My summer reading continues. I’ve been reading during my children’s swimming lessons, soccer games & practices, bag piping events, car trips, beach trips or camping in our patched up 1981 Coleman tent trailer. And not only books related to work. I usually have a few books on the go at once. One that is a tough read that challenges me that I will read in small chunks (currently Stratosphere by Michael Fullan). Another that is usually work related – that inspires me (two at the moment that I will get to soon). And then I will have one on the go that is pure escapism and fun non-work related reading (currently The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan).
I’ve already blogged about “The Art of Coaching” by Elena Aguilar. It’s a great read that I am enjoying in chunks. Not because it’s a hard read but because I’m really trying to reflect after each part. The chapter I just finished is about listening skills and questioning. I’m a coach – this is supposed to be a strength for me! And I think I’m a good listener (my husband would disagree). But I know there is room for improvement. In Chapter 11, Aguilar challenged me to think about the last time I truly felt listened to deeply by another. It reminded me about how good it feels. I am setting a goal for myself to listen more deeply and try tuning out next steps, connections, advice, etc. that we think about when listening to another. She explains: “If a coach listens only at a surface level, she can assist only in shifting smaller, surface-level things”. She also encourages coaches not to respond right away. Give some wait time when listening to another and you might be surprised what comes next. She advises that often a simple “tell me more” can be very effective. Active listening means clearing your mind and not listening to respond: “Active listing is a strategy for a speaker to convey that she’s listening, and also to ensure that she’s hearing precisely what the other person wants to share. We can repeat back or paraphrase what the other person says”. She goes on to share 5 great prompts:
-In other words…
-What I’m hearing then…
-It sounds like you are saying… Is that correct? Did I miss anything?
-I’m hearing many things…
-As I listen to you, I’m hearing…
This Chapter is filled with good advice. And I’m processing it (and playing with it) this week in my interactions with others. Active listening is a skill I want to further develop this year.
Earlier this year I was given another book “Talk About Understanding – Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension” by Ellin Oliver Keene. It’s been on my reading list all year, but I didn’t manage to get to it. It’s really focusing on something I’ve been thinking about this year. She and some teachers noticed students are able to give you the formula response – they can talk about strategies they use in reading. But they were growing concerned. They could give an “APE” – answer, proof, extend answer in response to reading when asked an open questions. They can make text-to-text, text-to-self answers. But the teachers and Keene wanted students to dig deeper into their understanding. They did their own Collaborative Inquiry around 2 questions. The first “How can we help children understand more deeply?”. Secondly, “How do we know when they comprehend deeply?”. At this point in the book, I’m on the edge of my seat. And an added bonus – so far it seems to echo what I learned in our board’s “Journey Into Literacy” series put on by our literacy team this year.
Keene observed a teacher named “Jen”. Students had a chance to jot down in their reader’s notebooks what happened in their minds as they read a short text. Then in pairs, students shared their entries. She divided a chart paper into two parts – “In My Mind” and “In My Life”. Next, a student named Tiffany shared a simple connection. Following this:
Jen reiterated Tiffany’s point so that she could hear her own thoughts aloud and have more time to think. Jen continued, “How did this thinking about her help you understand this piece better?”. This was the turning point – and a very important question if we’re interested in deeper understanding. Tiffany must have known then that she was going to have to respond differently. Jen wasn’t asking about the connection anymore, she was acknowledging Tiffany’s thinking, but pushing beyond it.
The student then expanded on her answer. The teacher then prompted her with “What else?” and she was forthcoming with insightful character details and events in her own life that helped her empathize with the character and understand her point of view. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this book and discovering more stories like this one and discovering the answers to their 2 questions above!
I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between the two books. “Tell me more” and “What else?” are similar. In both cases there is a prompt for deeper understanding to come to the surface. Whether it be listening to a student, a colleague or a friend, people feel valued when you listen actively and unselfishly. You really need to put yourself away and focus on the other. The questions and actions can come later. But without this first step, you might not be asking the right questions or taking the right actions.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. It certainly helps me clarify and tune into my own thinking and perhaps ask myself “what else” and go beyond the surface level.
And… I have a few Books on deck: “Making Thinking Visible – How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners” by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison and “Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn” by John Hattie and Gregory Yates. Just by the titles, I know that they will be good books to read close together. Oh yes, and also “The Last Train to Istanbul” Ayse Kulan!