Tonight we came home from a 4-day Spring Break trip to Chicago. In the past four days, we ate our fill of pizza and hot dogs; toured the Field Museum, Navy Pier, Chicago Children’s Museum, and Museum of Science and Industry; walked up and down State Street and Michigan Avenue; and (of course) shopped. My children have seen their first skyscrapers, taken their first bus rides, and touched their first dinosaur bones. It has been a magical and exhausting couple of days.
As we drove home this evening, we made a quick stop for gas and dinner. As we sat down with our last vacation Happy Meals, my kids excitedly recounted their favorite parts of the trip. They chatted nonstop about the Great White Sharks at the Omnimax, their theories about how all the animals died at the Field Museum (a topic that has been heavily debated over the past 48 hours), and the dinosaur skeletons they got to see.
All of a sudden, my son–who recently turned five–got very serious. “You know, Mommy,” he said. “I used to think Chicago was going to be a bunch of trains. But now I realize that it’s a whole city!”
I was a little shocked, not because he had thought Chicago meant a bunch of trains, but by the fact that he was able to identify his misconception and tell me all about how his thinking had changed in the past few days.
This, I thought, is what real learning looks like.
I had explained Chicago to him many times. We had talked about all of the things we could see. But until he actually experienced a few days in the city, he didn’t truly understand what it all meant.
So I sit here tonight wondering: How do we get to the heart of our students’ misconceptions? How do we help them experience the things they don’t understand? How can we get learners to recognize and articulate when their thinking has changed?
I don’t have quick answers to any of these questions, but I do have a new understanding of how important it is to take the time to truly listen to the kids around us. Of how essential it is to appreciate the times when we get to experience their misconceptions rising to the surface as their thinking changes. And of how amazing it is to observe learning happening right before our eyes.
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.