I’ve continued my reading in Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston and I really enjoyed the section on asking “How else?” and on using hypothetical situations.
When I first read the heading “How else?” I thought of the scene from Dude Where’s My Car when the drive thru person kept asking, “And den…. And den…” I laughed to myself because I remember how frustrating it was.
I kept reading and Johnston was right again. Asking students how else they can solve problems or how else they can write about something extends their thinking and their problem solving skills. It causes them to think of multiple solutions and shows them that there is more than one right answer or one right way to do things. I think this will be helpful in reducing anxiety that students may feel (I know I did) when they worry about getting something right, or doing something correctly.
I feel that asking, “How else?” will also extend my flexibility as a teacher and help me become more open minded. I don’t want my students to worry about writing something the way I want them to. I don’t want them to think, “That’s not how she wants us to write our story.” If my students think that way then I am failing them when it comes to building agency. By asking how else they can do something gives them even more ownership of their learning because they are ultimately creating the choices that they get to choose from.
Johnston continues to write about other questions we can ask such as, “What if?” This question creates hypothetical situations which also helps students think critically and abstractly. I was very surprised at how such small changes in the way that I speak to my children could actually help with their thinking and problem solving abilities.
I’ve often asked myself and my colleagues when frustrated, “How do you teach a kid to think?” I now know that you can teach a kid to think by asking them questions that don’t have a specific, predetermined answer. These changes in my conversations with my students won’t take much effort on my part, but I hope that they have the impact that Johnston writes about.