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Inspire Your Students To Learn Like Astronauts

Stefanie Cole

Nine-year-old Chris Hadfield was spending a typical summer at his family’s island cottage in southern Ontario when he observed an event that set his life’s direction. On July 20,1969 he watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Many kids were immediately inspired, wishing to become astronauts. Chris Hadfield actually became one.

One of the members of my book club had read Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, and had heard him speak in Toronto. On her recommendation we read his book. I knew it was going to be interesting, but I had no idea the impact it would have. I now realize that beyond the short, glamorous stints of being in space, astronauts are actually professional learners. Chris Hadfield’s book is a great read for teachers and students alike.

We, as teachers, have many demands placed upon us. We need not only teach the curriculum, but also make space in our day to allow our students to reflect on their learning, build skills and discover how to set and meet goals. Sharing this book with students can help achieve all of the above. It is filled with quotes and examples that give students opportunities to reflect on the key aspects of learning that took Hadfield years to develop and understand.

In my Grade 7 class we often use a writing practice called Quickwrites for exploring ideas. I was introduced to this concept by teacher and author, Linda Rief, through her books 100 Quickwrites and Read Write Teach, both of which I use extensively in my teaching. Linda explains in Read Write Teach that the premise of Quickwrites is to allow students to respond to texts, explore ideas and realize the opinions and experiences “they didn’t know they knew, or they wouldn’t have known, before committing words to paper.” Using the Quickwrites format to explore Chris Hadfield’s book is an easy way to engage all students and allow them time to absorb and connect to his ideas.


“Aim To Be A Zero” Or How To ‘Be’ So Everyone Else Can ‘Be’ Too

When we are setting the tone for the year and creating a set of class rules there are 20 to 30 factors we must take into consideration … our students. Our classes are filled with many different personalities. There are the quiet, thoughtful students you wish would add more; the ones with great ideas who advance class thinking; the ones who need time to process the question; and the ones who love to talk, even if it isn’t about the topic you’re discussing. How do we create space for all of our students to grow, demonstrate their strengths and recognize when certain behaviours aren’t helping class dynamics?

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