Monday, April 15, 2013

The Explanation Game!

Connect:  This thinking routine was to continue the work our class had done through our 'See, Think Wonder' routine.  I wanted a way to really have them connect the scientific learning we had done (and are in the process of) to what they were seeing and apply it to the rocks we were studying in our classroom.  For some reason, I must have skimmed over this routine while reading the book because when I went back to look at a new routine to mix things up, this one really spoke to me and I didn't remember it from my original read.  The purpose of this routine was to have my class begin to explain and use scientific reasoning to explain what they observed in rocks. 

What I did:  I introduced this routine to my class by being very honest and saying that I really wasn't sure how I wanted them to show me the outcomes of this routine-but it sounded very fun and seemed to be just what our class needed. I read the section in the book (the gray box) and said I thought we might adapt it a little.  I guided their thinking to four ideas/questions that we needed to explain for our 'Explanation Game' round. 
  • What is it?
  • What is it for?
  • How do you think it was made?
  • What makes you say that?

I showed them a 'Desert Rose' rock (you can see it in the third photo) that I had been given last year as a gift.  It is a really fascinating rock that even I dont' know much about.  I then asked them to brainstorm ideas on how they wanted to show me their thinking.  One class came up with the idea of a giant cootie catcher (they have a fondness for them with their multiplication facts!) and the other wanted to do a class anchor chart.  Here are pictures of each of them:

Extend:  My plan is to use this routine again, but have it a little more structured.  Both classes did a great job of showing their thinking and I would like to combine their creativeness to come up with a routine that I can use in both classes. 

Challenge:  The biggest challenge for this routine was that it took us two class sessions to complete.  I think this may have been mostly due to the fact that it was our first time and I wasn't very clear on what I wanted as an outcome for the routine.  I felt like this allowed for a lot of genuine conversations and the students were really trying to figure out how this rock was formed and create scenarios based on their scientific knowledge.  I really enjoyed it and will be using it again!


  1. Shannon- I absolutley LOVE that you let the students decide how they wanted to show you their thinking! I'm going to have to do that at some point. We spend so much time telling them what to do, even on more creative projects, that it's easy to discount their ability to essentially make their own test. Nice job!

  2. Shannon, I enjoy the idea of turning "explanation" into a game. It is natural to ask, "What makes you say that?" in this progression of thought. I was also struck by the way you responded to the students thinking by revising your original lesson. The "cootie catcher" is not something they will soon forget. :)

  3. I love that you made it so transparent to the kids that you were learning about this routine right along with them- what a way to instill risk-taking in your students! I personally have been so stuck on the idea that I need to find the "perfect" routine and then REHERSE it! For Pete's sake, I just need to jump on in like you did! LOVE the cootie catcher too! I am so impressed by your trust in your students and your willingness to truly hand this process over to them... all for a rock! :) This was great!

  4. I love that you let them choose Shannon. So creative!! I bet this lesson will be more memorable than a lesson with more direction and guidlines you laid out for the outcome. I will definately try this!

  5. Shannon-

    I had the pleasure of seeing your cootie catcher first-hand at our PLC meeting and found it to be such an inspirational teaching tool. My kiddos make those all the time during Friday Literacy Choice time and I have never made the connection to have it become a teaching tool. This was a great inventive way to attract the attention and excitement of the students using something they find fun and game-like.