Students sitting on the grass in a circle
3-12, Critical Thinking, Games, Gamification, Teaching Tools

Socratic Smackdown

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:

Rules for “Socratic Smackdown” from Institute of Play

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.

a white paper in a vintage typewriter
Apps, Critical Thinking, Teaching Tools, Videos

Update on TikTok Thoughts

I want to thank those of you who filled out the form and/or commented on my post asking for your thoughts on TikTok. Though it definitely was not a very scientific survey, it did give me some idea on how some of you feel about this app, and I can tell that there is at least some mild interest — as well as some concern.

I want to address the concerns first. We know that TikTok has been used with ill-intentions by some. Whether it’s to share inappropriate things or to urge students to perpetrate harmful pranks, I think that all of you reading this right now would agree that those are unacceptable. But I also think we know that every social media platform out there as been abused for nefarious purposes. At this point, my current curiosity is not about impressionable young minds using TikTok, just about those of us who are adults using it as another way to share teaching ideas.

Another valid concern is that TikTok is “spying” on its users. Quite frankly, just about anything on the internet and our smart phones is mining information about us, and we only have some measure of control over how much privacy we have. Here is a good, recent article from Business Insider that seems like a well-balanced approach to understanding TikTok’s relative risk. It also gives tips for minimizing the risk using the app’s privacy settings. There are definitely no guarantees, but I think our first line of defense is to never overshare, regardless of the platform we are using.

unrecognizable hacker with smartphone typing on laptop at desk
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

We often discussed the ethics of technology in my GT class, and the conclusion we always came to is that technology is just like knowledge in general because the sum benefits depend greatly on the users. I am personally choosing to use TikTok to be inspired by other educators, so I will take precautions but not boycott it because of some people who have maliciously exploited it.

There were a few of you who expressed an interest in TikTok, but you weren’t sure how to get started. I did a hunt for the best guide to getting started, and I like this one because, unlike many other articles, it does not assume you are just trying to find out how to post content on TikTok. It’s great for people like me who just want to “lurk” and get a feel for the app by watching other videos. I’d advise this article to get your account set up and start watching videos, and then the Business Insider article I linked above to adjust your privacy settings.

I asked for some recommendations of accounts on TikTok to follow for education-related videos, and here were some of the suggestions: mschanggifted, tiktokteachertips, and josiebensko. In addition to those I’m also following: strategicclassroom, randazzled, readitwriteitlearnit, and mr.kylecohen. And I’m finding more every day, so you can follow me at engagetheirminds on TikTok if you’d like to start seeing videos that I share. (I’m still debating if I will create my own content, so the ones I share from now will be from other people.)

Ok, I think I’ve figured out how to embed TikTok videos on this site, so I’m going to try this one from mr.kylecohen about the game, “Pancake or Waffle.” I’d love to hear from you if you try this with your students!

@mr.kylecohen Pancake or waffle? #teacher #teachersoftiktok #teacherlife ♬ Spongebob Tomfoolery – Dante9k Remix – David Snell
picture of hand taking notes on a piece of paper
Critical Thinking, Depth and Complexity, K-12

+1 Routine for Retrieval Practice

Are you ready to try something that requires ZERO preparation in your classroom, something that scientific studies have shown will help your students to retain information? It’s called, “Retrieval Practice,” and you can read a fascinating article about it on Cult of Pedagogy, or listen to the podcast also linked on that page. Dr. Pooja Agarwal explains how retrieval practice works and its benefits. You can also go to Dr. Agarwal’s website for more resources here.

Here’s the thing: you’re probably already doing retrieval practice in your classroom. Quizzes, flashcards, study guides, etc… are all ways we ask students to remember something they learned. One problem is that we are usually using these as assessments (retrieval practice should never be graded, but feedback is good) instead of learning strategies. Another issue is that we are often “feeding” students the information instead of asking them to produce it. Also, we don’t do enough of it in spaced out intervals to help solidify the learning.

Here is the key reason effective retrieval practice works, according to the Retrieval Practice Guide which you can download from Dr. Agarwal’s site: “Struggling to learn – through the act of ‘practicing’ what you know and recalling information – is much more effective than re-reading, taking notes, or listening to lectures. Slower, effortful retrieval leads to long-term learning. In contrast, fast, easy strategies only lead to short-term learning.”

So, today I wanted to share one Visible Thinking Routine that will help you to do retrieval practice. It’s called the +1 Routine, and appears in The Power of Making Thinking Visible, by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church.

Next time you are showing a video, giving a presentation, or just delivering a lesson, refrain from asking the students to take notes during that time. Instead, ask your students to do the following steps afterward. All they need is a blank piece of paper (or notebook page) and a writing utensil. Have them write their name at the top.

This routine has several benefits. First, students are encouraged to be present during the video, lesson, etc… instead of trying to multi-task by listening and writing at the same time. Second, this is a “slower” and “more effortful” way to recall information, so it has a better chance of ending up in their long-term memory. Third, they are collaborating, so they can take advantage of the “hive mind.” And finally, this is an opportunity to clear up misconceptions.

You can use this as an exit ticket (no grade, though) after the lesson, but it’s also important to space it out, repeating the exercise a few times over the next month or so leading to a summative assessment.

I recently tried this routine at a teacher workshop, and several teachers said they plan to use it with their own students. (By the way, sketch notes are encouraged, which really appeals to some of the creative students.) We giggled (in a nice, supportive way — let’s just say that I introduced the SDG’s, not STD’s) at some of the misconceptions, and it was such a great way, that took 15 minutes max, to close out the session.

