With nearly all of my kids, we talk so much about “smart guesses” vs. “wacky guesses” – a concept that applies in social situations as well as academics. For example, if someone tells you, “You’d better bring your umbrella today,” a smart guess about why they said that, is, It’s probably going to rain today. A wacky guess would be, It’s going to be a beautiful sunny day. If a history book says, “By the end of the war, the population was down 20,000 people,” a smart guess about why would be, People died from the fighting in the war, where a wacky guess would be, All of those people moved away to Antarctica.
Essentially, we’re talking about inferences. Situations where information is not explicitly stated, but you use your prior knowledge plus situational information to make a guess about what’s going on. We do this all the time and don’t think twice about it. Our kids have a much harder time with it step-by-step, let alone automatically.
In my sessions with Nellie, we talk about this constantly. So, when we do reading comprehension practice, we talk about making smart guesses by looking back to the text. When we do social inferencing activities, we talk about making smart guesses to figure out what someone is thinking. We’ve been talking about this for years.
Nellie is obsessed with Minecraft – and she’s good at it. She has her own server, she has responsibility within the game, she is successful and happy when playing it; it’s something that makes her shine. Given the option, she would talk about it for our entire session. She has explained to me that in Minecraft there are rankings, and terms for the levels of players. She is considered a “Pro” – professional. Players who have just started playing, and don’t really know what they’re doing, are considered “Noobs” in Minecraft (“newbies”). Sometimes the “noobs” are spotted easily because they do things that others wouldn’t do – like make a house out of dirt (a very weak material), whereas the “pros” are noticed for using stronger materials and better strategies. She explained how a Noob is someone who just doesn’t know how to do it yet, and a Pro knows the techniques and strategies.
So one day, I forget the context, but we were talking about something unexpected, and I was trying to explain why it’s a wacky thing to do, and Nellie just looked at me and said, “That’s such a NOOB thing to do.”
Boom. Lightbulb. It clicked.
From then on, I switched my language, and she took to it immediately. Everything we did, we talked about the Pro way to do it and the Noob way to do it. Nellie is someone who continues to work on matching reaction size to the size of the problem. She’s a kid who might get grumpy about not going first, despite the fact that she’s almost in high school. She might have a huge reaction if someone bumps into her in the hall. She’s LOVES the silly 911 script. We added to it by saying that having a huge reaction to a small problem (like when our printer didn’t work the other day) would be a Noob thing to do, and a Pro reaction would be to just say, oh, well.
When we do our reading comprehension work now, Nellie makes Pro guesses, not Noob guesses.
When we work with another student, we talk about how making unexpected/odd comments in the middle of the conversation is a Noob thing to do, and a Pro thing to do is hold those thoughts in her thought bubble.
More often than not, she’s the one bringing it up, not me.
She laughs and laughs each time she gets to say, “That’s a NOOB thing to do!” And it’s working. She’ll sometimes see me in the hall and quickly tell me something Noob or Pro that happened.
Our kids always, ALWAYS have a way of learning, a way of making sense of what’s going on. Sometimes they’re the ones that teach us the best way to do it. I never would’ve thought of using Pro vs. Noob terminology – and honestly, if it had been my idea, it probably wouldn’t have worked. This is why following their lead is the way to go. This is why we use their special interests. This is why we build on their scripts. This is why we meet them halfway. This.