The “How Learning Happens” series on Edutopia has a set of videos that show teachers in action as they model simple – but powerful – strategies for learners of all ages. One of the more recent posts is, “Inviting Participation with Thumbs-Up Responses.” This no-tech strategy where students show their thumbs-up/down answers at their belly instead of high up in the air helps learners to feel safe while giving the teacher instant formative feedback on their understanding of the lesson. Having gone from teaching where my students practically fought each other to speak to me to an environment where I hear crickets after every question, I loved watching this caring teacher show us how to encourage students to engage without fear. Student response apps are great, but sometimes we just need a quick way to gauge what our students are thinking.
There aren’t any fancy graphics on this video, but I love the message that Katie Correll gives in this short presentation. I keep trying to convince my students that engineering is so much more than math and science, that’s it’s not just about following formulas and rules but about learning how to use them to innovate and sometimes even break those rules. One of my students pointed out that Katie’s message about thinking outside of the box to problem solve can really apply to anyone – not just engineers.
As seasoned readers may know, I have always been intrigued by the beauty of math. (See here, here, or here for some examples.) Now that my job title is S.T.E.A.M. Master Teacher, I have been looking even more for ideas on how to integrate math and art.
Math Craft is a great place to start. From mathematical knitting to Sierpinski Christmas trees, there is no shortage of inspiration on this site (though it is a bit heavy on polyhedrons). Not every post gives you instructions, as some of them feature work by professional artists – but you could always pose the question to your students, “How do you think they made this?” They may end up making something completely different, but equally as beautiful, along the way.
I have students in various grade levels working on design projects this year, and it only seemed right that they would give each other feedback. The 4th and 5th graders were working on designing video games, and the 8th-12th grade engineering students were more than happy to play the games and critique them. My two periods of engineering students are designing a playground for the 4/5 students, so it seemed only fair that the younger students give the older ones input on something that would ultimately impact them. Finally, I had the engineering students give feedback to their contemporaries (in opposite classes).
In the past I’ve used graphic organizers like, “Two Stars and a Wish,” or Glows and Grows, or deBono’s Thinking Hats. The most success I’ve had is using Thinking Hats, but even then the feedback is often vague.
Sonya Terborg recently did a post on a tool called, “The Ladder of Feedback,” and I decided to try it with my older students. It has been, by far, the most successful peer feedback tool that I have seen in the classroom. The steps on the ladder help students to consider a project more deeply, and the sentence stems were perfect prompts for the students to consider at each stage.
Sonya also mentions some other resources in her post, including a Mind/Shift post that has practical suggestions on how to guide your students through the process of crafting meaningful feedback.
If you ever wondered the age that students need to be in order to give constructive feedback to each other, Austin’s Butterfly will show you how even young children, once they have had some practice, can positively influence the outcome of a peer’s project.
One piece of advice from this article on TeachThought that I intend to use the next time we do peer reviews is to give feedback on the feedback. This may also encourage the students to be thoughtful on future critiques – a valuable skill in a school that focuses on Project Based Learning.
Colleen Graves (@gravescolleen) shared some pictures on Twitter a few days ago that showed prototypes she was making of a library data tracker and a classroom exit ticket tracker. Both use the Makey Makey along with some minimal Scratch programming. I begged for some more details, and she has released the instructions here. (That sentence makes it sound like she only published the directions because I asked, but I’m pretty sure the two events just happened in chronological order because Colleen planned it that way – not because I have the power to demand anyone to explain things in detail just so I can copy their ideas.)
I’m hesitating to recommend any more games because it was recently brought to my attention that a card game I reviewed in January now costs $899 on Amazon. I know I don’t have a degree in Economics, but I only paid $20 for it 6 months ago, and unless this game is somehow disguising a Bitcoin laundering scheme, I’m not sure why it climbed in price by 4500%.
The game in question, Mockups, is good for practicing Design Thinking. If that is what you are looking for, you may want to go a less pricier route by checking out Disruptus, also good for Design Thinking practice – and about $874 less than Mockups at the moment.
Or, you could download Dialogo for free. It’s not really a Design Thinking game, but at least you don’t have to pawn your motorcycle to acquire it.
Dialogo is a product from the KAICIID Center. According to its website, the organization “is an intergovernmental organization whose mandate is to promote the use of dialogue globally to prevent and resolve conflict to enhance understanding and cooperation.” The free download is available in 5 different languages, and includes a printable gameboard, instructions, and cards.
Dialogo is meant to be used for encouraging discussion of a particular topic. The game offers creative, probing questions that can be used for just about any subject. There are also suggestions for reflecting on and facilitating the conversation. Though the age suggestion is for 10 and up, I think it could be used with younger students with a bit of practice.
So, download Dialogo now, whether you think you can use it or not, before it gets listed for $1000 or something ridiculous. Good group conversations are priceless – and should stay that way.