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61. Graphic Organizers

Definition

Graphic organizers are visual aids in the classroom designed to help students visualize and conceptualize ideas and their relationships with other ideas. Examples of graphic organizers include flowcharts, mind maps and venn diagrams. Use them to help students think more deeply about topics.

Benefits

  • Very useful for students who are visual learners.
  • Provides a framework for deeper and critical thinking.
  • Provides structure to help students who are unsure of how to proceed with critical thinking.

Challenges

  • Don’t stick to just one framework as the frameworks narrow the scope of thinking in exchange for depth. Mix up your graphic organizers.

Theoretical Link

Cognitive Constructivism: cognitive constructivists such as David Jonassen believe graphic organizers help students to share their cognitive load with the organizer, helping them to organize and sort ideas in their heads more effective.y

Examples

  1. Flow charts 
  2. Mind maps
  3. Venn diagrams
  4. Concept maps
  5. Network or family tree
  6. Spider diagram
  7. Compare-contrast matrix
  8. Continuum
  9. Series of events chain
  10. Cycle map
  11. Character charts

62. Think Pair Share

Definition

This is one of the simplest, most frequently used, but also most effective classroom teaching strategies. Students think about a topic on their own. Then, they pair up with a partner and discuss, compare and contrast their thoughts together. Thirdly, the pair share what they discussed with the whole class.

Benefits

  • Moves students from individual thinking to social thinking in a clear process.
  • Helps students to vocalize their own thoughts in small and large groups.
  • Helps students to see other people’s perspectives by encouraging communication, compare and contrast.

Challenges

  • Students need the confidence to speak up in front of the whole class. I have found some students like to have the comfort of flip chart (butcher’s) paper as a prop when presenting their discussions to the class.

Theoretical Link

Sociocultural theory: learning through conversation allows students to see diverse perspectives and therefore improve on their own perspectives.

Examples

  1. Step 1: Think. Students are given 2 minutes to think about the topic on their own and take 5 bullet points on their own.
  2. Step 2: Pair. Students get together in pairs (or groups of 3 if appropriate) to compare and contrast their own ideas. Students discuss the ideas and come up with a collective group of ideas.
  3. Step 3: Share. Each group shares their own thoughts with the whole class. As each group presents, other classmates can challenge ideas or take additional notes to add to their own group’s thoughts.

63. Group Roles

Definition

Assigning group roles when students are doing small group work is another simple instructional strategy to try. There are many group role types to be found online. I tend to use the roles of: timekeeper, moderator, notekeeper, and collector. All students should be equal discussion contributors, and this is managed by the moderator.

Benefits

  • Helps to structure the activity, give students certainty in what they are doing, and reduce the uncertainty from group work.
  • Encourages communication to get students hearing other students’ ideas and perspectives

Challenges

  • Students must be explicitly taught the group roles and need time to practice them.

Theoretical Link

Sociocultural Theory: By communicating with peers, students widen their perspectives and (with more knowledgeable peers) have their knowledge scaffolded.

Example

  1. Ensure you model the group roles before beginning the activity. Consider using a fishbowl method by having a sample group sit in the middle of a circle modeling the roles to the rest of the class.
  2. For the class’s first attempt at group roles, structure it very clearly by getting the students to follow a clear step-by-step guide. Slowly release responsibility to students when they are ready.

64. Barometer

Definition

The barometer method gets a measure of students’ opinions by asking them to stand on a line from 0 to 10 (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = unsure or conflicted, 10= strongly agree).

Benefits

  • Students tend to find this a non-intimidating way of sharing their opinions.
  • Can be a good way of getting students talking. Once they stand on the line, you can ask them to explain why they stood where they did.

Challenges

  • It may be beneficial to prevent students from taking a neutral “I don’t know” stance without sufficient defence of this position.

Theoretical Link

Critical theory: The barometer could be paired with critical theory if  students critique assumptions in society with a focus on the perspectives of marginalized groups.

Examples

  1. Introduce a complex or controversial issue through a book, video or class discussion.
  2. Ask students to stand on an imaginary line from 0 to 10 representing their opinion.
  3. Place students into three groups based on their position in the line: agree, unsure and disagree. Have the three groups present their 5 best arguments to the class.

65. Cognitive Tools

Definition

Cognitive tools are educational technologies designed to promote thinking beyond what a student can do without the technology. This might include using wearable technologies to help students map out their own movements to then test their knowledge of geography, use of excel sheets to create financial estimations, etc.

Benefits

  • Educational technologies can help us do things we couldn’t do without them.
  • Can engage students who love computers and technology in learning tasks.

Challenges

  • Teachers must ensure technology use is focused on helping students learn more or at a higher level of critical thinking than if they didn’t have technology.

