I enjoyed a nice moment of professional serendipity recently, while flipping through a new professional book. The title was A Teacher's Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning (Free Spirit Press, 2018, written by Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown and reviewed with a "recommended" rating in SLC: https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Review/2173882). I was interested in some new ideas on differentiation and was happy to find a great chart of nine types of questioning strategies, which are effective for differentiating instruction, and, I started to ponder, for inquiry and close reading. That's when something like this happened:
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed like a very deep well (Carroll 1965).
I fell into one of those wonderful research rabbit holes! Curious about questions described as "on the line, between the lines, and beyond the line" (Brulles and Brown 2018, p. 127), I searched online (as it were) for more about this approach, and I found a reference to a reading comprehension book I thought I remembered owning, Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. After digging through bookshelves and finding delightful things I wasn't looking for but not the book, I realized that I never did own a copy—I borrowed it all the time from the library at the university where I used to work. This was a problem easy to solve, I thought! I went back to the computer, looking for a used title to buy…when I discovered that the book had a new edition that I didn't know about. After a few days and a few more dollars than I intended to drop for a professional book I didn't intend to purchase, I was back at my desk, happily flipping through more charts of questions and lists of prompts. My understanding of how to grow readers and inquirers was deepening and changing, and as I read, I was thinking about questions teachers and librarians ask readers, strategies I have taught with school library candidates in my courses, and how I might use and share this learning with others.
In their book, Harvey and Goudvis talk about thinking-intensive reading, thinking-intensive listening, and thinking-intensive viewing. As the authors explain, "we want kids to understand that whenever they are reading, listening, or viewing in any content area, they need to be thinking…and not just thinking per se, but doing so with a critical eye and a skeptical stance" (2017, p. 26).
We might say that the work of the school librarian is thinking-intensive. With ongoing and critical thinking on the part of the school librarian, change in the form of learning outcomes (changed students), collaboration efforts (changed partnerships), and the school library collection, services, and instruction (changed program) is possible.To move the dial and enact change in the form of learning, program growth and development, and in advocacy, we must be thinking-intensive in our work, considering multiple planes of opportunity and inquiry as we read, engage, and observe. For instance, using those prompts I mentioned with a student may be "about" shaping threads from something they read into a good inquiry question. But, the thinking intensity of the librarian considers this task and more: if we seem to be communicating effectively, how this student's skills are developing, what other curricular links might be made, how the assignment came together and might be updated with the teacher for next time, what appropriate resources might be available or not, what prompt might guide the student to think about the next step in the inquiry process—not to mention what other needs might be surfacing in the room simultaneously. Learning is about changing, and in many ways, that process involves chance, persistence, and curiosity. Pursuing learning for ourselves and in support of others can be an everlasting and rewarding rabbit hole, should we choose to follow the twists and turns and think intensely along the way.
Brulles, Dina and Karen L. Brown. A Teacher's Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning: Form, Manage, Assess, and Differentiate in Groups. Free Spirit Publishing, 2018.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. Airmont Publishing, 1965.
Harvey, Stephanie and Anne Goudvis. Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement, and Building Knowledge Grades K-8. 3rd edition. Stenhouse Publishers, 2017.