Category Archives: Depth and Complexity

Step Inside with Monster Box

As I’ve been going through some of my “Halloween-ish” posts from previous years, I’ve recognized some updating that needs to be done. (Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for nine years now, and wow, have things changed!) For example, I used to do “Misunderstood Monsters” with my younger students, and many of the resources I mentioned in that post from 2012 are no longer available. Fortunately, the adorable short video, Monster Box, (also on YouTube) is still free and easy to access. When I pondered the changes I might make in a current lesson using this, my mind immediately went to the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero. One routine that I think would be powerful to use with Monster Box would be the “Step Inside” routine. There are three questions students can consider from the perspective of different characters in the video:

What can the person or thing perceive?

What might the person or thing know about or believe?

What might the person or thing care about?

I would have each student choose a character from the video (shopkeeper, young girl, one of the monsters…), and answer those questions with evidence from the story. Another facet that could deepen the discussion would be if the answers to these questions change throughout the story.

You can see some examples of how to use “Step Inside”, and access some templates, from Alice Vigors here.

My previous post included some templates to use if you were discussing Ethics (from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity), and those are still available. I also went ahead and made this new Google Slides activity for the “Step Inside” Thinking Routine with a template from SlidesMania that is free to copy and use. There’s even a slide with monster parts, so students can build their own monster!

Of course, you can extend this activity by creating your own monster paper circuits.

For other posts on Visible Thinking Routines, with links to more templates, check out this Peel the Fruit activity for Google Slides.

Dear Data

This is another example of one of the great internet wormholes that I fall into when I read Twitter.  I was fascinated by a Tweet from Nick Sousanis (@nsousanis), which led me to an amazing book so I could interpret his Tweet, which led me back to the work of his students and a bazillion ways remote learners around the world could have fun with his assignment or other permutations of it.

Let’s start with the book.  Dear Data began as a pen pal project between two information designers on different continents.  As they explain on their website, “Each week, and for a year, we collected and measured a particular type of data about our lives, used this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then dropped the postcard in an English ‘postbox’ (Stefanie) or an American ‘mailbox’ (Giorgia)!”

Each postcard consists of their data and the explanation of its depiction.  The women chose all sorts of topics to record, such as a week of laughter or a week of complaints.  Though they would be collecting data for the same topic during that particular week, their pictograms would be dramatically different.

They learned a lot from this year-long project, which resulted in a book, a postcard kit, and a journal.  As Giorgia and Stefanie explain in this video, “We learned to pay attention, to live in the present much more, to be more aware of our surroundings, and empower behaviors with new lenses.

So, back to Nick Sousanis, who Tweeted that his visual communications students had come up with their own “Dear Data” projects, and gave examples of some of the results in his Tweet.  I asked Nick if I could share these on this blog and he graciously agreed. (You can click on each picture to enlarge.)

I see all kinds of potential for this with students.  For example, one of the Depth and Complexity icons is “Trends,” and it would be interesting to ask students to analyze one of these postcards, and determine what trends they see.  Using, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a great start. In addition, as Nick found with his class, assigning students to develop their own data sets can invite self-reflection and creativity.

During these unique times, when data has become a fixation for much of the world, students can also examine its importance and reliability.  As the women who completed this ambitious project say in their video, “Finally we both realize that data is the beginning of the story, not the end, and should be seen as a starting point for questioning and understanding the world around us instead of seeing it as the definitive answer to all of our questions.”

(For some other fun ideas for looking at data, check out my posts on Slow Reveal Graphs and What’s Going On in This Graph?)

Reflecting with Hexagons

I think that the deepest discussions I ever hear in my classroom happen when we do Hexagonal Thinking.  If you haven’t heard of this strategy, I explain how I use it with my 4th graders in this blog post.  Last year, I did a post on using Hexagonal Thinking to reflect on the school year.  In the past, my 3rd-5th graders have used Hexagonal Thinking.  This year, on a whim, I decided to try it with my 2nd graders.

My 2nd graders have never done an activity like this before.  It was our last day of class together, and I wanted to help them sum up the things they have learned in our Gifted and Talented class this year.  Because they were new to Hexagonal Thinking, I conducted the activity in a slightly different way.

First, I went to this awesome Hexagon Generator, and asked the class to help me brainstorm words that represented things they have learned in GT.  Here is what they came up with:

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I did this right before their recess time, so I could make some quick copies for everyone while they played.

