Helping Students to Construct their Own Knowledge

As I reflected on my view of the purpose of a Reading Specialist, I realized that there were two distinct responsibilities related to my educational position.  First, I was to facilitate student learning of reading fundamentals and second, I was to facilitate the learning of how to understand, analyze, and form opinions about a text in order to learn from it.  As I reflected, I realized that I was effectively helping students learn fundamental reading strategies as evidenced by the analysis of student reading data. However, I noticed a trend in that data, student increases in reading level were slower as my students became 3rd-5th grade students.  Mostly because they were scoring lower in areas of comprehension.  Therefore I was not effectively meeting my second responsibility as a reading specialist.  How do I change that?  How do I help students to think more critically about the topics and stories presented in a text?  This is where I realized that I needed to help my students become the constructors of their own learning.  

My goal is to create a classroom environment in which students became active learners versus passive ones. Since I figured out what I wanted to change, I now needed to figure out how I was going to implement this idea into a classroom structure where I teach with required texts.   So I needed to develop a plan of action.  To help students become the constructors of their own knowledge, I decided to focus on changing my comprehension discussion of text.  According to the Southwest Consortium for the Improvement of Mathematics and Science Teaching, a constructivist classroom is one in which teachers ask open-ended questions that require a higher level of thinking and discussion that allows students to openly express ideas and viewpoints in an environment of respect (Southwest Consortium for the Improvement of Mathematics and Science Teaching, 1995).  

To develop these questions about text, I decided to use Bloom’s Taxonomy, to create questions that required higher levels of thinking.  The three levels of questioning that I decided to focus on were located in the “apply”, “analyze,” and “evaluate” sections of the hierarchy.  The Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching has a very informative graphic that details what type of questioning is involved in those levels.

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 2.03.13 PM

Once the questions are developed, the students will be given the opportunity to utilize technology and research to further their understanding of the text and to enhance discussion.  

During the open discussions, I will utilize several methods outlined in the blog, titled 21 Ways to Construct Knowledge (“21 Ways to Construct Knowledge”, 2016).  In which, I found the “Mind Mapping” strategy very interesting.  This is where students put the main idea in the center and branch off from the this idea with their own thoughts and questions. This could easily be paired with the flowchart maker, Lucid Charts. After the creation of the mind maps, students could discuss their charts with one another, identify common ideas, and research questions.  

I chose these methods because they fit well with my classroom structure and teaching style while still helping me along on my path to creating a more student-centered learning environment.  I am starting out small and building upon the small changes to eventually lead to bigger changes.  I am looking forward to beginning this journey on the path to new learning for not only my students, but myself as well.   

21 Ways to Construct Knowledge. (2016, July 08). Retrieved February 02, 2018,                              from                  construct-knowledge

Southwest Consortium for the Improvement of Mathematics and Science Teaching.                      (1995). Constructing Knowledge in the Classroom. Classroom Compass, 1(3), 1-10.                 Retrieved February 02, 2018, from                                 compass/cc_v1n3.pdf



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