Saturday, April 20, 2013

Step Inside

Jamie and I used this routine called, "Step Inside" as a culminating activity following the kids' study of Native Americans.  We wanted them to produce a piece of writing, but wanted it to be fairly straight forward because we are still only part way through our study of Colorado History.  This was an excellent choice that Sarah Gasamis had used with her students.

What I did:  Prior to this routine, students had done the routine, "I used to think, Now I think" to tap into their prior knowledge.  They explored pictures of Native American culture and did a "See, Think, Wonder."  And they studied images and text on a website called Doing History and took notes on what they read.  Now, students were asked to think like they were Native American.   They wrote, "I am" and could make up their own Native American Name.  They indicated where they lived, then answered the following prompts:
  • What do I see, observe, notice?
  • What do I know, understand, hold true or believe?
  • What do I care deeply about?
  • What do I wonder or question?
They wrote in the form of a narrative and were given a checklist of what good writing should look like.  They could add an illustration when their writing was complete.

Connect:  I would connect this to other failed attempts to have students meaningfully reflect on their learning in writing.  Something about this routine worked for kids.  I was so impressed with the depth of students' writing.  Students wrote very touching work that indicated that their research helped them to come to a better understanding of Native Americans in Colorado.  One of the topics that students had no prior knowledge about was reservations.  After doing the research, many students chose to write about life on the reservation.  Their writing indicated that they had a much better understanding of what it must have been like for a Native American to be forced to move on to a reservation.

Extend:   I am anxious to use this routine again, and in other contexts.  I think that if we continue to use this routine for other aspects of Colorado History, it could be put together as a larger project to show students' understanding of the whole unit.  Our plan is to have students do a research project on a person, place or event in Colorado.  I could see a student taking this writing and expanding it into a research project on Native American communities, reservation life, or food, clothing and shelter.

Challenge:  I think the challenge is always how to keep this routine meaningful.  I agree that it is important to make these into routines so that the understanding can go deeper, but I think the challenge is that students will often cruise through a routine like this one because they perceive that it is too easy, or they will do similar work that they did previously, or they simply get bored with it.



  1. I love that you had the kiddos step inside a role and try it on. I think that deep connections definately facilitate learning and the retention of information. I also struggle with the same idea, of making sure that kiddos are challenging themselves and going deeper. I am hopeful that becoming familiar with the routine will take their experiences to the next level. I hope. I hope.

  2. I LOVE that you used this routine! It is apparent from what you noticed about the kids and thier writing that this routine helped to connect thier new found knowledge and information to the actual impact that history had on humans. I think that so often kids are presented history in a manner that disconnects them to the human experience. The fact that some kids responded so deeply to the Reservations makes it clear that your teaching and this routine had a huge impact on their emotions. I think this idea of teaching empathy is not easily achieved, but when it is can make a HUGE impact on how these kids will move forward in their own lives. Really powerful, Jeff!

  3. Step Inside was the perfect routine to extend your unit of study on Colorado History. I read some of the student writing that was posted in the hall. It is amazing how some of the students captured the thoughts and feelings from their character's perspective. Wow!!! You know how the saying goes, don't judge until you've walked in another's shoes. You've given your students a powerful lesson in just that.