Friday, December 14, 2012

Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate:Concept Maps

Connect :  The thinking routine of "Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate:Concept Maps" reminds me of the traditional K-W-L, except that the it adds the extra layer of connecting concepts in a visual way.  There were many "ah-ha's" in my room when my third grade students did this work.

The routine begins with activating prior knowledge and generating a list of ideas/words/phrases that come to mind about a particular topic.  We did this prior to a field trip to the Colorado foothills. On a separate sheet, students created a list of what they know about Colorado.

The sort included grouping into larger ideas or subheadings.  Once they had a sense of the main ideas, the students placed the words on a concept map.   The most central were placed toward the center, while the tangential ideas were located toward the outside of the paper. 

Extend:  This is when it became fun, the students looked at their concepts and connected concepts.  Using the example above, the student connected fish from the animal category to the activity of fishing and the environmental lakes. 

We went to the foothills and took notes from our experiential learning trip.  This is where the elaborate component provided a meaningful way to reflect upon new learning.  The students were proud to develop their concepts map with all of their new knowledge.

Challenge:  I will use this routine before new units in the future.  It was a great success!  I want to remember to use a different color for the elaborate component.  It would help highlight new learning.  As a teacher, the challenge is to create a significant learning event and the time to connect, reflect and deepen student understandings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zooming In

Zooming In

To launch my photosynthesis unit I gave students an illustration of a chloroplast with different molecule entering and exiting the organelle. I have students work in groups to solve the puzzle without me giving any answers.  

CONNECT - I have used this strategy in the past because I know that collaboration is a good way to active a groups's combined schema.  Most students are engaged, too, by the challenge of trying to solve a puzzle together. I know, too, that a class discussion is an important step in the process. I also know the importance of informally assessing each student's level of understanding by having students do a quick write in their notebooks

EXTEND -  Over the years that I have used this lesson I have extending my thinking from have students do this alone from working collaboratively.  I have also made the lesson more engaging about making a group competition to see who can solve the puzzle first.  I have also incorporated the individual writing piece into a n informal assessment rather than ending with the class discussion.

CHALLENGE - A challenge that I am often confronted with is some students know right away what is going on. It often spoils for other students in the group. I like to give this to students before I even give a pretest because I don't want them to infer that it is photosynthesis from the pretest alone. I suppose that I could mention before we do this lesson that if they already know, that I could have them complete it on their own at a separate table.


With my first artifact I used the HEADLINES lesson.  Students were to assume the roles of newspaper reporters who went back in time and had to report a newly discovered process of photosynthesis.  I assumed the role of an editor and gave my reporters 10 minutes to generate a headline. Students could work alone or with a partner to determine importance and look at the big picture.

This CONNECTED to what I already know because I place importance for students to see the big picture and understand why what we are learning in class makes a connection to their everyday lives.

I was able to EXTEND my thinking by using this as an engaging formative assessment to see if students are getting the big picture. The feedback informed me places that I needed to clarify any misconceptions.

A CHALLENGE for me is how to differentiate for students to complete the task.  Some students finish in just a few minutes, some students took way too long making it look nice rather communicating information.  Some groups wrote paragraphs rather than a headline.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

What Makes You Say That?

Today, we shared an artifact from the "Routines for Digging Deeper Into Ideas" chapter of the book.  I brought an artifact from the routine entitled, "What Makes You Say That?"

This CONNECTED to what I already know because I used the routine to try to give a boost to a routine that I already had in place with my third and fourth graders.  Every Friday, students go over their Math4Today, which is a mixed math practice that students do throughout the week.  On Fridays they do the assessment side of this page and individual students come to the front of the room to teach the class how they solved certain problems.  When they are finished demonstrating, they ask, "Are there any questions?" And the rest of the class asks them questions about their thinking.

Our routine of going over these problems together and asking questions had lost its purpose.  Kids were checked out and weren't engaging in as much math thinking as I wanted them to.  This protocol EXTENDED my thinking in new directions.  I used "What Makes You Say That" as a sentence stem and asked students to listen carefully to the speaker and to be prepared to ask them a question about their thinking starting with, "What makes you say that..."  We did this for two Fridays and I scribed the questions that I heard third and fourth graders asking each other.  

Here are some of the questions students asked each other... What makes you say that:
  • the total is $28?
  • you have to do 50+20?
  • you can't use dollar coins? (when calculating the number of coins to make a certain dollar amount.)
  • a quarter is worth 25 cents?
  • that you had to borrow? (on a subtraction problem.)
This was a very successful routine because it made my students think deeper about the questions they were asking each other.  They took on the role of teacher as they asked each other questions to prompt the speaker to add more detail about their thinking.  It also added some energy to a routine that students were getting too comfortable with.

A CHALLENGE or PUZZLE that I have is, how do continue to make this routine fresh so that my students continue to think deeply about their thinking?  I commented to someone in my group that I anticipate using this routine for a couple of months, then changing it up again.  I certainly think my fourth graders will be able to eventually do this routine on their own in small groups on their own.  Their is a difference between the responses I got from third graders than the responses I got from fourth graders.  The third grade responses were much more literal and followed a pattern of asking the speaker if how they know their answer is correct over and over again.  The fourth graders were much better at challenging the speaker and making them really justify their answer.  This routine may stay in place for third graders all year, while I may need to step it up for my fourth graders in the spring.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


This is where you will post your artifact reflections.  Once you are signed in, you can post by clicking on the "New Post" link on the upper right of the page.  There are important links on the right side that will help you through the PDU process. The "Resources" page on the right sidebar has details on the requirements for this PDU. 

Let me know if you have questions -- Jeff