As my students were writing today about yesterday’s experience with Alan, I caught several misconceptions students had about what we had learned. One student explained, for example, that the reason Iceland isn’t as cold as one would think, based on how far north it is, is because all the volcanoes and lava heat the air and make it warmer.
I asked the rest of the class if this was true and expressions told me some thought it might be. Others though were able to explain that it is mainly the relatively warm water that surrounds Iceland that moderates the temperature. The lava and volcanoes might have a very minor impact, but they are not the main reason the weather in Iceland is warmer than expected.
Misconceptions show up in writing, it is a record of that child’s thinking. So it is a great way to deal with misconceptions when you meet with students about their writing … especially when it is about curriculum and not a story they are writing (thought it can show up there too). One of the “unintended good consequences” of our blogging is that we write a lot, so there are more chances that misconceptions are going to come up and be caught by me, but they are caught by students too because they read each others’ posts, so they are practicing critical thinking skills. These are perfect teaching moments. You explain the issues with their thinking and help them with their ideas, and then they immediately go and re-think to re-write and that helps plant that learning they just experienced. When they re-submit their blog for posting you see it again, can clarify more if needed, or post if it is ready.
Last year when we did a unit on distances in space and sizes of stars and planets, the first posts about their learning seemed to be MOSTLY misconceptions. I took the blame for them not being clear and we re-visited the concepts and looked at some of their writing on the ActivBoard and edited much of it as a class. When students could see their fuzzy thinking and incorrect information they wanted to re-write. Most didn’t even want to “fix” what they had, but wanted to start over. Their next attempts were much better and they actually wrote a bit more because they felt more confident about what they knew.
Learning is messy!