Category Archives: Reading

Falconry: value, honor, and ask questions

Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom.  Each question leads to one or more new questions or answers.  Sometimes answers are dead ends; they don’t lead anywhere.  Questions are never dead ends.  Every question has the inherent potential to lead to a new level of discovery, understanding, or creation, levels that can range from the trivial to the sublime. (Lichtman, 35 pag.)

Spending today as a student-learner has been valuable and interesting.  Along with 20 of my colleagues, I spent the day learning about teaching reading using the Orton-Gillingman approach.  With zero background knowledge and no experience, I stretched to be considered in the novice category.  In other words, this was all new learning for me.  While I have heard and seen the acronym REVLOC, it had no meaning to me.  It does now.

I cannot tell you how many times today a question was asked with the preface “I’m sure this is a dumb question.” It makes me wonder…Do we not see ourselves as learners too?  Do we honor and value the questions our students have? Do we honor and value the questions we have?

The seventeenth-century British statesman, scientist, and philosopher, Francis Bacon, who advanced the idea of the scientific method, said “Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.[emphasis added]  Centuries later, one of the students quoted in this chapter made pretty much the same argument: “You can’t learn unless you ask questions. [emphasis added]  Unless you ask questions, nobody knows what you are thinking or what you want to know.”

If we have asked a question about a subject or concern, we are much better attuned to the information coming back to us.  We are, therefore, more likely to retain it.  (Rothstein and Santana, 135 pag.)

How do we elicit questions from the learners in the room who are not quite brave enough to risk asking a question for fear of how they will be perceived by others? What if we bright spot, value and honor questions? Can we adjust our own thinking and actions to create a community where learning is transparent?

Interrogative self-talk, the researchers say, “may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to purse a goal.”  As ample research has demonstrated, people are more likely to act, and to perform well, when the motivations come from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures.  Declarative self-talk risks bypassing one’s motivations.  Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within. (Pink, 103 pag.)

What if I ask more questions? Can I teach so that agitation and irritation are the same or at least aligned? What if I structure learning episodes where learners are invited/encouraged/required to ask questions? Can I teach what needs to be learned by listening to and following the path of the learners?

What can be learned if we question our way through an entire lesson? Is it possible to allow students to steer the lesson through their questions? Will listening to student questions help us diagnose, assess and chart a course in real-time? Can we lead learning by following their thinking?

Our educational systems have been constructed entirely around the goal of providing the correct answer to a question provided by an instructor or handed out on a standardized exam.  This system provides a form of valid comparison for the results of a group of students, and it provides a foundation of shared information amongst those who have followed a course of study.  Unfortunately, the real world, particularly the real world of the coming century, does not and will not work this way.  Our heroes are not defined by how well they answered canned questions or what they scored on their SATs precisely because these outcomes do not determine success in real-world situations.  The real revolution in education and training, if it comes, will be overtly switching our priority from the skills of giving answers to the skills of finding new questions. (Lichtman, pag. 35)

I argue that we will be able to teach more if we start from our students’ questions.  I’ve been told it is impossible to teach what needs to be learned from a starting point of the students’ questions.  I’ve also seen the results when brave teachers have put aside their assumptions and tried.  See the Kara Leaman’s comment on my blog.

I agree with the idea of interrogative self-talk.  How often do I prevent myself from learning, questioning, and risking by the way I reason with myself? Can I change the chatter in my head to be one who questions much, learns much, and retains much?

I assume that we are all here to learn.  We function in a learning community. We aspire to be lifelong learners.  I aspire to offer my colleagues as much grace and encouragement as I need to learn and grow. I aspire to be patient will every learner when they have questions.

Can I grow into an irritant-agitator practicing the art of questioning?

I aspire to value, honor, and encourage questions from learners.

I aspire to listen more, question more, and learn more.

I aspire to become a falconer.


Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. New York: Riverhead, 2012. Print.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education, 2011. Print.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]

Falconry: Feedback loops, communication, and formative assessment

Reading from Step 1: The Art of Questioning of The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School.

By learning to insert feedback loops into our thought, questioning, and decision-making process, we increase the chance of staying on our desired path. Or, if the path needs to be modified, our midcourse corrections become less dramatic and disruptive. (Lichtman, 49 pag.)

This paragraph caused me to go back to a Mr. Sun quote from Step 0: Preparation.

But there are many more subtle barriers to communication as well, and if we cannot, or do not chose to overcome these barriers, we will encounter life decisions and try to solve problems and do a lot of falconing all by ourselves with little, if any, success. Even in the briefest of communications, people develop and share common models that allow them to communicate effectively.  If you don’t share the model, you can’t communicate. If you can’t communicate, you can’t teach, learn, lead, or follow.  (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

Mr Sun goes on to ask

So how do we find common models? (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

Finding common models of communication between all learners is critical to a community focused on everyone growing and learning together. In Chapter 1: Unpacking Thinking of Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, the authors write

If we want to support students in learning, and we believe that learning is a product of thinking, then we need to be clear about what we are trying to support. (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 5 pag.)

