I’ve been reading the book 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong by Antonetti and Garver in which the authors take all that data from those thousands of walkthroughs to find the most effective ways they saw students learning rather than teachers teaching.
This seems like a small difference – teaching and learning go hand in hand, right? but sometimes you can see the difference. For example, when I used to review my students for a big unit test I would typically make up some kind of super fun game to review, but then every time a student got an answer incorrect, I would then give a mini-lecture – teaching my little heart out – with little student engagement in those crucial moments. So although I was teaching my heart out trying to say everything I wanted to stay in my students’ brains, quite possibly, not a whole lot of learning was actually taking place.
Antonetti and Garver suggest asking students to work in partners or small groups to place topics you’ve been learning about on a continuum from least important/influential/impactful to most important/influential/impactful. Why? Because it gets students discussing, analyzing, and justifying their thinking to their partners passionately – effectively reviewing each other without knowing it!
So, for example, let’s say you take a group of Science vocab terms you’ve been learning about. In order for students to place the terms on a continuum from most important to least, you may need to create a scenario for students to apply these terms to. For example, you could list all the terms you’ve been studying as a part of photosynthesis and ask which are the most important for the plant’s survival in a dessert (or marsh, or tundra…). Remember that students should be able to explain each of their decisions and why they placed them in the order that they choose. AND remember to choose a prompt that really has no “right” answer. The point is to get students discussing and justifying by applying their knowledge.
The authors shared an example where even kindergarten students were able to take full advantage of this strategy. After learning about parts of a plant, the teacher in the example asked her kindergarteners to place the parts on the continuum to show which parts were most important in a specific location. Each table group had a different location. The students were able to tell her why they choose each important piece.
This strategy – and several others are available with templates and deeper explanations at this link. I hope you’ll try one out as you plan to review your students!
Written by Meredith Akers, Principal