about a teacher from their past (elementary to present) where they felt like they had learned the most. Next, I asked them why they thought they had learned so much from this teacher. I asked the students what type of learner they "thought" they were; visual, hands-on, etc. and then I administered the assessment.

    I had students who were adamant that they "learned" one way but the tests said another. I had a project that was being presented to the class and the students could determine on their own how they wanted to learn the information and what their final product would be. The only thing was that the students had to agree to participate in the project using the learning style that was discovered through the assessment. Of course, some were adamant that they "couldn't learn" that way and that they would receive a bad grade. I told them that I would evaluate each product individually and if I felt they would have received a better grade "doing it their way" then I would adjust their grade to reflect that information.

    Funny thing happened on the way to the classroom, those who were adamant that they learned one way did much better with their new found learning style and retained the information. Believe me there was lots of discussion by the students as to why this had worked.

    I know that core class teachers are pushed to cover so much information, but I am a believer that if we can get the students and the teachers to discover the learning styles of each of the student participants then we, as teachers, can do a much better job in the classroom since we have made our students and ourselves as teachers aware of each student's learning style.

  8. I will agree with your husband. How can we fit it all in? However, if there is value in it, and there is, we all will find a way to fit it in with our curriculum. There are great ideas for the starting of the year and thanks Barb for the scholastic link. As I go over my plans for this new year, I am incorporating many of the thoughts that have been shared here as well the topics/worksheets from the book. I can find ways to work in with my remedial lab class, general music classes but my choral classes (70 students) will be a bit more difficult. With everything we had to add this year with ISTEP and evaluations it was hard to complete my own standards and having my choral groups sing well.

  9. Thanks for sharing the link Barb- I will use it as a quiet end of the day reflection to get to know my homeroom better at the start of school. It's like the kids get to create their own graphic organizer- personalized, colored, hands-on, and it will let us get to know each other better. Love it- you brought this idea from the chapter to life for me!

  10. What a great chapter to think not only for students but for myself! Yes that is the question...when to fit this into a busy day of content?? Actually what a great habit to get into to fit at the end of the day to put into data binders or I like how the book calls it "learning profiles." If we get into the habit of saving the last 10 minutes of the day to self-awareness and relflection activities, hopefully it will instill that habit to continue to be self-aware/reflective learners for the students. There is a lot to say how much this chapter (and book at that matter) can be modeled after us as teachers and our habits!

  11. Another thought after rereading Vicki's comments..."if we find the value in it"...yes!!!If we can establish what self-awareness is and why its important at the beginning of the year and spend a little more time in "heart mapping" in learning about themselves as well as getting to know one another at the start, it may work more seamlessly into content areas when needed throughout the year and a continued habit saved at the end of everyday.

  12. I have been doing bible school for my church and one of the things we did was heart mapping! I did this with my students last year for a poetry lesson and they really liked it. I came up with a craft that was a heart puzzle and we wrote all the things that are in our hearts on each puzzle piece for VBS.

    I know that it is hard to get everything in but I think self-awareness could save time in the long run if the teacher and student know how they best learn. If students are aware that they need to learn by rereading something several times, or drawing a picture, or asking more questions than that can help speed up the process of learning because we are not wasting time on other methods that do not work.
    We do Everyday math at my school and I had a little girl last year that absolutely hated doing the "games". She would beg me for "real work". She liked the challenge and reading and doing problems on her own. I loved the questions that help students determine how they learn best. It was even interesting as I asked myself the questions

  13. I agree that it is a good way to start the school year out. I think that it is also useful information for high school students who are needing to think about what they are going to do after high school. It can help them see what areas would be good for them to pursue and what would not. I like how the chapter states that it can guide and empower. It guides one in what is important to them and also helps them to understand their strengths and weaknesses. One can use their strengths to do what they want to do and then work on areas that week.

  14. I think this Self-Awareness can be incorporated in any core class. I have students keep a history notebook and ask them to write about what we are learning and how they would react, think, or do in situations presented. Having them share in pairs or small groups have been very successful in getting them to talk about how different people would react to the same situation or problem.
    Lesson Four: We Have a Problem should be a staple for any Social Studies teacher. I think the best way to teach "talking to the text" is to model it for the students.

  15. First this quote, “Successful learning is not about getting things done, but rather knowing how you got it done, so that you can do it again later and better.” Being self-aware is like the icing on the cake. Having students ask themselves so many questions about their learning will make them think harder about what they want out of school and their learning.
    As they become so introspective why couldn’t they look at characters in history, reading or social studies? As students gain knowledge about important and influential people, they can hopefully see some similar characteristics between.
    After introducing what self-awareness is, and students work on What Makes Me, Me then working on My One Special Thing! I believe as a teacher you’ve got to bring this habitude around every day by having the students think back about what they’ve learned and find something positive in their learning.
    With third graders making them aware that they are in charge is very difficult in the beginning. Teaching them to listen to that wondering voice in their head is something we constantly work on and over time they do improve.
    Cathleen Cunningham