To continue this week’s theme of year-end activities to use with students, I want to remind you of this blog post from 2016. We used “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe” quite a bit in my class to analyze and synthesize learning, and the open-ended prompts work very well for an end-of-year reflection for upper elementary students. The game comes from Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero, but you can see what the Tic-Tac-Toe game looks like if you go to page 24 at this link. I explain how I used it for reflection in my 2016 blog post, but you will probably find that you can modify it for lots of curriculum ideas. It’s one more way you can still learn and have fun once the year begins to wind down.
If you really want to take your feedback, reflections, critiques, etc… to a whole new level, you should consider using these IDEO Lifeline Cards. I haven’t used them with my students yet, but just asking myself the questions made me think about my own work differently. The cards are free (and quite beautiful), so download them while you can. Even if the questions are a bit too high level for your particular student age group, applying them to your own life is an intriguing exercise and may give you some insight you have never considered.
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:
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!
This is a reblog of a post that I did a couple of years ago, but it was originally titled, “Alternatives to Showing the Movie Frozen for the Next 14 Days.” Since that movie is kind of over now, I came up with a more fitting title for my recycled material 😉
You know how it goes. Grades are turned in. Textbooks have been collected. The computer lab is shut down. But the activity level of our students has gone up. What’s a teacher supposed to do?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been trying to get my students to reflect on the year. Using our class blog as a reference has helped tremendously.
Yesterday, with my GT 1st graders, I also asked them to look through the blog posts for their grade level. They used a simple printable I found from Laura Candler to write their favorite moments of the year. Here are some examples:
Using divergent thinking for activities like the Squiggle Challenge and S.C.A.M.P.E.R. were very popular with this class. Speaking of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., here is what some of them did with a page from my Summer Pool Party S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet – Put an inflatable pool cushion to another use. (By the way, all of my grade levels, K-5, love doing S.C.A.M.P.E.R. drawings!)
One of the blog posts the first graders “re-discovered” as they reflected was this one. Try showing the Kid President video at the bottom of that post, and see if your own students can add to the list. We used Padlet, but old-fashioned pencil and paper works, too!
Here are some other ideas from past posts for making the last couple of weeks fun and engaging:
- Some More Activities for the End of the School Year
- More Aurasma Ideas – Great for the End of the School Year
- Journal Pages for Kids
I would also recommend checking out the Not Just Child’s Play blog by Joelle Trayers for ideas. That woman always has creative suggestions that can be modified for any elementary grade level!
One of the things I wanted to try this year was to ask my students to do hexagonal thinking as they reflected over what they had learned. Since my 4th graders had already done some hexagonal thinking this year, I thought they might like to experiment with this activity.
First, they visited our class blog where I have been posting pictures from throughout the year. I showed them how to filter the categories to find all of the blog posts from their class. Then they chose pictures that were meaningful to them and saved them to their home drives.
After choosing 4-5 pictures, the students signed in to my account on Canva, and created their own blank “A4” projects. Once the project opened, they were directed to use the search window to find a hexagon frame. In Canva, frames have a cloud and blue sky in them.
What I like about frames is that you can drag pictures into them, and they will take the shape of the frame without overlapping.
After the students added a hexagon frame, they resized it and copied it so several could fit on one page. Once their frames were arranged, they uploaded their pictures and set them in the frames. Then they used text designs to explain the connections between pictures that shared sides.
You can see a couple of examples below. They would probably make more sense if you had been in my class this year, but this gives you the general idea.
This went better than my last visual hexagon activity, but I think I will improve it next year by giving a few more guidelines for the “connector” texts so the students will try to find unique parallels that aren’t readily apparent.
For more ideas for end-of-the-year activities, here is a recent post I published.
Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, is a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero. One of the games I like to use in my classroom is “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe.” We generally play it to think deeper about novels that we have read, but I decided to try it as an end-of-year reflection activity yesterday.
We don’t play the game as the rules state in the book. I put the grid up on the interactive white board and all of the prompts are covered. The students are divided into teams, and I start the game by uncovering one of the prompts. Then all of the teams have 5 minutes to write down an answer.
The prompts all have the word, “Whatzit” in them, and we substitute our topic for that word. So, yesterday, we substituted GT (Gifted and Talented Class) for “Whatzit.” For example, one of the questions is, “List three important features of the Whatzit,” and the students wrote 3 important features of our GT class.
After 5 minutes, all teams submit their answers without any names on them. I shuffle them, and read all of the answers out loud, then select the one that “Wows” me the most (kind of Apples to Apples style). The winning team members reveal themselves and they get a point. Then they select the next topic.
Students are always engaged when they play this. Plus, they are super quiet because they don’t want the other teams or me, the judge, to hear their answers. But what I love most about this game is the variety of answers and what I learn about myself, my class, and the students.
One prompt is, “List two very different kinds of features of the Whatzit.” The winning team wrote, “Learning and fun.” I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or cry because this could be interpreted to mean that learning and fun don’t usually coincide in their lives.
I would like to be proud that a team listed me as one of the important features of GT, but that was probably a strategic move more than a heartfelt one 😉
I must say that, having dealt with intermittent internet for the last few weeks, I was definitely in agreement with the team that, in answer to, “Which feature of the Whatzit is hardest to understand?” responded, “When technology doesn’t work.”
Yep, definitely top of my list of things that are hard to understand in my class. Well, that and why kids always move faster when you start counting even when you don’t tell them what number you’re counting to and what terrible thing will happen if you get there. I seriously will never understand that – but like technology, it comes in handy sometimes…