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?
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.