Tug of War Thinking Routine

Tug of War

I want to start today’s post by thanking the NEISD GT teachers who attended yesterday’s after-school training. Many of them came even though they then needed to go back to other campuses to attend PTA meetings. Despite the extra long work day, their enthusiasm and cooperation were amazing. Yesterday’s session was, “Frameworks for Facilitating Deeper Discussions and Learning,” which you can read about on my Professional Development page.

One of the Visible Thinking Routines we practiced yesterday was “Tug of War.” We used an example from the original Making Thinking Visible book by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. In the “Picture of Practice” for this routine, Clair Taglauer, an 8th grade teacher from Traverse City, Michigan, describes how she used “Tug of War” with her students when they began reading The Giver. This is a book used with 5th graders by many of the GT teachers in my former district. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, describes a dystopian society where as much as possible is “the same” to avoid conflict. Taglauer asked her students to think about the concept of an ideal society from the two opposing sides represented in the book: sameness and diversity. With this routine, students generate arguments that support each side, and then post them along a rope. A key part of the second step is placement of the ideas along the rope. Instead of just hanging them on each side, groups also determine the strength of each argument and rank them so that what they believe to be the strongest supporting statements for each side are at the opposite ends of the rope, growing increasingly weaker toward the middle.

“Tug of War” helps students to not only look at more than one side of a dilemma, but also to note the varying layers of complexities and justify their arguments. It’s a good routine to use whenever it seems like students are jumping to conclusions, and you can have multiple ropes coming together at one point if there are several sides to consider.

You can see one example of the “Tug of War” the GT teachers did yesterday below. (Note for those of you not from Texas: HEB is our beloved grocery store!) You can learn more about this Visible Thinking Routine by reading the book I mentioned above, visiting the Project Zero website, or clicking here for some videos and a downloadable template. I’m working on a Wakelet collection of resources for Thinking Routines, but in the meantime you can click here to see some other posts that I’ve done about them.

Tug of War Visible Thinking Routine
“Tug of War” Visible Thinking Routine using The Giver
assorted books on shelf

Two More Anti-Racism Resources

I wanted to let you know that I’ve added two more resources to my Anti-Racism Wakelet. One of them is a link to a HyperDocs blog post, where Sarah Landis shares resources that include a set of Hyperdocs for teaching students about identity. The resources are based on the Social Justice Standards from Learning for Justice, and would be a great way to begin the school year.

The other link I just bookmarked on the Wakelet is the Diverse BookFinder Tool, which was recognized as the 2021 Best Digital Tool by the American Association of School Librarians.

photo of woman reading book
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com
3d printed boat

Rob’s Tinkercad Classroom

Rob Morrill is a Innovation Lab teacher who was invited by Tinkercad this summer to write regular blog posts about projects he has done with students. You can read more about Rob’s experience and expertise in his introductory post. One way to keep track of the projects he adds is to visit this page, which is a “roundup” of all of the posts he has published so far. You can also visit Rob’s website. I’ve been wanting to try a lithophane project, and now I’m even more inspired after seeing his instructions and examples.

In case you’ve missed it, Tinkercad is one of my absolute favorite entry-level design programs (and it’s free!) that I discovered when our school got its first 3d printer. It keeps improving, and you can move from simple designs to really complex ones to accommodate all abilities. Here is a post I did at the end of last year about Tinkercad Design Slams. It’s also one of my recommended online tools to help students develop their spatial reasoning. You can integrate so many parts of your curriculum (especially math) into Tinkercad projects, as well as develop creativity and that Design Thinking mindset. Even if you don’t have a 3d printer (see my post on questions to consider if you are thinking of acquiring one), students love to show off their Tinkercad designs virtually, and they can be exported into other programs. For more ideas on using Tinkercad with Design Thinking, see this post on the City X book.

By the way, Tinkercad has a teacher dashboard that you can use, where you can add classes, students, and assignments. And, did I mention it’s free?!!! Don’t worry if you haven’t used it before. They’ve got you covered with their tutorials, and your students will help each other out. (Mine invariably discovered something I didn’t know about the program every time they used it.)

Thanks to Rob for sharing his innovative ideas!

Assessing with Multiple Choices Instead of Multiple Choice

My newest post for NEO is all about empowering students with choices to “show what they know.” In the article, I make the case against multiple choice assessments, which: often make it easy for students to cheat, rarely allow students to demonstrate deeper knowledge, and aren’t authentic windows into student ability. I give some suggestions for other ways to learn whether your students have mastered a skill — and you may be surprised at the time you will save on reteaching and retesting in your classroom if you adopt some of these methods.

All of my NEO articles can be found here, and you can see a list of my published articles, including some that I’ve appeared in as “an expert,” here. I also continue to add to my public collection of free resources on Wakelet, which you can follow here.

handwritten hands people woman
Photo by Andy Barbour on Pexels.com

Dot Day 2021

Sometimes I look at my blog stats and notice that a particular post has suddenly become popular and I have no idea why. Then I re-visit the post (usually one that is years old) and realize that half of the links don’t work anymore. So, I try to update it just in case more people end up reading it for whatever obscure reason. However, since the post I noticed today is from 2014, and Dot Day is actually an annual event, I thought it might be about time to write a new Dot Day post.

International Dot Day began in 2009, and was inspired by The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Similar to the Global Cardboard Challenge, Dot Day is a celebration of creativity and innovation. You can learn more about its origins and download free resources here. As the website states, Dot Day is generally celebrated “September 15-ish.”

Most of my links from 2014 and other past posts do not work any longer, but here are some that still exist:

And here are some new ones I found with a bit of digging today:

I should note for new readers that it’s unusual for me to be nearly a month ahead when it comes to blogging about special events, so it’s best not to expect this to become a habit!

pink and red polka dot pattern artwork
Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

From CRT to RCT

With all of the controversy about Critical Race Theory in the news (see this explanation if you would like to learn more), Colin Seale of ThinkLaw has recorded a video that reminds us that we are once again fixated on the wrong issue when it comes to educating our children. Instead of worrying about what information students are getting in our schools, we should be concerned about whether or not we are helping young people learn how to think independently. In other words, let’s switch the narrative from Critical Race Theory (CRT) to Raising Critical Thinkers (RCT). I don’t know one parent who would want his or her child to grow up “gullible.” So, let’s teach our students how to be curious, ask questions, look at topics from multiple perspectives, and weigh the reliability of information. Watch and read about Seale’s video here, and consider that the most oppressive governments in history have been the ones who have actively discouraged critical thinking by restricting access to information and establishing strict educational curriculums that allow for no divergence of ideas. We can make sure this never happens while maintaining the uniqueness and diverseness of our nation by raising critical thinkers.

For more Anti-Racist posts, be sure to check out this Wakelet and feel free to follow all of my free collections here.

Quote from Martin Luther King Jr. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.