One belief shared by most teachers is that engaged students are “learning students.” Student engagement is highly correlated to increased student achievement. If you are looking for some new ways to get ALL of your students involved in the learning process, we’ve included some of our favorites in this month’s newsletter. The good news is that most require little or no preparation and can be adapted to almost any grade level or content area.
30 Second Speech
The 30 Second Speech is a strategy used to provide intentional and extended “think time” for students to make sense of new information or content they are learning.
30-Second Speech works like this:
- Students are introduced to new information or content via video, text, lecture, etc.
- Teacher poses a question related to the new information/content and asks students to, “Plan a 30 second speech” in response to the question. (Students may jot down their thoughts or just quietly examine their thinking).
- Students pair up and each student gives his/her “30 second speech” to a partner.
The opportunity to orally process information and engage in social interaction is aligned with brain research, which informs us that much of what we learn occurs through social interaction. This is also a great time to have students work on their listening skills. Let them know in advance to listen carefully to their partner and be prepared to share what they heard their partner say. This optional addition is called Partners Report.
Match Mine is a Cooperative Learning strategy in which students work in pairs to communicate to one another without the use of visuals. This strategy fosters accuracy of verbal communication and also sharpens students’ ability to listen and follow verbal directions.
The goal of Match Mine is for pairs of students to create matching patterns or configurations. The strategy works like this:
- In pairs, each student has an identical set of figures (tanagrams, Lego pieces, shapes, etc) and a piece of graph paper.
- Students work in pairs with a visual barrier set up between them that resembles the game of Battleship. (Tip: Two-pocket folders work well as a barrier).
- In each pair, one student is assigned the role of “sender,” while the other is designated the “receiver.”
- The “sender” secretly sets his/her figures in a pattern on a piece of graph paper keeping it hidden behind the barrier. He/she then describes the pattern as clearly as possible, while the “receiver” attempts to set-up a matching pattern based only on the verbal directions given by “sender.” “Receivers” are allowed to ask clarifying questions.
- Both partners should keep their configurations hidden until the reveal.
- The barrier is then removed and pairs check to see if the figures are “a match.”
- Partners switch roles and play again.
This strategy is often used with tangrams, coordinates on an X and Y axis, Legos, or even drawings to create the matching configurations. It is important for students to be instructed to use correct terminology (for example: parallelogram, equilateral triangle, etc.) as this is good practice using the terms or identifying locations on an axis.
Elementary teachers might have their students use different shapes and colors. Students could also draw a figure, such as a snowman, and then describe it accurately to a partner so he/she can attempt to replicate it using only the instructions given by the “sender.”
Ping Pong is a cooperative learning strategy that has students working in pairs to engage in processing new content or to practice a new skill.
Ping Pong works like this:
- The teacher poses a question, problem, or task to which there are many possible responses.
- Students are paired up and each pair has one “paper” for recording answers and two pens or pencils. Examples of possible “papers” include: a worksheet, a map, a blank sheet of paper, a graphic organizer, or whatever the lesson requires.
- In pairs, students are designated A or B.
- Student A records an answer on the paper, while Student B is responsible for checking the answer.
- Student A then passes the paper to Student B, who records an answer. Student A is now responsible for checking Student B’s response.
- Students continue taking turns recording and checking answers by passing the paper back and forth (as in the game of Ping Pong).
Tip: Sometimes teachers have each student use a different colored pen/pencil to complete the work so that individually accountability is increased.
Ping Pong works well for any of the following and more:
- solving math problems, each student working one step at a time;
- composing a poem or piece of writing, one line or sentence at a time;
- identifying steps in a science process, recording one process at a time;
- creating a picture, drawing one portion at a time; or
- completing a graphic organizer, filling in one idea at a time.
Simile Speaking is a thinking strategy used to engage students in analyzing information and making new connections. This strategy stretches the brain and fosters deeper and more divergent thinking. Often Simile Speaking is used as an “opener” to ignite thinking around a particular concept.
Simile Speaking works like this:
- Students are shown pictures of four different objects. For example, the class may see pictures of a flashlight, a book, a pair of glasses, and an electrical plug on the screen (or posted to the wall).
- Students are then asked to select one of the four objects that they would most like to have a conversation about.
- Next, depending on the concept or topic of the lesson, each student creates a simile based on the object they selected. For example:
- Democracy is like a flashlight because ________________.
- Communication is like _____________ because ________________.
- Photosynthesis is like ______________ because ________________.
- Equations are like _________________ because ________________.
4. Students share their similes in pairs or small groups, and then with the whole class.
Invariably, students come up with creative and unique similes that can be a catalyst for further conversation and learning about a particular concept. Similes are often very telling of a student’s understanding of a concept, and so are a nice tool for formative assessment.