Parents Supporting Critical Thinking: From Principal Shaune Palmer

Dear Jackman Families:
Every teacher in the school is working on helping students to reason and justify their thinking using information from their own experiences and by citing supporting evidence from a text orally and in writing. EQAO results and our own data confirm that our students require further practice in this domain. Currently every classroom at Jackman is exploring an environmental sustainability issue. Within this unit of study, all teachers will incorporate lessons that help students develop this ability. The Family of Schools literacy coach is supporting our teachers as they plan and execute lessons that specifically require students to engage in conversation that makes sense of what they are reading and researching. Teachers will also have the chance to view their colleagues teach and to document the quality of student responses when questioned and when conversing with each other. These responses will help us tailor our lessons to better support students. Here are some kinds of questions that our students find challenging:

• What is your favourite story? Why do you like it?
• Describe how the character may be feeling in paragraph 4 when he says, “the day hasn’t even started
yet.”
• Describe how the boy’s actions support the theme of honesty in the text. Use information from the
book to support your answer.
• Explain how the text, diagrams and other visuals work together to help the reader understand the
issue. Use details and examples from the text to support your answers.

I have included some “home” suggestions that parents may wish to try to support our efforts in helping our students to reason and justify. It is important to use these suggestions judiciously so that reading is enjoyable.
• While you are reading with your child, pause occasionally to ask questions about the story: Why do you think [a character] did this? Try to get the child to use personal experience or evidence from the text to explain his/her thinking. What do you think will happen next?
• Read some of the books your child reads so that you can discuss them together. Sometimes read different books on the same topic that your child is reading about. Provide a variety of experiences for your child. Many reading comprehension problems occur because a child lacks background information that would give meaning to words on a page.
• If your child is reading for information, encourage him or her to have a question in mind so that the reading has a purpose.
• Provide practical reading experiences for your child, such as reading assembly directions or a recipe. Ask your child to critique the reading material. Was everything clear? How could the message have been improved?
• Have them evaluate the book read. Where would the book rank on a scale 1-10? Justify their rating.
• Encourage your child to express opinions, support them, describe things, tell about events, and
explain things. You will be helping your child to develop fluency and organization.
• If your child tends to ramble without focus, occasionally have the child stop, think about the main
point he or she is trying to communicate, and deliver it in one or two sentences.

I offer these tips as it is just one of the many ways that teachers and parents can work together for the benefit of student learning.

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