This year, the book that is influencing my teaching practice the most would have to be Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. I bought it to read on my Kindle, and I kind of regret that now because it is one of those books (like Drive) that really needs to be waved around at meaningful PD events.
The Heath brothers' thesis is basically that any idea, task, or activity can be made "stickier" by applying six basic principles of stickiness. Their big six are:
This framework can also help us to understand — and hopefully to improve —a lot of so-so ideas that start with a seed of stickiness but haven't yet achieved their optimal sticky potential.
I wanted to write out some of what I mean here.
For example, I have often waxed poetic about Dan Meyer's Graphing Stories, which are a little jewel of stickiness when introducing the practice of graphing situations, yet I find a lot of the other Three-Act Tasks to be curiously flat for me and non-engaging. Some of this has to do with the fact that I am not a particularly visual learner, but I also think there is some value in analyzing my own experience as a formerly discouraged math learner. I have learned that if I can't get myself to be curious and engaged about something, I can't really manage to engage anybody else either.
Made To Stick has given me a vocabulary for analyzing some of what goes wrong for me and what goes right with certain math tasks. The six principles framework are very valuable for me in this regard, both descriptively and prescriptively. For example, Dan's original Graphing Stories lesson meets all of the Heath brothers' criteria. It is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and narrative. The lesson anchors the learning in students' own experience, then opens an unexpected "curiosity gap" in students' knowledge by pointing out some specific bits of knowledge they do not have but could actually reach for if they were simply to reach for it a little bit.
But I would argue that the place where this lesson succeeds most strongly is in its concreteness, which is implemented through Dan's cleverly designed and integrated handout. At first glance, this looks like just another boring student worksheet. But actually, through its clever design and tie-in to the videos, it becomes a concrete, tangible tool that students use to expose and investigate their own curiosity gaps for themselves.
Students discover their own knowledge gap through two distinct, but related physical, sensory moments: the first, when they anchor their own experiences of walking in the forest, crossing over a bridge, and peering out over the railing as they pass over (sorry, bad Passover pun), and the second, when they glance down at the physical worksheet and pencil in their own hands and are asked to connect what they saw with what they must now do.
This connection in the present moment to the students' own physical, tangible experience must not be underestimated.
Watching the video — even watching a worldclass piece of cinematography — is a relatively passive sensory experience for most of us.
But opening a gap between what I see as a viewer and what I hold in my hands — or what I taste (Double-Stuf Oreos!), smell, feel, or hear — and I'm yours forever.
|"My work here is done."|