Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Project Zero Thinking Routines

UPDATE 3/30/2020:  Here is a link to a video where Smithsonian educators demonstrate use of the Thinking Routines with a piece of artwork.

You would have to drill down a bit into these resources that I posted about from the Smithsonian for “A Woman’s Place” to find this excellent compilation of Thinking Routines from Harvard’s Project Zero, so I thought I would give this page of free downloads its very own post.  Although the routines are specifically aimed toward discussing works of art, you will quickly see that these questions are adaptable to many different situations, and that they will elicit deep thought about any topic.  One of my favorite Visible Thinking Routines is 3-2-1 Bridge (here is a post I did on that, which includes a free template).

I also like the: Artful, Global, and Agency by Design Thinking Routines that are included on this page.  For example, I’ve added one of the Global cards below.  Imagine applying these questions to the current pandemic, and what answers you might receive from your students!  Some might find literal beauty in the microscopic image of the virus, while others may see the beauty of human nature being revealed as people jump in to help their communities.

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If you are preparing curriculum for distance learning, I hope that you will consider adding some of these to get a more detailed understanding of the thoughts your students are having while they learn.

A Woman’s Place

Anne Showalter, who works at the Smithsonian American Art Museum has created this resource for educators, “A Woman’s Place is in the Curriculum: Teaching Women’s History Through American Art and Portraiture,” a wonderful compilation to use for Women’s History Month from the Smithsonian Learning Lab.  There are three Learning Lab Collections that are free to use: “Persisting and Resisting: Exploring Women as Activists,” “Who Tells Your Story: Exploring Women and Identity,” and “Remaking the Rules: Exploring Women Who Broke Barriers.”

(You can find out more about Smithsonian’s Learning Lab here.)

Each collection contains images and artwork for the theme, as well as a webinar for each topic.  The webinars were done live late last year, but you can watch the archived videos to get ideas for discussion and background information about the assets provided in the collection.  “Exploring Women Who Broke Barriers” has a Powerpoint Presentation from the Webinar here.  “Persisting and Resisting’s” Powerpoint can be found here. I might have missed it, but I do not see one for “Who Tells Your Story.”

I like how the presentations give ideas for using Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero in to develop deep discussions about the artwork.  (You can see some other posts I’ve done about using a couple of these routines here and here.)

Since it’s Women’s History Month in the United States, you may want to consider adding at least portions of these to your curriculum for March.  But I think you will see that there are enough resources to make for enriched learning throughout the year!

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Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Sun Mad.” Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, 2 Nov. 2015. learninglab.si.edu/q/r/166274. Accessed 5 Mar. 2020.

 

Bot or Not?

Since tomorrow is “Super Tuesday”, secondary teachers may want to take advantage of the resource from PBS Learning Media called, “Bot or Not? How Fake Social Media Accounts Could Influence Voting.”  This lesson plan includes a link to a 6-minute PBS News Hour video that explains how bots have been used in the past in social media – from making someone appear more popular to generating fake accounts that spread particular political agendas.  Students are directed to a website that will analyze Twitter accounts to determine the likeliness of whether or not a user and/or their followers are bots. (I checked my own account, and discovered that I score a 0.3 out of 5 in bot-potential.)  For their final project, students research issues that are meaningful to them, and invent their own “helper bot” to advocate for their selected issues.

The majority of your students are probably not current voter, but they most likely use social media.  They may find it eye-opening to see how easy it is to purchase followers to mislead people about your popularity, and the extent to which bots are being used for propaganda.  As Artificial Intelligence becomes more ubiquitous, it will become harder and harder to distinguish between real and fake accounts.  If nothing else, this lesson will hopefully inspire your students to approach social media with a dose of cynicism.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Slow Reveal Graphs

If you are a fan of helping students learn how to be critical thinkers, then you will appreciate the Slow Reveal Graphs site.   Rather than presenting a full graph to students and asking them to interpret it, teachers use Slow Reveal Graphs to allow the students to discuss, think, wonder, and predict as each stage of the graph is shown – hopefully resulting in deeper learning.  (This technique is similar to the one used in the New York Times’ “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature.) Courtesy of Jenna Laib (@jennalaib) and other contributors, The Slow Reveal Graphs website has examples of different types of graphs (Circle, Bar,  Line, etc…), many of which have links to slide decks that have already been created for the slow reveal.  “How Long Can Animals Hold Their Breath Underwater?“, for example, begins with a bar graph that has no title or labels and incrementally adds them as you advance each slide.  The slides also have suggested discussion questions in the notes.

