Introduction and Overview

What does it look like to do an "Ideal"?

Unlike a traditional unit you might teach on say the Middle Ages, integers, or photosynthesis, the Thinking Ideals modules are designed to be integrated into regular classroom instruction as a concurrent thread that students experience. Thus, for most of the module you will find yourself slipping in a routine into the topics you are already teaching. These routines will help your students to develop a better understanding of the content you are teaching as well as to develop their understanding and appreciation of the Ideal itself. Occasionally you will find that you want to step outside your content to give specific time to talking about and exploring the Thinking Ideal with which you are working. Some teachers like to keep an ideal as a recurring theme throughout the entire year. Others find that a shorter and more intensive approach of a single term works better for them and their students.

To give you a feel for what a Thinking Ideals Module looks like in action, it is helpful to think about it in terms of five main types of activities. These are: 1) Uncovering students prior knowledge, 2) Exploring the ideal using the routines, 3) Reflecting on ongoing work in the ideal and identifying how thinking has changed, 4) Developing students' ability to detect opportunities, and 5) Reviewing and Assessing what students have gained from the module.

Introducing the Ideal to Students

Uncovering students' thinking about the ideal early on in the module. You'll want to learn what it is your students' bring to the discussions of truth, fairness, creativity or understanding and what they already think about the topic. You'll find they have a lot to say. During this initial phase you will also want to introduce students to the "Map of the ideal" The maps provides an anchor for the key thinking students will be doing throughout the module. The map also provides a reference for you as a teacher in thinking about the kinds of thinking you want to develop. Most teachers find it useful to post a map of the ideal in the classroom once it has been introduced. These activities are discussed in the "Introducing the Ideal to Students" section of each ideal.

Working with the Ideal:

Exploring the ideal and fostering the thinking involved with it by using the associated routines. Remember that routines are designed for regular use in a variety of contexts so that students can gain feel for them as useful tools and not just a classroom exercise. Over time, look to see how students begin to use the routine more independently. Good starter routines are identified by a * in the routines section. You may want to look to your curricular content for topics related to the ideal to explore, use current event items, or find examples in the social dynamics of the classroom itself. Ideas to help you with this can be found in the "Working with the Ideal" section for each ideal.

Reflecting regularly throughout the module by having students identify what they are learning about the ideal and how their ideas are changing. A simple routine for this is "I used to think...But now I think..." In this routine, students write and discuss what they used to think about the ideal and then contrast this by writing down what it is that they now think. Use the Connect Back to routine found in the core routines section to help students think about what kinds of thinking they have been doing. These and other suggestions can be found in the "Working with the Ideal" section for each ideal.

Detecting occasions of the ideal as they arise. Students need opportunities both to think about the types of occasions where the ideal is an issue and to try to identify those as they naturally occur in situations they find themselves in. To foster this awareness you can your students to identify occasions when it is hard to know when something is fair or not. You can follow this up by asking students what they can do to help them figure out fairness in situations like the ones identified. These questions and other tools for spotting occasions can be found in the "Working with the Ideals" section for each ideal.

Looking at Students' Conceptual Development

Reviewing and Assessing what students have learned about the ideal. Over the course of the module students have developed their ability to think about an ideal using the routines, their inclination to see it as an issue of importance through your ongoing work, and their sensitivity to spotting occasions when the ideal is at issue. To help get at this development, it is useful to return to past "uncovering" activities, such as the concept map activity, to see how students' thinking has changed over time. Ideas for what to look for in these activities can be found in the Looking at Students' Conceptual Development section of each ideal.

These activities aren't strictly linear. For instance, assessing and reflecting often occur throughout the module and are not limited to the middle or end. Likewise, exploring and using the routines is something that never has to end. Even when the module is complete, you will find yourself returning to some routines because they are effective tools for getting students to think.