Beginning lessons with soulful and “big idea” thinking

Just like conceptual knowledge is never to be assumed, likewise, students having mindful approaches to their learning cannot be assumed. These two important elements of powerful learning, need to be taught and nurtured. The modified ’10 Things’ visible thinking routine allows the students in our classes to not only calm and center themselves at the beginning of a lesson in order to mindfully prepare for learning, but also engage students in thinking conceptually and reflect on the Statement of Inquiry and MYP Global Context.

The 10 Things process is as follows:

Pop a picture up on the classroom TV that captures an element of our Statement of Inquiry or an element of the content being explored at a certain point in the learning journey. For 2-minutes have the students silently examine the picture and think of 10 factual things they notice in the image. Students then engage in active listening as they each share one of the 10 things they have noticed.

Students then spend 1-minute silently examining the picture and explain the feelings that arise from this image, and then engage in the process of active listening and respectful dialogue as they share these feelings.

To help students think in a conceptual manner and understand that to develop a conceptual understanding we pull together many similar parts to make a whole, students can then share a “big idea” that arises from examining the 10 parts.

In a Christian Studies lesson that examined the idea of service learning, students entered the classroom and began to spend 2-minutes silently examine the 10 things they notice about this image.

Some of the students responses were:

• Wheelchair

• Musical instrument

• Family

• Smile

• Concrete / dusty floor

• Hindu God

• Faded

Students then spent 1-minute thinking about the feelings that arise from this image.

Some of the students responses were:

• Happy

• Sympathy

• Safe

• Restricted

• Joyful

• Calm

Students then shared their “big idea” that arose from the facts and the feelings.

Some of the students responses were:

• We do not have to have full physical mobility to be happy.

• When we are loved by our family, we can always be happy no matter how hard life can get.

• What we see on the outside is not always what is on the inside.

• Disabilities do not have to completely limit people, they can still be really happy and enjoy the simple things that people without disabilities enjoy.

• We don’t have to be rich to be happy.

• Serving other people can be as simple as making another person smile.

• We don’t need lots of things to be happy.

• Wealth doesn’t equal love and happiness.

This whole process takes about 10-minutes and can help to calm and center a Middle School classroom, draw their focus to the conceptual idea of what they are inquiring into and provide opportunity for students to grow as conceptual thinkers and more mindful learners.

Final thoughts

Lynn Erickson’s tip to all concept-driven teachers is to never assume conceptual knowledge, we have to teach students to think in a conceptual manner. Likewise, teaching mindful habits for learning needs to be taught and nurtured.

The stimulus for this does not have to be a picture, it can also be a poem, a Vine, advertisement, snippet of a song, mathematical formula, excerpt from a literary text, etc. It is simply a way to draw together facts, feelings and big ideas – teaching both the Head and Heart of a child.

Image source:; Date accessed: 27/3/2017.

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