I recently read this article about how work is defined in schools of different economic classes and found many of the observations very interesting (Thanks Byron Philhour for sharing). While there are many aspects of the article that I found fascinating, I’ve been particularly fixated on one story where a school stopped using the words “right” and “wrong” when discussing student work. Instead, they guided other students to say that they either agree or disagree with how the student solved the problem. The teacher reported that by November, all of the students adopted that terminology when describing work. I really like this idea because it focuses on the process, rather than the result and could lead to more emphasis on the reasoning involved with a problem and may help students to evaluate different methods of solving a problem.
In my classroom I have the four corners of my room labeled as Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree as a way of having students physically move during a discussion and then share out from their new, like-minded groups. I’m interested in how this practice can work with the language change for evaluating solutions. Students could be assigned homework problems to post up around the class and as we go over them, move to the “Agree” or “Disagree” corners and share their reasoning. I think the physical movement, combined with the sentence starter “I disagree with _____ because…” could help students adopt the new language by being constantly reminded that it is agree/disagree rather than right/wrong.
I wonder if the movement practice can become a subtle, automatic response during class time. If a student disagrees with something said by teach/student they could just walk over to that corner and wait for the opportunity to share their disagreement. It might be a difficult practice to initiate and has the possibility for abuse, but I think it could be a really cool classroom practice.