In case you are thinking this site will only appeal to math teachers, I should note that there are three special categories of Slow Reveal Graphs: Social Justice, Save the Planet, and Incarceration in the U.S.  Of course, any of the graphs on the site can be used in multiple subjects, including ELA.

To read more about how Slow Reveal Graphs are used in classrooms, from primary to high school, visit this list of bloggers who have written about SRG’s in the past.

If you like SRG’s, consider trying Clothesline Math and Would You Rather? Math.  One of my most popular posts, 15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep, has examples of these and more. Also, follow the #mtbos hashtag on Twitter for more great math teaching strategies!

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Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

 

Chess Resources

A friend of mine asked for some chess resources to use with her after-school chess club (elementary-aged), and I thought I would share the ones that I was able to curate.  If you have any other suggestions (other than sites where you can play chess online), please comment below.

The game that I like to use to introduce how the chess pieces move is Tic Tac Chec.  I just did a search on my blog, and I can’t believe that I’ve never posted about this game before.  I used to use it with my Kinder and 1st graders all of the time, and they quickly picked it up.  The game board is a wooden 4×4 grid, and the two players each get 4 different chess pieces, one of which they can place or move during their turns.  The object is to get 4 of your pieces in a row.  If you are captured, you can use your next move to put your piece back on the board.  It’s fun to watch the students keep capturing each other, and finally realizing no one can win if that’s all you do!

Solitaire Chess is another game for practicing chess movements without playing the actual game.  This one-player game offers scaffolded challenges that show pictures of a 4×4 chess board set up with some pieces.  Your goal is to figure out how to move the pieces so that only one is left.  Each move must be a “legal” capture.  You can also play Solitaire Chess online (make sure you have Flash enabled on your computer), and there is a video tutorial.

Here are some other online chess challenges:

UIL Texas has this printable packet of mini-games for teaching chess.

For videos, don’t forget the inspirational one, The Magic of Chess, that I shared a couple of weeks ago.  Also, Kids Academy has a series of animated videos on YouTube, beginning with Getting to Know the Game.

Want to use chess for an integrated lesson, where students design their own chess pieces and/or boards?  This is a great lesson plan from Scopes-DF.

If you aren’t convinced of the educational benefits of teaching chess to young children, this article may help you to learn more!

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

STEM Cookbook

Who says that Robotics can’t be tasty?  If you believe that, then the L’Essor Secondary School Robotics Team, Team 6331 SaBOTage, would disagree with you.  The team has produced a downloadable STEM book of recipes titled, appropriately, How to SaBOTage Your Kitchen. The students researched and published this guide to preparing delicious dishes. It includes scientific health tips and explanations, and has recipes that will appeal to a variety of taste buds, ranging from “Big Bang Caramel Popcorn” to “Exploding Bacon Pulled Pork.”  To learn more about this FIRST Robotics team, located in Canada, you can visit their Robotics website.  This unusual perspective on how STEM can even enhance our cooking is a great resource for families and students who may have a more narrow view when it comes to the usefulness of math and science in their everyday lives.

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Daily STEM

Chris Woods (@DailyStem) tweets STEM challenges each day.  Even if you are not a Twitter advocate you can go to his website and download his weekly STEM newsletters for free.  There is an archive of at least 30 newsletters on this page.  Each one-pager has a puzzle, a mystery photo, and other short STEM articles that often have links to learn more about the topics.  The articles are perfectly bite-sized previews about different ways that we see STEM all around us, and are often timely (such as this one that shares how candy can be looked at through a STEM perspective – right in time for Valentine’s Day).  They would be great to post in your classroom, send home to families, or to comb through for awesome lesson ideas.

While you are visiting the Daily Stem website, go to the Resources Page for STEM movies along with project suggestions for each movie, as well as the Podcast Page for dozens of interviews with educators and other STEM experts.

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Image by LisaBMarshall from Pixabay