Friday, February 22, 2013


In the middle of a science unit on life cycles, I wanted to do quick assessment to find out what kids knew so far.  I did the "headlines" routine.  We started out by looking at real headlines in newspapers and online to determine their purpose.  Students looked at real headlines then talked about what they thought the article was going to tell us.

This was important to my practice because I felt like I had lost touch with what the kids were actually learning and if I was teaching to the bigger picture objective of the unit.  Kids typically have a lot of schema on this topic and I wanted to check in to see where I needed to go.  I also needed to find out if there were reteaching opportunities.

This impacted my work because I felt that the kids were right on track.  I was surprise by the details that students had picked up along the way.  It was also interesting how many kids wrote their headlines as questions to express their wonderings or misconceptions.  One student wrote in response to our hatching and raising triops, "Triops... Why Are They All Dying?"  This lead to a great discussion in the third grade about the scientific process and that everything does not always go as planned.  What if you set up an experiment with the triops and in the middle of your observations, they die?  What do you do next?  What can you conclude from this?  What could be a reasonable hypothesis for why they are dying?  Another student wrote, "Only Two of Nine Seeds Sprouted, Why?"

I think this was a good thinking break for my students.  We were "doing" a lot.  We were observing four different organisms in my classroom (triops, mealworms, caterpillars and sweet pea plants) and this was a good break in the "doing" so we could reflect on why we were doing it and to reset for what we were going to do next.

In thinking about how I will use this routine in the future, it reminds me of the importance of slowing down.  I get caught up in worrying about how I am possibly going to get everything done, but it is so important to slow down to make sure the learning is on target and that we all know where we are going next.  There is a difference between the amount that I am teaching, and the amount the students are learning.  Sometimes I teach like mad and, upon reflection, wonder if they are really learning what I had intended.  I was also impressed with the output of the students.  This was a fairly simple routine and yet their little headlines were very profound.


  1. From the moment I read the 'Headlines' routine I've wanted to use it, but hesitate because I'm not sure how well 2nd graders would understand and succeed with it; however, you have made me realize that it is much more attainable and I might have to give it a try! Thanks for the tips, I think this might be my next routine. :)

  2. Jeff, in my own learning it is difficult to synthesize all of the information I accumulate and then determine the most important for action. Whenever I do the Headlines routine as an adult, I realize it is all of that AND sometimes a little humor or sarcasm. I would like to use this with students to see the way that they make sense of content. I was blown away by the descriptions you gave of your students thinking. Thank you! I am going to give it a go!