inquiry

Writing Around Literature Motfis + See, Think, Wonder for Deeper Understanding

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Yesterday we had the privilege of observing and listening to the students of Language Arts teacher Aba DeGraft-Hanson think together and share their ideas around different motifs of To Kill a Mockingbird.    They first began with a write-around the motifs last week; they then met in the library learning studio yesterday to discuss the ideas from the write-around and collaboratively draw conclusions by using the See, Think, Wonder structure from Making Thinking Visible.   Aba’s variation of this learning structure also asked students to include a one-word distillation of their ideas.   As students discussed and worked through the lens of See, Think, Wonder, Aba walked around and conferred with each group to answer questions or to serve as a sounding board.

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Students then presented in their groups using our Steelcase Verb dry erase easels and the written work of their write-around.

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Students also took notes as they listened to their peers and jotted down key ideas to revisit.

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After all groups completed their presentation/share out to the class, Aba led a short discussion with students about connections between the motifs.  She then provided them a graphic organizer to help them go deeper with the motif they had explore and to help students connect the motifs to themes of the novel.

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This two day activity generated rich conversation and some extraordinary thinking with the students!  I encourage to take time to listen to Aba’s narrative of how she blended written conversations with the See, Think, Wonder learning structure and her reflections on how these learning activities ignited student thinking and learning.

We are deeply appreciative of Aba and her students so generously sharing their work and using the learning studio here to practice inquiry and critical thinking.  We also hope their story of learning will inspire you to think about how you might use these learning structures with your students!

 Additional Resources

 

Students Talk About the Value of PreSearch Term Strategy Mapping and Think-Puzzle-Explore

This past Friday I was lucky to sit down and get insightful feedback from Linda Katz’s 6th period AP Literature students who have been one of our pilot groups using pre-search term mapping strategies and Think Puzzle Explore as part of our deeper approach to pre-search and our efforts to help our students and faculty take a more inquiry-oriented stance on research.  I think you will be awed by the insights and honesty of these four students; many thanks for their valuable and feedback as we co-learn with and from them.  If you are thinking about trying these strategies, this firsthand feedback will be incredibly helpful for you.  We hope to have some additional interviews to share with you here on the blog later this week!

Links of Interest

Sean O’Connor Rocks the Write-Around for Collaborative Student Thinking as Part of Presearch and Topic Development with Literary Research

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Last year Language Arts teacher Sean O’Connor was one of our first teachers to help us pilot written conversation strategies that we had learned about from Harvey Daniels.  After attending a Reading the City institute with Daniels, Nancy  Steineke (among other notable literacy leaders) this past January, Sean returned even more energized about the possibilities of written conversation strategies for inquiry and learning.  He decided to incorporate and modify the write around learning structure as part of the pre-search process for his AP Literature students who were beginning a literary research paper; not only did he utilize the LibGuide we created for the assignment, but he wanted to use our Learning Studio area in our library as the space for  the written conversations come to life.

After two days of some initial pre-search, students came to the Learning Studio with some general themes or topics in mind.  Sean tells us the game plan he designed to facilitate their next steps:

Below, watch our video story of what this form of inquiry centered learning looked like with one of his three class sections.  The energy, the depth of conversation, and the engagement the students exhibited in wrestling with ideas and thinking together was exciting and joyful to watch.

Part 1:  First Steps:  Jot Down Ideas You Have For Your Research

Part 2:   Responding to Each Other’s Topic with Large Post-Its and Pens

Part 3:  Forming Birds of Feather Groups by Topics

Part 4:  Talking, No Writing

Part 5:  Post-Conversation—Noting Key Ideas, Narrowing Topic/Research Topic/Thesis Statement and Next Steps Post Collaborative Thinking

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The collaborative thinking and how students played off each other’s input and the group conversations to help them move from Point A to Point B as part of the presearch phase and topic narrowing continuum/process was what made this activity so authentic and meaningful to students.  As Sean said, “My original timeline for the project is shot, but that doesn’t matter.  The students learning in this way is what counts.”   Jennifer and I are thrilled that we can be part of this kind of mindset and collaboration with teachers like Sean and his students.  We are excited to see how they build on Friday’s activity in our Learning Studio and their next steps with their research project!  A heartfelt thank you to Sean O’Connor and his students for allowing me to film and photograph their work.

