I originally learned about the “Socratic Smackdown” from the Institute of Play on Richard Byrne’s blog way back in 2014. We did Socratic Dialogue discussions frequently in my gifted classes, and my students enjoyed switching things up every once in awhile with this gamified version. The original source of the “Socratic Smackdown” file seemed to disappear for a few years, so I hesitated to recommend it even though I have the PDF already downloaded. However, I am happy to say that I received an email last week that the Institute of Play has transferred its files over to Connected Learning Alliance. You can find and download the “Socratic Smackdown” by going to this link, and clicking on the “Learning Games” button. Here are the rules:
The “Socratic Smackdown” packet provides discussion strategies (my students loved “Devil’s Advocate”), score cards, a rubric, and more. You can, of course, make whatever adaptations you need to account for the number and ability levels of students participating.
We didn’t use “Socratic Smackdown” every time we did a Socratic Dialogue, but it was definitely requested every time. Even when we didn’t use it, I could tell that students were more mindful of the discussion strategies that they used, so their metacognition definitely increased.
“Socratic Smackdown” can be used with any class, not just gifted pull-outs — though it probably is best with 3rd grade and up. In fact, this is actually one activity that benefits from a bit higher numbers in your class because you can have more teams and a more lively discussion.
There are other free resources available for download on this transplanted Institute of Play site, including a “Systems Thinking Design Pack,” so I encourage you to check some of those out as well.
The Deep Sea is a fascinating website designed by Neal Agarwal (@NealAgarwal). Neal has placed the creatures of the ocean at their typical depths, and you can scroll down from 18 meters at which you find Atlantic salmon and manatees all the way to the deepest part of the ocean at 10,901 meters deep. Little pieces of trivia are interspersed here and there, such as when you reach the point that is equal to the distance to the height of Mount Everest.
Students who are intrigued by the ocean and/or unique animals would love this site, and you can also integrate math with comparisons to other distances. For example the world’s current highest building, the Burj Khalifa, is 828 meters high. When you get to around that depth, you can find Giant Oarfish, which can grow to 11 meters long. Have students brainstorm ocean creatures they know and estimate where they might be found in “The Deep Sea.” To learn more about deep sea creatures that may or may not be on The Deep Sea site, check out this slideshow from the Smithsonian Institute that includes the frightening-but-cute yeti crab.
By the way, Neal Agarwal has a variety of other interactive sites that might interest you here. There’s a 3d “Design the Next iPhone” where you can not only drag and drop components that you want to had, but you can also create a video where your phone is “announced.” If you like the philosophical discussions generated by the classic “Trolley Problem,” try “Absurd Trolley Problems” for some macabre humor. And there’s more! I’m definitely adding his site to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet. Although I must admit, comparing my hourly wage to other on the “Printing Money” site was not quite as fun…
In The Power of Making Thinking Visible (2020), Ron Ritchart and Mark Church detail what they call, “The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden.” I love how this routine really encourages inferencing and systems thinking because students not only discuss the main idea of the image or text they are analyzing, but the routine promotes critical thinking as the students delve deeper into connections and what may be directly and indirectly affecting what appears to be the obvious story. With appropriate scaffolding, the routine can be used with any grade level and any subject (though it may be a stretch to use it in math), though this digital template is best for 3rd grade and up.
I talked about this routine in detail in a post in March, and shared one of the templates I made for a PD on this routine for librarians. This summer, though, I happened to see a template from the one and only Paula at Slides Mania that would work perfectly for this routine. So, I asked her permission to use the template and share it with you. You can find her original template, “Top Secret,” here. (Please go to her link if you want to download the template for anything other than “The Story Routine.”) And here is a link to the version I modified to be used with “The Story Routine.”
I have been collecting all of my resources for digital templates for Visible Thinking Routines in this Wakelet in case you want to see what I’ve posted in the past. If you’re not familiar with Visible Thinking Routines, I definitely recommend reading the book (also the first one in the series), visiting the website, and some of the other links I have in the Google Slides presentation.
The most important thing to remember, in my view, is that these routines are designed to encourage deeper thinking through discussion so, although some of us provide digital resources, they should not be done in isolation. The routines are also what I like to call, “self-differentiating activities” because, by default, they allow students to bring their own individual strengths to the conversations and feel valued.
So, bottom line – more value to the students with less prep time for the teachers. Win/win!
This post is sponsored by Lumio. All opinions are my own.
The best educational technology tools out there are: easy-to-use, engaging, empowering, and elastic. By “elastic” I mean that they have flexibility, which applies not only to the devices on which they can be used but the settings in which teachers would like to use them. Many programs out there, for example, can be great for checking student memory retention with multiple choice questions, but they won’t work for activities that address the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as, “Evaluate,” or “Create.” On the other extreme, you may have an educational technology tool that has an endless number of applications, but it’s incredibly time-consuming to learn how to use it – so it becomes another wasted resource. Lumio, however, separates itself from these polar opposites because it fulfills all four of the essential criteria.
