Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Smith / Willett 2nd Grade Thinking Routine: Headlines

Smith / Willett 2nd Grade Thinking Routine:   Headlines
Write a headline that depicts your thoughts on our field trip to the Botanical Gardens.

Connect:  Headlines is a thinking routine that can be used to help students focus on the big ideas or important themes in what you have been learning.   Headline routines call for synthesis of all the learning that took place.  It can be useful at the end of a unit of study or after a single activity such as a field trip, reading a book, or watching a movie.   To set up the routine after a learning experience, the teacher asks the students to write a short headline for the study that captures important ideas and summarizes the learning that took place.   Ask students to think about the core, central ideas that are at the heart of the learning.   We successfully used this routine after a Field Trip to the Botanic Gardens on Plant Day in both Literacy and Science content areas.

What I did:

Each year the Botanic Gardens present a series of plant day exploration field trips for students from schools around the metro area.  The staff at the Gardens set up 11 different learning stations where students get to try hands-on activities.   As the study of plants is one of the 2nd grade Tracks Science Units of Study and this activity aligns perfectly with our standards, we try to participate every year.  It is only available a few days a year and we have to sign up for it well in advance.   This year we were scheduled to attend on April 18th, the day after one of our big April snowstorms.  It turned out to be an amazing day!  The information stations were relocated inside the Mitchell Building so we did not have to contend with the snow and cold temperatures that were outside.   By mid- morning most small groups had completed their rounds at the stations and the temperatures outside had warmed up to tolerable levels.  We were able to walk around the mostly snow covered grounds.    
When we returned from the Field Trip, we were looking for a way to sum up the experiences of the day.    We gathered students on the rug for a de-briefing.   They were all feeling very excited about what they had learned at the informative stations.  Each person got a chance to talk about what they learned and which stations they enjoyed the most.   Most students agreed that the treasure hunt for food items in the conservatory, the interactive biosphere exhibit, seed sorting and of course, the pea seed planting station made a lasting impression.  After everyone got a turn to share, I reminded the students of the Headlines Routine that Ms. Willett had used before in Science and instructed them that we were going to use this routine to summarize and record our thinking about the big ideas and important learning that had happened during our field trip.   The students were given a rough draft paper and a piece of sentence strip for the final version.   They were able to share and try out their ideas with their teammates at their table.   When they were satisfied with their idea, they wrote and illustrated it on a sentence strip.  We collected and assembled their headlines to create a giant poster.   All together it shows a complete picture of the day, including poisonous dart frogs.  The posters record the students thinking and will help to remind them of what we learned.


This routine worked beautifully as a way to synthesize all the learning that took place on our field trip to the Botanic Gardens.  Some students addressed small moments of the day and others capsulized the whole event in their headline.   The combination of all the Headlines truly gives a complete picture of the field trip.   It helped us to see and record the in depth learning that took place.    I will definitely use this routine over and over to capture the essences of learning events such as field trips, Junior Achievement, assemblies…


While the kids have done this routine mostly in Science class, I decided to try it in my Literacy class as well.  I wanted to see how the kids would do within the Literacy content and then compare their headlines from the Botanical Gardens to others that Ms. Willett has done in the previous Scholastic News routines.  The kids did remarkably well and had some insightful headlines.  Some were not optimal examples of deeper level thinking and that tells me I need to work more in small groups with those kiddos to try to challenge them to increase the complexity and depth of their headlines in the future.

I also want to do a lesson or two on how headlines compare and contrast with story titles in both Fiction and Non-Fiction.  I would like to see how the kids make connections within another concept using this routine.

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