Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Visualistan

Perhaps my interest in the infographics on “Common Mythconceptions” led me to Visualistan, which I bookmarked in my Pocket account awhile ago.  The specific infographic I thought might be useful for my students was, “How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build?

How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build? #infographic

Having time during this Spring Break, though, I found some others that might be of interest in educational settings. For example, if your students are doing animal research, you might want them to take a look at, “Travelling Speeds of Animals,” or “Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom.”

Travelling Speeds of Animals #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Another one that I find intriguing is, “Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World.

Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World #infographic

Like “Common Mythconceptions,” I would not recommend the entire site of Visualistan for elementary students, but single infographics from the site could certainly be used at all levels.  There are many real-life math applications and engaging topics, from “Lego Bedrooms,” to the “Evolution of Video Games.”  You could create your own questions, have students create questions, and eventually allow students to create their own infographics!

Common Mythconceptions

Did you know the Great Wall of China is not visible from space, you can’t kill someone by dropping a penny from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or any other building), and bananas don’t grow on trees?  These are some of the “Common Mythconceptions” you can find on Information is Beautiful.  The visualizations on this page are just a snippet of what you can get in the infographic book titled, Knowledge is Beautiful, but they are fascinating to read.  There are different colors to represent various topics, such as science and sports, and the size of the circular icon for each fact denotes the “virulence of the idea.”

You might not want to set younger student loose on this site, as it does include some sensitive topics.  As an elementary teacher I would use it as a resource for some google search challenges to give my students.  It would be fun to develop a “how certain are you” quiz a-la Russel Tarr with some of the information on the site.

In a world where tsunamis of information overwhelm us every time we turn around, one of the best things we can do for our students is to help them learn how to distinguish the facts from the “mythconceptions.”

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image from: Wikipedia

Your Logical Fallacy Is…

After jumping into a rabbit hole in the form of this article about a recent study showing positive effects related to teaching philosophy to children, I found a website that I wish I’d discovered at least 6 months ago.  Your Logical Fallacy Is… details the erroneous but persuasive arguments that many propagandists use, from politicians to advertisers.  The site makes it quite easy to “call someone out” by offering the tools to identify and share specific logical fallacies through social networks.  Just click on the icon for a particular logical fallacy on the home page, and it will take you to a page describing the fallacy along with an example.  Teachers might also be interested in the free, downloadable poster, which gives short summaries of each of the twenty-four fallacies defined on the site.

In this era of “false news” and an overabundance of information to sift through, teaching our students to think critically is vital.  It’s nice to see studies that suggest that teaching philosophy might improve student performance in areas such as reading and math, but neither of those skills are of much use to students who don’t know how to determine what is valid and what is a smokescreen.

(For more resources on using philosophy in the classroom, you can also read this post and this one.

Logical Fallacies 1
Gosh – I feel like I’ve heard this one recently… image from: Mark Klotz on Flickr

 

Visual Hexagons

When I last posted about Hexagonal Learning, I mentioned an article I had seen about using Visual Hexagons, which I was eager to try.  So, as my 4th grade students are beginning a unit on mathematical masterpieces, I thought I would use Visual Hexagons to introduce the topic.

Not my best decision ever.

Here’s what I did wrong:

  • I put together a bunch of images that most of the students could not identify.  This made it difficult for them to figure out how they were connected.
  • I forgot to put a guiding question on the paper.
  • Some of the connections were a bit too abstract.  (I had a picture of a yellow spiral, which I was hoping they would see as a “Golden Spiral,” and that they would relate that to spirals in nature such as the ones on the pinecone picture I included.)
  • Some of the pictures were unrecognizable – such as the aforementioned pinecone which appeared to most of the students to be an orderly collection of rocks or fish scales.

untitled-design

Did I do anything right?  It depends on what you define as “right.”  And what you define as me doing…

  • I used Canva to make my Visual Hexagons, which made it very simple to pull pictures into the hexagon-shaped image holders.
  • I accidentally printed to the color printer. But that looked better anyway.  So I printed out 4 more.
  • Once the activity got started, I noticed the students were struggling, so I quickly pulled up a backup plan that is a video on Discovery Streaming about nature, math, and beauty.
  • I was trying to decide at what point I should show the video when two men from the district came into the room to replace my wifi – which meant the students couldn’t research on their iPads anymore.
  • I showed the video (effectively damming the stream of students who were now lining up to ask to go to the restroom – a clear sign of a lesson gone awry), which explained nearly all of the pictures and how they related.