When we got back to the classroom, I paired up the students and gave them the paper.  Now this is where I really departed from my traditional lesson.  Instead of asking them to cut up the hexagons and place them where they wanted on a new sheet of paper, I asked them to make connections between words that were already sharing sides.  We went over a couple of examples so they could understand that I didn’t want them to say things that used the words in the explanation, (such as creativity goes with problem solving because you need to be creative to problem solve) but to think about the qualities that each word shared.

You know how you sometimes come up with an idea right before class and you start executing the idea and realize about 3/4 of the way through explaining it that it was the dumbest idea ever and now you need to figure out how to get through the next 45-minutes without anyone crying – including you?

That’s how I felt as I started monitoring the partner discussions.  Expecting 2nd graders to “go deep” on the last day of class was not a brilliant decision on my part.  There were comments like, “Well, bridges goes with stability because they need to stay up or they will fall down.”  True, but not what I was going for.

And then something kind of magical happened.  I heard partners saying, “No, no, that’s not what she wants.”  And I started reading some of their notes.  And I realized that these kids can think deeper than I can when given the opportunity.

A few of their comments:

  • Stability and Support – “You have to be strong and stand up for your friends.”
  • Creativity and Perspective – “You have to think the way others think to make them happy.”
  • Perseverance and Adaptations – “They both don’t give up trying to survive.”
  • Perseverance and Adaptations – “Sometimes you need to change to work together.”
  • Ethics and Perspectives – “When you don’t look at different points of view, sometimes you get in a fight.”

You can see the working drafts one pair used below.

The great thing about this activity was hearing the students use the vocabulary, like “ethics” and “perspectives” correctly, and being able to tell from their comments if they really understood these topics.

If you still have some time with your students before closing out the year, I definitely recommend this activity!

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Pickle – An Ethics Podcast for Kids

Thanks to Sonya Terborg (@terSonya) sharing a tweet from @FriedEnglish101 this weekend, I discovered Pickle this weekend.  Pickle is an ethics podcast for kids produced by WNYC.  The episodes look to be an average of about 20 minutes, and cover topics like, “Would an Elephant Visit a People Zoo?” and “The Friendship Formula.”

Pickle is hosted by two adults – Shumita Basu and Carl Smith – but they consult the “BrainsTrust” of kids during each episode.  I would guesstimate the target age group for this podcast would be 8 years old and up based on the topics and episode lengths.  It seems ideal for family discussions and enrichment classes, and individual topics could be integrated into curriculum as well.

Pickle currently has only 6 episodes (from December 2017), so I’m not sure what the future holds for this podcast.  According to the website, the original series (wouldn’t that be  Cucumber?) was an Australian Broadcasting Corporation production, Short and Curly, which has a few more episodes to offer on its website.

For more resources on talking about ethics with students, check out Not Just Child’s Play, Kids Philosophy Slam Contest, Teaching Children Philosophy,  and 8-Bit Philosophy (appropriate for secondary students).  Also, I recently posted about using some of the thinkLaw curriculum with my students, which is another great way to bring in ethics and critical thinking into your classroom.ethics-2110589_1920.jpg

National Engineers Week

February 18-24th is National Engineers Week here in the States.  Since my 2nd graders have been studying bridges, we did an activity from the Building Big website, which is still one of my favorite resources when we talk basics about man-made structures.  Yesterday’s activity was one I had never tried with a class before, the Suspension Bridge activity.  Despite prepping everything ahead of time, I went through my normal roller coaster of emotions during the lesson.

Fortunately, all groups eventually got their bridges built, and they were fascinated with the weight the suspension bridges could carry compared to the beam bridges.  I would definitely do this activity again for the wow factor!

For more resources to teach your students about engineering, you can head on over to Discovere.org.  I’ve also embedded an awesome video from the National Science Foundation called, “What is Engineering?”

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Wonder Hyperdoc

If you haven’t been formally introduced to Hyperdocs, you may want to check out this post from last year.  Michele Waggoner tweeted out a link this week to an incredible Hyperdoc using Google Slides.  The Hyperdoc is to be used for a literature circle activity based on the book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.  It embeds Depth and Complexity into this collaborative presentation using David Chung’s ideas for literature circle frames.  This doc is 139 slides long, and gives students many opportunities to do meaningful reflections, activities, and discussions.  It looks like Michele put weeks of work into preparing this, and I, for one, am grateful she is sharing it with the world!

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slide from Michele Waggoner’s Hyperdoc