When you can give students time to deeply discuss a text, you may be surprised by the connections and conclusions they make on their own. This is the purpose of “Hexagonal Learning.” You can read more about the origins and many uses of Hexagonal Learning in a blog post I wrote 4 years ago on the topic. (I can’t believe it has been that long!!)
When my gifted fourth graders completed Tuck Everlasting, I wanted to facilitate a rich and meaningful discussion about the novel. Ahead of time, I visited Pam Hook’s SOLO Hexagon Generator and created 3 pages of terms from Tuck. One sheet included a character’s name in each hexagon. The 2nd sheet, printed on a different color, had one of the book’s themes in each hexagon, and the 3rd sheet, also printed on a different color, had symbols from the book. I also printed a 4th sheet as a blank, so students could add more words to hexagons.
The task for the students was to connect the hexagons in as many ways as they could. Having learned about tessellations, they already knew how easily several could connect together. I explained that I was looking for “deep” connections, not something like putting two characters together because they were both boys. Then, I split the students into small groups, and gave each group a set of the hexagons and a long piece of paper to slide them around on. Then I “hovered” so I could listen to their conversations.
The first thing I noticed was that they stayed completely on task, and took the discussion very seriously. They got very excited when they were able to put several hexagons around one central word. When I worried that there wasn’t really a meaningful connection, they were quick to explain to me what I had been missing. The groups had completely different conversations, and their final “hives” took on dissimilar shapes.
At the end, the students looked at each other’s collections, and asked questions to clarify. Their faces would change from perplexed or slightly critical to understanding and, sometimes, even admiration for the unique connections.
I feel like this was definitely a better way for the students to make sense of the book we read than if I had lectured them about it. In fact, I may have learned a few things about Tuck Everlasting from listening to them that I’d never considered before! (Click on images to enlarge.)