As regular readers may note, I generally share things that have worked well in my classroom on this blog, so you can try using those activities as well.  However, I fear that may have given some of you a distorted version of what goes on when I teach.  I have plenty of epic fails.  I like to share the failures that have some sort of potential as long as you avoid all of the pitfalls I seem to have discovered.

Basically, if you learned from reading this that you should always have a backup plan even when you are really excited about a lesson that you are positive will be engaging, I figure my work is done.

But you knew that already, right?

Valentine’s Day Breakout EDU

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  If you teach in any country that annually celebrates this day, then you know that getting your students to focus will probably be somewhat of a challenge.  You might as well join in the fun – in an educational way, of course.  I’ve already posted this year’s list of Valentine’s Day resources, but wanted to let you know that I will be adding these seasonal Breakout Edu games to the list.  “Anti-Love Potion #9” is designed for elementary students, and, “Where in the World is Valentino/Cupid?” targets middle and high schools.  “Holiday Hijinks” connects to a few different holidays, including Valentine’s Day, and can be used with 2nd-6th grades.

If you haven’t registered with Breakout EDU yet, you can go to this page.  Registering is free, and you need to do so in order to get the password that will give you full access to the games.  And, just in case you haven’t read my original post on Breakout EDU, here you go 🙂

vdaymm
image from: Wikimedia

Formative Assessment with Music Lyrics

Even though I really enjoy hearing the conversations that go on when my students do a Hexagonal Learning activity, my students will tell you that the playlist assessment is actually their favorite when it comes to demonstrating their understanding of a novel.  According to them, they enjoy being able to work independently on this assignment, and to really “dig deep” (their words) into the meaning of lyrics as well as the novels we are analyzing.  

Here’s how our playlist assignments work:  I give the students 5 songs to listen to, in addition to the lyrics from each of the songs.  The students are told to choose one song that they think represents the book the best – in other words, if the book were turned into a movie, this song would be a great theme song.  Then they must justify their answers using at least three different lyrics with at least three different examples from the book.  

A couple of notes: 1.) I like to give students choice, so the first couple of years I did this activity, I asked them to bring in their own ideas for songs.  They never did.  I still offer the option to request a song be added, but the students rarely suggest one.  They seem happier with the ones I recommend.  2.) If you choose to do this activity, you will need to “vet” the best way for the students to access the songs.  Podsnack is a nice site for creating playlists, but won’t play when my students log in.  YouTube lyrics videos work for us, using SafeShare, as long as I have approved the videos beforehand.  Another option is to create a station where students can listen to the songs downloaded on an iPad or iPod.

I’ve done this activity with groups of different sizes, and the silence is eerie when everyone puts  on their headphones and get started.  The students are intensely focused on the assignment.  Some take notes on scratch paper before choosing a song.  Others page through their novels as they listen.  I almost feel useless as the students work because they are so incredibly engaged that there is no need for redirection.  Instead, I periodically give them feedback in Google Classroom to encourage them or remark on their interesting ideas.

My 4th graders do this activity with Tuck Everlasting.  My 5th graders do it with The Giver.  I asked my 5th graders this time if I could share a couple of their responses with you, and they agreed.

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If you are interested in using The Giver Playlist Assignment, here is a link to make a copy.  Within that document is a link to the Exemplars that I used with my students to show them the different levels of responses.

I should probably warn you that, once the students do this assignment, they may request to listen to the music while doing other assignments as well.  Some of them get very attached to the songs!

Formative Assessment with Hexagonal Learning

Even though I’ve already mentioned Hexagonal Learning a couple of other times on this blog, it definitely bears repeating.  If you want to listen to your students having rich conversations about a topic and to discover how well they understand something they have read or that you have taught, this activity will deliver.  And, although I can’t make any guarantees, I have always seen complete engagement with Hexagonal Learning – even from introverts and students who have attention difficulties.

You can find details in last year’s post (linked above).  I just completed another round of Hexagonal Learning for Tuck Everlasting with a new class, and was once again blown away by the intensity of the discussions and deliberate care that went into each group’s connections.  My 5th graders, who were last year’s Tuck Everlasting class, also just completed the same assignment with hexagons from The Giver.

Of course, Hexagonal Learning can be used in ways other than analyzing literature.  Russel Tarr has a great post on how he used this idea in history class.  Tarr also gives a link to a post by John Mitchell on Visual Hexagons, which is an interesting twist I would like to try!

tuckhexagons
One group’s interpretation of how to connect the themes, symbols, and characters from Tuck Everlasting