Theoretical Link

Cognitive Constructivism: this approach, invented by david Jonassen, emphasizes that computer technologies should be used to extend and promote higher-order cognition.

Examples

See my full article: Examples of Congitive Tools in Education.

66. Anticipation / Guestimation 

Definition

Anticipation and guestimation is an instructional strategy designed to get students thinking about the consequences or flow-on effects of actions. Teachers ask students to make predictions based on limited knowledge about a topic 

Benefits

  • Students often have to use mathematics and logical reasoning to succeed in this task.
  • Students are required to be resourceful and seek clues that will show them the possible consequences of action.

Challenges

  • It is important to strike a balance between giving enough information to make informed guesses and not too much information that the students can deduce the full answer. 

67. Silent Conversation

Definition

A silent conversation is a way of getting students to communicate without having them speak up in front of the class. Students write their responses to a prompt on sheets of paper but cannot speak while doing so. They should then also write responses to one another’s points so that they are ‘conversing’ through writing.

Benefits

  • Students who are shy to speak up my be more willing to participate, especially if their written response can stay anonymous.
  • It can often be easier to respond in writing than speaking because students have time to reflect and think about the wording of their response before writing it.

Challenges

  • Only one student at a time can write their response. Consider what other students will be doing during this time.
  • Students must be competent writers.

Theoretical Link

Sociocultural theory: we learn and extend our knowledge through social interaction. By seeing others’ points, we can improve or amend our own.

Examples

  1. One way to do this is to have a flip chart paper sheet (butcher’s paper) on a wall with a discussion prompt written above. Have students walk up to the paper intermittently thought a lesson to write responses to the prompt. After the first few students write their responses, the rest of the students must respond not to the prompt but to the answers written by previous students – how can they add to or challenge what someone else has already said?
  2. The second common way of having a silent conversation is to pass a piece of paper around the class and have students write their responses to conversation chains on the piece of paper. 

68. Devil’s Advocate

Definition

A devil’s advocate is someone who argues for an opposing point of view in order to stir up an argument and poke holes in other points of view. The devil’s advocate does not necessarily need to believe the points they are arguing. Either the teacher or students can be the devil’s advocate I’m this teaching strategy.

Benefits

  • Encourages students to see their own blind spots or misunderstandings.
  • Helps students to see a diversity of points of view.
  • Improves students’ debating skills.

Challenges

  • Students and parents may interpret you devil’s advocate position as an attempt to teach unsavory views in the classroom. 

Theoretical Link

Critical theory: A devil’s advocate can help students with skills desirable within critical theory, like seeing views of people who are not commonly heard in society and the capacity to critique dominant narratives in society.

Examples

  1. The teacher can note in their lesson plan moments when they believe there are opportunities to play devil’s advocate role promote debate.
  2. The teacher can give students debating points where one person acts as devil’s advocate and another as the person defending the dominant perspective.

69. Strategic Pauses

Definition

Strategic pauses are one of the most important tools in a teacher’s toolbox of teaching strategies. A strategic pause is a gap between statements to let a point sink in or linger, or to give students a moment to think about an answer before the teacher moves on.

Benefits

Challenges

Theoretical Link

Cognitive load theory: Too much information at one time can cause a student to lose track. Time is required for the mind to interpret, sort, stack, save and withdraw information in their mind (‘create cognitive schemata’).

Examples

  1. Pause after a question for 10 seconds before discussing the answer.
  2. If the class has started getting unsettled, often a pause in the teacher’s speaking is enough to settle them again and remind them to re-engage with the learning materials.
  3. Slow speech with sufficient pauses between ‘chunks’ of information (seeL ‘chunking’ strategy) can help students arrange information in their minds appropriately.

70. Chunking

Definition

Chunking involves presenting information in manageable ‘chunks’ to allow students to sufficiently process information before moving on to the next section of a lesson or task. 

Teachers should present only a manageable amount of information to students before giving them a chance to consolidate the information and practice their new knowledge.

Without giving sufficient time to consolidate information before giving new information to a student, the student will struggle to keep up with the information and old information may fall away before it is secured into their memory.

Benefits

  • Less students will be left behind, confused and disillusioned in the classroom if they are given consolidation time.

Challenges

  • There is often not enough time in a crowded school curriculum to chunk information well enough.
  • It is hard to tell how much is ‘too much’ information, and how long is long enough before knowledge is consolidated into memory.

Theoretical Link

Cognitive Overload Theory: If students are given too much information, their mind becomes ‘overloaded’ and they are unable to process more information. We only have a limited amount of working memory space in our minds. See: John Sweller’s cognitive overload theory.

Examples

  1. Only teach two or three key points per lesson.
  2. Provide a lot of discussion and practice time before moving on to presenting new information.
  3. Consistently use formative assessment and reflection in action during the lesson to see when is the ideal time to move on.

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