Listening is a thought.

I shared these two sentences today with some of my readers.

I then asked, “What ideas do you have about what they mean?”
They looked at me kind of confused. One boy blurts out they mean the same thing.” I responded with, “that is one idea, are there others?” It was just crickets. Then one girl raises her hand and adds, I agree, it means the same thing.
These words come from Michael Opitz and his book Listen Hear! 25 Effective Listening Comprehension Strategies(2004). I was wanting to help my readers focus in on the in-the-head work of listening. This requires putting aside your own thoughts for a moment and focusing on someone else’s. This is hard for our children to do. Heck, it is hard for adults to do. Children are often playing around with their thoughts and piecing together what we want to say. They might even hear what another says and be able to repeat most of it back but have not given any thought to it. We purposefully have to pause our thoughts and take in another’s and then have an actual thought about what they are saying. The simple repetition of statements differs from taking them in, reflecting on them, and responding to them.
Towards the end of our conversation, one girl states that “listening is like thinking.” Then another student added, “having a thought is thinking.”

These students started the process of “uptake.” Martin Nystrand coined the term “uptake.” Uptake is the process of taking in, responding to, and growing someone else’s thinking (1997). I believe this includes the growth of an idea as a byproduct of disagreement and an extension of thought by adding onto it. We have to be able to grow from each other’s thinking and ideas. There has to be an intent and openness for that to happen. There has to be a belief that it matters when we engage in talk. We can grow our thinking beyond what we can do alone. We can learn and adapt from listening to each other. We can change and think for ourselves with the help of others beyond what we can do alone. This is a powerful process in the classroom. It should be a process that takes place in Washington DC and all across America with working adults.
I will dig into the work of really listening and having thoughts about others thinking with my readers. This thinking work is very abstract and hard to grasp. It is messy to teach and grade. However, it is essential to make sure we have literate, well-spoken students who can think for themselves and form opinions based on facts. We have to get out of our heads, and listen to what we hear, reflect on it.

More to come on this topic.



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