And, in Chapter 3: Grading Strategies that Support and Motivate Student Effort and Learning of Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement, Susan Brookhart writes:

First, these teachers settled on the most important learning targets for grading. By learning targets, they meant standards phrased in student-friendly language so that students could use them in monitoring their own learning and, ultimately, understanding their grade.

One of these learning targets was ‘I can use decimals, fractions, and percent to solve a problem.’ The teachers listed statements for each proficiency level under that target and steps students might use to reach proficiency.

The [lowest] level was not failure but rather signified ‘I don’t get it yet, but I’m still working.’ (Brookhart, 30 pag.)

Yet is such a powerful word. I just love using yet to communicate support and issue subtle challenges.  Yet, used correctly, sends the message that I (you) will learn this.  I believe in you, and you believe in me.

As a community, we have started the challenging work of writing commonly agreed upon essential learnings for our student-learners.  Now that we are on a path of shared models of communication, we are able to develop feedback loops and formative assessments for student-learners to use to monitor their learning as well as empower learners to ask more questions.

What if we build common formative assessments that communicate how to level up, ask targeted questions, and motivate learning?

I agree that we must work to clearly communicate the intended, essential outcomes for learners. While our methods of learning and leading do not have to be identical, the core learning outcomes should be common for learners. In other words, we should have a guaranteed curriculum.

I assume that groups working together as teams have, or are on a path to, common models of communication between themselves and are making strides to share these with student-learners and parents of their students.

I argue with the statement that we already have this in place.  I don’t think this work is ever done.  When we have commonly agreed upon “I can…” statements, we need rubrics or descriptions of what it means to be on target, how to reach a target, and where to go if you are already at the target level.

I aspire to work collaboratively in teams to teach, learn, lead, and follow by asking questions to develop common models to communicate effectively.  I aspire to serve our learners by developing, implementing, and using stronger feedback loops.  I aspire to help learners level up.

I aspire to listen more, question more, and learn more.

I aspire to become a falconer.


Brookhart, Susan M. Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2011. Print.

Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]

Falconry: Seeking balance between agitation and irritation

Reading from Step 0: Preparation of The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School.

The excitement of learning, the compelling personal drive to take one more step on the path towards wisdom, comes when we try to solve a problem we want to solve, when we want to solve, when we see a challenge and say yes, I can meet it.  Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves. They provide us just enough insight so we can work toward a solution that makes us, makes me want to jump up and shout out the solution to the world, makes me want to step to the next higher level. Great teachers somehow make us want to ask the questions that they want us to answer, overcome the challenge that they, because they are our teacher, believe we need to overcome. (Lichtman, 20 pag.)

Wow! Worth repeating:

Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves.

This connects, for me, to Chapter 2. Entrepreneurship, Elasticity, and Ed-Med of To Sell is Human: The Suprising Truth About Moving Others.

Ferlazzo makes a distinction between “irritation” and “agitation.” Irritation, he says, is “challenging people to do something that we want them to do.” By contrast, “agitation is challenging them to do something that they want to do.” (Pink, 40 pag.)

Pink goes on to write that Larry Ferlazzo discovered that irritation does not work in the long run, but can have success in the short-term.

I’m wondering how the art of questioning might help us blend agitation and irritation.  How might we begin to plan, design, and implement learning episodes that achieve short-term goals while supporting long-term goals too? Where and when do we focus and plan, intentionally, for the progression and depth of learning? How are we taking action to ensure vertical alignment of curriculum, assessment of progress/growth/disposition/learning, and authentic learning experiences that motivate learners to challenge themselves to a next step on the path of wisdom?

Do we see schooling as a marathon rather than a sprint? Do we know enough about the distance covered by learners and the many paths to success? We are evolving experts on the stretch we cover with each learner, but do we know about the paths taken to arrive to us and the paths they may take when they move on?

I agree with Larry Ferlazzo that teaching something we want others to do is only successful in the short-term.  How often have I been surprised when learners don’t know something that was proven learning just weeks ago?

I argue with myself, quite often, that I must see the bigger picture.  I need to know more than I know now.  It is comfortable to be good at what I do. It is important to me to be successful.  I argue with myself to push to know, risk, experiment, and do more for and with learners.

I aspire to be a teacher-learner who is more often an agitator than an irritant.  I aspire to be a teacher-learner offering choice and opportunities to learn where the path is chosen by the learner.

The assumption I worry about is that we feel that we do enough of this already.  I argue in support of the idea that we do offer student choice, that we have some vertical understanding, and that we offer challenges that inspire, motivate, and support learning.  I agree that we must blend and balance short and long-term goals.  I aspire to become a better agitator (and irritant).

I aspire to listen more, question more, and learn more.

I aspire to become a falconer.


Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. New York: Riverhead, 2012. Print.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]