Saturday, March 1, 2014

Explanation Game--Clothes Study

When pbd template for backward design, one of the essential questions the ECE team identified for our Clothes Study was What Special clothes do people wear and why?  The students spent time investigating the features of clothes (i.e., color, texture, and fasteners).   Throughout this investigations, the students had opportunities to sort different clothes, try on clothes and wear different clothes, design clothes, and learn about making clothes. 

The ECE team met with Michelle for coaching and expressed our struggle to incorporate the thinking routines.  Michelle suggested the use of the "Explanation Game."  She also suggested using the upcoming Olympics as a subject that would be relevant and provide opportunities to investigate different clothes used for different, but similar purposes.  The result of this coaching and further collaboration with the ECE team, we chose two photographs, one of hockey players and the other of figure skaters.  The intention was to encourage the students to recognize that clothes may have different purposes.  While planning this routine, we were unsure how much background knowledge the students would have about the two activities and I was not sure what to expect from the students discussion.  We were curious to see the difference between the discussions the first day and the second day when the students had experience of discussing a picture and also had seen one of the pictures. 

In small groups, the students played the “Explanation Game” looking at one of the pictures one day and the other picture the following day.  I took the small group that looked at the Hockey picture both days, and my para took the students who looked at the figure skating picture.  The first part of the Explanation Game involves noticing, I was surprised that the students had very little schema about figures skating, and only a few of the students had any schema about Hockey.  The second part of the routine requires the students to discuss what they think about the picture. 
Figure Skating 
Highlight Thinking
  • She is wearing laces to keep her ice shoes on so they don’t fall off or her feet will freeze.
  • She is wearing short clothes so she can dance 
  • They look nice because they are professional ice skaters. They are on TV 
  • They wear ice skates to help them not fall. It would be silly to wear boots.
  • Her dress is short because she would trip over a long one 
  • The straps and laces are for decoration 
  • No they are to keep their shoes from falling off  

Thinking Highlights
  • They’re football players because there’s numbers on their shirts and they have helmets and gloves
  •  Football players don’t have hockey sticks
  • Maybe they try to get this thing [points to puck] in the net and get a touchdown 
  • I know it’s hockey because of the net
  • They play rough so they can get a touchdown and they want to get a touchdown
  • They wear helmets so they don’t hit their head on the ice 
  • They need hockey clothes to protect themselves
  • Their colors are different so they won’t argue, “you’re on that team, no you’re on that team”

 The results of using this routine was very interesting.  The students were very engaged in the activity and were very thoughtful.  I did not notice a difference in the discussion between the students looking at the photo the first day or the second day.  I think the students lack of background knowledge helped to push their thinking because they were required to predict and make inferences about the people in the photos and about their clothes.  After all the students had discussed both pictures, I brought then together and asked the students why the clothes were different.  The students all agreed that the hockey players "have to wear more clothes because they're rougher than the figure skaters."  

I thought this routine worked really well with my young learners.  It is not only a routine that I in tend to use regularly.  I also realized when doing this routine that I have been regularly using this routine, even though I didn't recognize it as such.   My first post shows the results of my informal use of the explanation game. 


  1. Hi Gail,

    Thanks for your post. I thought it wasa interesting during our discussion doing the same game that the kids kept coming back and commenting the ice would break and the players or figure skaters would break through the ice. Several of them mentioned this repeatedly during our discussion. Did your children think the same? Like there was a sheet of ice with nothing underneath that they would just fall into. Funny...but also just shows their limited schema. I'm not sure why I am always surprised by their misconceptions having done this for awhile now...but perhaps these thinking routines are especially helpful in making those misconceptions more transparent so we can address them.

    1. I did have one student that thought the hokey players' helmets would help them float when the broke through the ice. Most of them seemed to take it on faith that the ice would hold the skaters, but I had a couple kids that were convinced that the skating had to be outside because ice is only outside. This led to some discussion about ice rinks and how they work. I was surprised that some of the students had never been to an ice rink, or didn't make the connection of the pictures to their past experience with ice rinks.