Additional resources:

 

Igniting Inquiry with Think, Puzzle, and Explore

 

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Earlier this month, my colleague Jennifer Lund and I met with Linda Katz and Elizabeth Hollis, two of our 11th grade Language Arts teachers, to plan their upcoming research unit on sustainability.  We wanted to do something fun and interesting to introduce the range of topics to students that would engage them and not begin with them just browsing the resources on the project LibGuide.  We initially considered using the write-around strategy, but with so many sections of classes and possibilities for topics/subtopics, we felt the prep work involved was a bit overwhelming for the time we had available to get the materials together.

We decided to use another strategy, though, that involved thinking and writing called Think, Puzzle, Explorea routine for learning that “sets the stage for deeper inquiry.”  Since many teachers are utilizing strategies from Making Thinking Visible, we felt this would be the perfect learning structure to introduce 11th graders to sustainability topics.  With Think, Puzzle, and Explore, students are asked to reflect and share:

1. What do you think you know about this topic?

2. What questions or puzzles do you have?

3. How can you explore this topic?

Prep Work

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We decided to choose eight areas of sustainability and to find an article of interest for each that students could read and respond to individually and collectively as a group.    After we searched and selected articles on eight different topics, we made sets of five for each table so that each student could have a copy to read and mark up or annotate.  Our Library Science student helpers gathered multiple sheets of butcher paper and helped us attach the three “Think, Puzzle, Explore” labels Jennifer crafted for each sheet of paper.  These labels Jennifer created served both as a reminder prompt to nudge students in their responses and as a placeholder for each column where students would record their responses.  We were not sure how quickly the sheets of paper would fill up with student work, so we had extra sheets of butcher paper and labels in case we needed them.  Initially, we thought all six classes could compile their answers on one sheet, but we realized after two classes we definitely need to rotate the response sheets.  During our one period off, 3rd, we finished the prep work for the butcher paper sheets to be used later in the day.  We were grateful we had extra supplies and copies as we discovered two classes could easily fill up a sheet of butcher paper with their thinking.

Implementation

We began by introducing the procedures for the activity and explaining the logistics and purpose of Think, Puzzle, Explore to the students.  Our goal was for students to sample at least two tables/topics to hopefully fuel their interest and pique their curiosity.

Once we finished the introductory procedures review, students had about two minutes to select a table; for the most, we limited each table to four students.    We also reminded students to choose their tables by topics and not the safety zone of friends!

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We gave students about five minutes to quietly read as much as they could of their articles (some were longer or more textually complex than others) and strongly encouraged them to mark up/annotate their articles to have some talking points for collaborative conversation.  Some students also jotted notes in a notebook during this part of the activity and/or during the collective discussion that followed.

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Once the five minutes were up, we had students discuss their responses and then collectively compose their responses to “Think, Puzzle, and Explore.”  The discussion and collective composition took anywhere from 5-8 minutes.

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We then repeated this process a second time and had students choose a different table and topic.   Once we had completed both rounds, each group got one of our Steelcase Verb dry erase boards, and each member contributed their takeaway reflection, reaction, or big question as the ticket out the door; each student put his/her initials by his/her reflection or question.

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Curating the Student Work and Reflections

As classes transitioned, Jennifer and I quickly tidied up tables and captured student work with a digital camera and our iPhones to curate and share with all classes and teachers.    It was a day that was energizing (and a little exhausting) as the work and pace were pretty intense, but we were really pleased with student responses and participation.  We got verbal feedback from several students about how much they enjoyed the activity and for several, the process had given them some topics to think about for subsequent investigation that we’re now starting this week.

In the spirit of crowdsourcing our thinking, we collected all of the “big takeaway” responses and linked to each album on the LibGuide (scroll toward the bottom of the middle column to view by period).  We also had our Library Science students transcribe all of the responses from the butcher paper sheets; I then captured all of them using my scanner app on my phone and uploading the PDFs of the scans to Google Drive, which it made it easy to then send to SlideShare and download the PDFs to my PC for transfer to the LibGuide.   We did consider providing laptops and shared Google Docs for students to record their thinking, but our experience with our students has been that the tactile  aspect of composing and experience seeing each other’s thinking on physical paper is powerful; in hindsight, we felt we made the right choice.

Not only did we build prior knowledge through this activity, but we accomplished our goal to engage students in collective thinking and build/play off each’s other ideas (as it turned out, pairs of classes back to back).  Think, Puzzle, and Explore also provided students a medium to learn a little about a topic and tease out some initial thoughts  Now that we have all of their work uploaded, students can visit it if they want to revisit any initial thinking from last week or use it as a brainstorming tool to further investigate one of those topics although they certainly can go in other directions.

