The Role of Intention
In the following article, Opal School Teacher-Researcher Kerry Salazar gives us a sense of the approach a teacher-researcher might use to engage in intentional design of curriculum. She gives us a sense of professional thinking that has the potential to take us from curriculum consumers to curriculum creators who are actively contributing to the field.
By Kerry Salazar, Opal School Teacher-Researcher
What kinds of skills will best support children to be successful citizens in our world today? In an ever-changing world, it’s becoming clear that school needs to look different for today’s children than it did for many of us. The increasing role that technology plays has decreased our need to memorize facts, because with the click of a button we have access to all kinds of information that would have taken exhaustive research in the past. The aim of education today should be geared toward what is oftentimes referred to as “21st Century Skills.” These are skills that have little to do with memorizing facts, and much more to do with critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation.
But where do we begin? How do we support the building of these very complex, higher-order skills with young children? What does it look like when children are being metacognitive– when they are thinking about their own thinking, making plans, setting intentions and following through– and finding creative alternatives when challenges (inevitably) arise? These are skills that need to be built, nurtured and supported. If we want our children to develop these skills, then
we must provide them with experiences that support their practice and
What does this approach look like in a community of first and second graders? Our research
at Opal School aims to invent practice that supports the authentic development
of 21st Century Skills, without sacrificing the skills we traditionally expect
children to learn in grade school.
This year we’ve been asking ourselves:
What happens when we begin the year talking with children about intentions?
What happens when we give time and space to unpacking the meaning of that word?
What happens when we support children to set their own intentions from the beginning?
We’ve been exploring these questions through Story Workshop this year. In the past, children have been expected to communicate what story they are working on on any particular day and what material they will choose to tell their story with that day. We have always expected the children at Opal School to communicate their plans. But what happens when we take that one step further? What happens when we not only ask children what material they will use, but ask them to try and express what it is they are hoping to use that material for, or the ways in which they are expecting that material to support or influence their thinking and their story that day?
For a peek into the kind of language the children have come up with (from the third week of school) to describe possible intentions they might have when creating a story, here’s a list that they created:
What are my intentions today?
to bring back a memory
to remember more details
to find new details
the material matches my mental image
I think the material can capture my image
it will help me imagine what I might want to do
it will allow me to make something new
to wake up a brand new story
to make my story something memorable
to capture my image in words
to find out what the material does
to learn more about what is going to happen next
Already the children are showing us their willingness to dive into this work together. Their choice of language, their knowledge of what it means to be a writer, their understanding of what works well for themselves as authors, and their level of engagement reminds us over and over again of the incredible capacities that young children hold and show when given the opportunities to do so.