Inquiring, Sharing, and Igniting Idea Sparks with 5 Corners

On our third and final day of our Lanier Schools Academy Institute, we participated in a fun and engaging activity that reminded me of the Harvey Daniels written conversation strategies.   Lanier High teacher Brooke Webb and LSTC Rhonda Stroud led us through a variation of the Four Corners learning activity, dubbing ours Five Corners because we had five questions to contemplate in small groups about our district LMS platform, Desire2Learn.  Our essential question was “How can eClass (Desire2Learn) help my students with PBL?”

Brooke and Rhonda ensured we were in mixed groups of grade levels and subject areas by giving each teacher a sticky note numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.  We then went to our assigned table (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) so that each group has an established starting point.  Each table had a question for the group to consider; the basic protocol was that you wrote your individual response, and then the group discussed and shared the responses.  We spent roughly 5 minutes at each table before rotating to the next “station’ or table with question.   You could also place a check mark next to responses from your peers that reflected your own practice or experiences.

As we moved through the stations, we could see what other groups had written and shared.  After we added our own responses and placed a check mark next to all answers that applied to our own practice/experience, we discussed the ideas shared from the other groups.  We rotated through all stations until we returned to our station that was our starting point.

We then looked at the responses shared by all groups at our initial station and grouped the responses into categories and tabulated our response to collect data to look for trends and patterns in the responses.  Some groups created simple bar graphs or charts by hand; we had a teacher in our group who was an Excel expert, so she created a beautiful graph for our group.

We then did a large group share out; this part of the activity was especially meaningful as fellow teachers not only shared the data, but teachers had the opportunity to talk about specific responses.  This small and large group work gave us ideas and strategies for using Desire2Learn in our classrooms and was a terrific springboard for the mini-lesson on Desire2Learn presented after the activity by Brooke Webb.  The learning experience and subsequent mini-lesson left me feeling energized and excited about incorporating Desire2Learn into my daily classroom instruction as well as PBL experiences for my students.

After we finished the activity and mini-lesson, Brooke and Rhonda hung up our work as a gallery on the ends of bookcases in the library (our beautiful learning space for the week) so that we could browse the work more closely during our collaborative work time and breaks.

This is another great variation on written conversation strategies that can encourage inquiry and crowdsourcing of ideas and knowledge.  I’m already thinking about how I can use this with my 11th and 12th grade readers and writers come August!  Kudos to Brooke and Rhonda for leading us through a rich and meaningful learning experience!

On a side note, the learning space also facilitated this learning activity.  I felt right at home in our beautiful media center because the Artcobell tables and chairs on wheels supported this kind of learning activity that involved movement as well as small group to large group work.  Over the last three years, I’ve been lucky to work in a library or classroom space where I had this kind of furniture; the one year I did not, I was absolutely miserable and felt stymied by immobile heavy tables and chairs.  These kinds of learning experiences are much easier to facilitate when you have a learning space that supports the design drivers of the kind of learner experience you’re trying to create.  As more schools incorporate inquiry driven and active learning activities, I think it is more important than ever for schools to closely examine their learning spaces and determine what they need to change in common learning areas as well as classrooms to support the vision for learning.

Showcase Your Student-Created Mentor Texts with These Nifty Shop Ticket Holders

By request, I am sharing a brief post about the shop ticket holders I’m using to showcase student crafted mentor texts.  In early September, I purchased these neon shop ticket holders from Amazon; I chose these because I wanted an easy way to showcase mentor texts in my classroom.  Bonus:  this particular kind adds a pop of color to your classroom, and you can organize mentor texts by color.

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You can hang these on a hook in your classroom, or you can simply make them available for students to pick up and take back to their seats for mentor text study.  These shop ticket holders were especially helpful last week as I introduced two new poetry writing strategies to my students:

  • Poems written off a list (a method I learned a few years ago when YA author Kelly Bingham did a daylong visit to my media center and did poetry writing with students)
  • “I Am Old and New” poems, a poem writing strategy I got from the Pongo Teen Writing Project.  I learned about this group through our former Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway, a poet who inspires me as a teacher and as a writer.

Students in my Writer’s Workshop and Writing Connections classes (grades 6-8) could choose to craft their next poem using either strategy.  While I had provided a model texts for both kinds of poems (one crafted by me, one from a teen at the Pongo Teen Writing Project), I decided to showcase student crafted drafts in progress after two of my students showed me “share-ready” drafts.  With their permission, I captured their drafts as well as the planning work they put into their poems using my scanner app on my iPhone.  I then printed copies and placed them in the shop ticket holders.  I used the neon orange and red shop ticket holders to showcase Alex’s poem written off a list; I used the neon yellow and green shop ticket holders to share Wren’s “old and new” poem draft and planning template.  I then introduced them at the beginning of the class the next day for help students who were struggling with their drafting or moving from the planning list and template to a poem draft.  I also took time to read each poem aloud to every class as I introduced the mentor texts from my students.

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This seems like a small detail, but I know many of us are always scouting for tools and materials to help us facilitate the flow of our writing workshop.   These shop ticket holders are an inexpensive and terrific investment for protecting and sharing student crafted mentor text and writing!  What kinds of materials do you use to feature mentor texts either from known writers or from your own students?