The authors of Pathways to the Common Core make several recommendations for schools as they approach the rigorous literacy requirements needed to prepare students for college and career readiness. One of the directives addresses the emphasis the new standards are putting on the development of writing skills for all students. Because the new standards “put equal weight on reading and writing” two of the directives the authors emphasize are:
1. Look at your current literacy initiatives and set goals for how to improve them.
2. Implement a spiral, cross-curricular K-12 writing workshop curriculum.
If your district has not implemented Write From the Beginning and Beyond or Write From the Beginning, now would be the time to start. However, you may need to address the authors’ first suggestion before moving to a deep applications for writing: Improve your current literacy initiatives.
Have you assessed the implementation of Thinking Maps lately? We know that Thinking Maps will give you and your students the tools to be independent, critical thinkers – but only if they are used effectively.
Caulkins says there are four major causes of a weak implementation of any initiative. In order to improve the implementation of Thinking Maps you need to assess and then address each of the possible causes.
Cause #1: Not Implementing A Plan of Action With Fidelity:
The effective implementation of Thinking Maps means that all teachers are using (1) the same visual patterns for thinking; (2) all 8 maps, not just the ones they feel comfortable with; (3) the maps in all content areas; (4) the maps in combination for critical thinking and problem solving. If any one of these characteristics is missing, then your implementation is not going to have the student impact you want and need.
Cause #2: Rote, Mechanical Applications:
Moving teachers and students from compliance to commitment will only happen when they see the maps as a way to make learning meaningful; not just as an activity to do. In order to make this happen, see Cause #1.
Cause #3: No Real Personal Commitment:
See Cause #2 and then go back to Cause #1.
Cause #4: Not Focusing on Student Work As Evidence of Observable Progress:
While every thinking individual in your school should be using the maps as a common language, student work should be the evidence teachers and schools collect. When I say student work, I don’t just mean the maps you have students make. Remember that creating maps is only half of the task; students should be taking their information off the map through discussions, writing, or various other products. Students will never own the maps as tools for collaborating, collecting, and analyzing information unless they are given the freedom to develop their own. Post, share, analyze their work, not just the plans for their work.
The literacy skills necessary for successful 21st Century learners are much more rigorous than the skills needed by any previous generation. Caulkins says that to “create shared language in a building will help the teaching of reading become systemized in a school.”
An effective implementation of Thinking Maps in your school will accomplish that. How is your implementation going? How can I help? Please let me know.