You may recall my initial post, “5 Smart Ways to Engage Your Students with Lumio,” in which I described the versatility of this free digital learning tool suitable for any classroom with student devices. In that article, I wanted to give you an overview of some of Lumio’s features. Today, I’d like to do a deeper dive into Lumio by giving you some concrete examples of how it is: easy-to-use, engaging, empowering, and elastic. To do this, I’d like to demonstrate how simple it is to address any level of Bloom’s Taxonomy with Lumio.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you are a teacher who has just finished reading the novel, Tuck Everlasting, with your students.
Once you’ve finished reading the book, you want to get an up-to-date snapshot of how the students are doing when it comes to remembering the important story details, so you quickly whip up a Monster Quiz because you know it will give you good information and your students thrive on friendly competition.
Following completion of the online quiz, you decide to gather even more information with another quick formative assessment so you can hit the “Understand” level of Bloom’s. You move to the next slide in your presentation, and students are greeted by a Sorting Activity with one container for Angus Tuck and one for The Man in the Yellow Suit. Students show both their understanding of the novel and these two main characters by dragging quotes you’ve selected to the correct options.
After students reflect on how they did on these activities, you are ready to make a plan to continue reviewing with students who may need it, while others can advance through some of the higher levels of Blooms. They can work at their own pace either independently or in groups as they perform Lumio’s Matching Activity to apply what they know and have inferred about the characters. You assign them to match characters from the novel to how they would react in completely different 21st century situations. Which character would most likely spread fake news on social media? Who would be the first volunteer to start a colony on Mars?
So far, these have all been activities where you might expect certain answers, and Lumio’s tools will check them for you and provide results. With the interest of introducing more rigor, you want to design some higher order thinking activities that are more open-ended. You decide to have students discuss and analyze in collaborative groups by providing them the Venn Diagram from Lumio’s set of graphic organizers to compare/contrast two of the characters. Though could be done on paper, having it in Lumio makes it easy to display responses to the whole class so they can debate the responses while using supporting evidence from the novel. You also have a digital record you can refer to later to look for misunderstandings or learning growth.
When you feel like students are prepared to advance to the Bloom’s Level, “Evaluate,” the Lumio Ranking Tool is perfect. One feature of this “elastic” tool is that you can select, “Don’t Check,” when setting up the activity, and you definitely expect and hope for different responses as you ask your students to rank the characters in Tuck Everlasting from the least to most courageous. This will generate enthusiastic discussions in your class as the students defend their choices with examples from the story.
Finally, your students are ready to create. You elect to give them several choices using the Tic-Tac-Toe Board Template in Lumio, including both physical and digital options. Ones that they could do within a self-paced Lumio activity might be: creating Black-Out Poetry with a PDF of a page from the novel you’ve uploaded, creating an advertisment the Man in the Yellow Suit might design for his magical water, or making a scrapbook page for one of the characters using images the students upload with Lumio’s safe-search tool.
As you can see from these examples, Lumio is a robust collaborative learning tool product that allows both teachers and students to work at different levels. From designing the lesson to implementing it and revising as you go along, teachers can set themselves and their students up for success.
Want to begin using Lumio today? It’s free. Click here to get started!
One thing about me that I always made sure my students knew is that I used to hate math. I dreaded it, and my anxiety levels were super high during class and when I did math homework. It wasn’t until I was in high school, where I encountered some amazing math teachers, that I realized I could enjoy math and even look forward to it. To this day, I love discovering exciting math lessons, puzzling websites, and educators who demonstrate a true passion for this subject.
Speaking of the latter, I follow @Howie_Hua on Twitter. Because I’m slowly learning the value of TikTok, I only recently became aware of Howie’s TikTok videos. This is one in particular that I came across a couple of weeks ago that I think my GT students would have delighted in (and not only because he mentions Fibonacci):
Howie has puzzles, math jokes, and more tricks on his TikTok channel here. Whether you’re a math teacher looking for some fun to fill in the spaces between standardized testing and the end of the school year, want some warmups to start class, or just like to play around with math, Howie Hua should definitely be one of your resources.
Two of my favorite picture book authors have teamed up again to produce another non-fiction masterpiece, Swoop and Soar. You may recall the fantastic book by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, Beauty and the Beak, which I reviewed back in 2016. That story related the uplifting journey of an eagle who was given a 3d printed prosthetic after her beak was shot off by poachers. Jane Veltkamp, the raptor biologist who led the team that engineered the new beak (and who has lifetime care of Beauty), returns in Swoop and Soar when a pair of osprey chicks are orphaned by a storm.
Reading about the plight of the chicks and Veltkamp’s clever and science-based plan to find them new parents in the wild is fascinating and suspenseful. Once again, Rose and Veltkamp distinguish their book from other non-fiction by crafting a personal story around the scientific facts, and highlighting it with amazing photography on every page.
Swoop and Soar is an excellent companion to Beauty and the Beak. Both books are perfect for teaching STEM, with compelling narratives and intriguing information about raptors, conservation, and careers in science.