For more on Visible Thinking Routines, I highly encourage you to purchase The Power of Making Thinking Visible, visit the Toolbox from Harvard’s Project Zero, and/or visit my Wakelet Collection of other blog posts and free templates.

Dice
3-12, Critical Thinking, Games, Math, Problem Solving

Puzzles and Games from Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival

The Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, which held its first event in 2007, was named after a famous mathematician. Though the festival was partially sidelined due to Covid a couple of years ago, it continued with virtual events, and it looks like it has some upcoming activities. If you are unable to attend in person, though, you can still participate by playing one of the many online games, or even downloading one of the free, printable booklets. The games include some classics, like River Crossings, and Tower of Hanoi, but there are plenty of others that will likely be new to you and your students. One very helpful feature you will find is that the instructions to each game are on Google Slide presentations, with links to the online game, and an option for Spanish instructions.

I’ll be adding this link to two of my collections: Brainteasers and Puzzles and Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep. Got advanced learners? This would be great for them! Early finishers? Students with math anxiety who need to see it can be fun? A little extra time at the end of class or a much-needed break from test prep? These are all good occasions to check out the JRMF site!

Critical Thinking, Games, K-12, Language Arts

Spellie

Yesterday, I landed on the goldmine of Wordle blog posts. I thought I had collected most of the Wordle variations, and then I read this post by Jacob Cohen. After adding most of the links in his post, I ended up with 54 Wordle-type games in my Wakelet collection (I think I had something like 36 before). There are sudoku and crossword versions, a Morse code version, and several that I think will make my brain explode if I try them. Since my blog audience is mostly teachers, I was conscious as I added each link of whether or not it might be good for the classroom. Most of them definitely appeal to very niche audiences, but when I saw Spellie I realized I needed to spread the word.

Spellie is designed for children, or perhaps people trying to learn the English language. It has three modes: easy, medium, hard. According to the rule page, “The easy puzzle uses short words within the Grade 2 vocabulary. The hard mode is challenging, but uses words within the Grade 5 vocabulary.” Easy mode has 4 letter words, while the other two have 5.

I will admit right now that I was completely humiliated by the easy mode. And, trust me, it was not a difficult word.

Terri is no good at Spellie

In my defense, I had gotten sidetracked by another game Cohen suggested (that I’ll be blogging about tomorrow), and my brain seemed to have difficulty changing modes.

Back to Spellie, you can collect little emojis as you guess words, which is a fun bonus.

As a reminder, for those of you wanting to bring Wordle into the classroom, don’t forget there is a Flippity version where you can customize your list with your own words. You can also customize Spello with your own lists, and it will read a word out loud, so students can try to guess the correct spelling.

You can find all of these and more on my Wordle Variations Wakelet. Want to get updates and see my other public collections? Visit this page.

Books, Critical Thinking, K-12, Student Response

The Story Routine: Main–Side–Hidden

Last month I had the honor of working with our local NEISD librarians during a PD on one of the newer Visible Thinking Routines, “The Story Routine: Main–Side–Hidden.” Visible Thinking Routines appear frequently on my blog because I really believe in the way they help teachers to facilitate rich discussions among their students. These routines, compiled by Harvard’s Project Zero research team, are detailed in two books (see image links) and on several websites, including this one.

“The Story Routine” appears in the most recent book, The Power of Making Thinking Visible, by Ron Ritchart and Mark Church. The purpose of the routine is to analyze events, photos, stories, documents, etc… by constructing a story beyond the obvious. The routine can be applied to fiction, non-fiction, data in math, primary sources in history, and many other situations. There is even an example in the book where a counselor uses the routine with a young boy who is having trouble at home.

“The Story Routine” may have different prompts depending on the context. Some examples are:

  • “What is the main message of this story?” (What does the author want you to think?)
  • “What is a side message of this story?” (Maybe something not as important, but still something the author wants to get across)
  • “What is a hidden theme in this story?” (Maybe something that contributes to the theme but is never actually mentioned)
  • “What is the main message of this graph?” (What information does the graph give you?”)
  • “What is a side message of this graph?” (Maybe how does this graph fit into a larger context?”)
  • “What is a hidden message in this graph? (Maybe what are some unspoken contributing factors that could have skewed or contributed to the graph’s meaning?)

There are endless possibilities, and you can adapt it to different ages, abilities, and topics. The point is that you want students to make inferences, look at things from other perspectives, and apply a systems thinking outlook that acknowledges that nothing exists in a vacuum. Peer discussions are critical and it is also essential to accept multiple answers as long as students can support them. For those of you who use Socratic Dialogues in your classrooms, this routine would work very well. Otherwise, whole class and small group conversations can be used.

I made a few different digital templates for the PD that I did, and I thought I would share one with you here. You could certainly use it for other things besides this Visible Thinking Routine, but I designed it as a Google Slides presentation that could be used in groups in your classroom and then presented to the whole class with the fun interactivity of using a magnifying glass at the end to display the “hidden” message.

It’s impossible to explain the routine in depth in a short blog post, so I encourage you to read the unit in the book. If that isn’t feasible, Alice Vigors does a good job of offering examples here, and, of course I’d be happy to do a PD for your district or group on it;) I’ve also started a new Wakelet collection where you can find my other Visible Thinking blog posts, many of which have downloadable templates.