Overall, the four of us felt the activity was successful and a nice bridge to our pre-search this week.  I could also see this structure being used in combination with the pre-search mapping we’re piloting this week ( a blog post coming soon on that and many thanks to our colleague Tasha Bergson-Michelson for inspiration on pre-search strategy mapping) if students were going to be composing group papers or if time permitted “birds of feather” collaborative work once students had an initial topic in mind.   We definitely hope to use this learning structure again as a springboard to inquiry and research.

For your viewing:

Designing and Scaffolding Multigenre Projects and Compositions

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I’ve been remiss in not following up on our end of the semester learning activities and experiences from our extended inquiry project with Language Arts teacher Sarah Rust.   If you haven’t had a chance to read my series of posts about our collaborative efforts or would like a refresher, you can catch up with all of the posts here.  In my last series post, I discussed different types of formative assessment we were using to evaluate student progress, processes, and products, including their research design proposals.  I’d like to share with you briefly some of the structures, resources, and activities we used over the subsequent three weeks (excluding our Thanksgiving break) to help our students compose their multigenre projects.

multigenre2-workAs students submitted their research design proposals, both Sarah and I provided them written and verbal feedback through 1:1 conferences as well as the individualized feedback we crafted using mail merge and Word docs.  These processes took approximately five days of class; students that were not meeting with us were either moving forward with additional research or starting to craft elements of their projects.  One of the tools we gave students to help them manage and organize all the pieces of their projects was this project planner/checklist.  I have found over the years that checklists, while seemingly simple, are powerful tools to help students stay organized and on track.

We also gave students concrete examples of finished project (both virtual and Word docs) templates to look at as well as hard/print copies my past students had created; students could browse the physical copies that we kept in folders in the library workspace.  In addition, we had virtual and hard copy examples of specific multigenre products created by my previous students as well as examples we found through the web.  We also built in days to do small group work on skills and project elements; some of these included:

  • Guided instruction for students who wanted to publish their work as a WordPress site.  We showed students 3multigenrehow to register for a free account, how to set up pages for each project element, how to establish a static homepage, and how to craft a customized menu so that the navigation reflected the order of the project pages we had established in the guidelines.  We also provided reinforcement for students with video tutorials that we made and published on the project LibGuide.  This instruction was probably one of the more intensive days since establishing the project website structure was essential early on for the students and helping them feel comfortable with multiple new skills at once.  To their credit, both classes did a fantastic job following our step by step guided instruction and getting their project sites set up.  Subsequently, they caught on to skills like editing pages and adding multimedia content very quickly—I was impressed by how they took initiative to self-help and to then show their peers a skill they had taught themselves.
  • 1:1 help for students who chose to publish their work as a Word document (most students published virtually with WordPress, and we had one student who published his project as a Google Doc).   Again, we provided reinforcement with customized video tutorials we published to the project guide.
  • 1:1 and small group conferencing with students who wanted feedback on project elements as they drafted.
  • Whole group instruction and discussion about how to craft the notes pages (please scroll toward the bottom of the page) since these elements are the ones I’ve found students have struggled with most in the past and to help our students have a clearer idea for our expectations in terms of content and parenthetical integration of sources.
  • Most students had mastered citation of sources using our EasyBib tools (including the awesome direct export of citations), but I was on standby to provide clarification or help students cite non-database sources.

We essentially had about 10-12 days of working class time for the projects; we were able to meet students at the point of need as Sarah and I served as “on-demand” help and shared our different areas of expertise in terms of content oriented questions and technical-related inquiries.  As we neared the finish line, we showed students how to submit their project information via a Google form; students who published via Word emailed their projects to me, and I uploaded their projects as PDFs to SlideShare. As students submitted their work via the Google form and email, I then added their content to our multigenre project blog (hosted at WordPress) and organized projects by period.

https://rustmultignere2014.wordpress.com/

Rust Multigenre Inquiry Projects Fall 2014 via kwout

In my next post, I’ll share how I used Google Sheets and a nifty mail merge app to record student project notes quickly and seamlessly assessment notes with Sarah Rust.  New posts are also coming soon featuring student interviews about their projects as well as some final reflections from Sarah and me on our inquiry adventures with our students!  Finally, Jennifer Lund and I will be doing planning period professional development next week for our faculty and hopefully finding new partners in different subject areas to pilot different interpretations of multigenre projects.