Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning to Unlearn

his post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

Today was another good day.

I had lots of favorite parts, but my favorite favorite might be from first grade.

We had an inquiry lesson about fiction and nonfiction. My challenge to them: sort a group of picture books into categories fiction and nonfiction. My job was to stay out of their way while they worked. And then, they’d call me over to investigate the piles. I didn’t tell them which of their books were correct or incorrect, I just told them the number of incorrect books in the pile and let them try again.

Calder’s Circus: now THAT’s a tricky one!

I. LOVED. This activity. How cool it was to watch the conversation, taking notes of the knowledge and misconceptions as the evidence surfaced.

I also loved introducing the kids to a new concept: UNLEARNING. Yes, unlearning. Friends, I will tell you that it blew my six-year-old students’ MINDS to know that there are times where we have to take a fact or an idea and UNLEARN it. “Wait, Mrs. Levin. I thought we came to school to LEARN things, not UNLEARN them!” Yes, buddy. You’re right. But sometimes what we learn is not correct, and we need to replace it. That’s where the magic happens!

Among the ideas we had to unlearn:

Drawings go in fiction, photos go in nonfiction
Fiction reads like a story and nonfiction doesn’t
Nonfiction could happen, fiction couldn’t

At the heart of our discoveries today?

Sometimes the difference between fiction and nonfiction is messy. And the only way we can REALLY tell is to look at the text itself: titles, pages, back matter, dust jackets. 

We’re on to something, people. I’m excited to see where they go. And what’s even better? I get to do this same activity with my first-grade loveys at another school on Friday. 

Shhhh. Don’t give it away!

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

10 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning to Unlearn

  1. I love the idea of unlearning. (At my age it is simply called forgetting.) It is hard to fathom that what we accepted as fact really isn’t. Unlearning leads to learning and having the students realize the myths themselves is empowering

  2. The discoveries of the things that need to be unlearned are crucial! How lucky they are to have had a guided inquiry so they had the chance to explore and learn through their own beings.

  3. Such a great wonder – ““Wait, Mrs. Levin. I thought we came to school to LEARN things, not UNLEARN them!”

    1. Thank you! It’s kind of cool to see how the idea is settling in with them, now that they’ve had time to digest it. In my happy little teacher world, they’ll start to share that idea with others around them too…

  4. This is a life lesson, Lainie, unlearning…how much better off we’d all be if we understood this from a young age! Life itself is often messy. Energy pours forth from your post and I can sense its electric crackling within the confines of the classroom when you’re at the helm, guiding – in a word, marvelous!

    1. Thank you! I’m hoping the idea sticks with them longer, and I’m trying to think through all the ways it can ripple through all the folks I interact with. We could ALL use a bit of this uncomfortable stuff, for sure.

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