Engage All Students in Quick But Meaningful Review with Everyone Up!

This is time of year  when many educators look at the calendar and begin to feel panic (or fully embrace the panic?) as they realize how quickly the remainder of the school year is slipping away.  I am most decidedly one of those teachers!  I need to finish our unit of study by the third week of March, yet I don’t want to “blow through” the material.  On the other hand, I don’t have the luxury of time to do many of the learning activities I’ve done through this school year simply because they are time consuming—even on a modified block schedule—and  despite the fact they are valuable learning structures.

On my lunch break yesterday, I was wracking my brain for a strategy to help my “A” day classes review and bring closure to our learning activities we started on Tuesday with Kate Chopin and “The Story of an Hour.” I came across a simple yet very effective strategy called “Everyone UP! Immediately I felt this approach might be the perfect fit.

Here is how I implemented it with my classes today:

  • Flashback:  On Tuesday, we began with a writer’s craft notebook prompt for notebook time as a means of bringing closure to our discussion of the use of point of view in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and to help students think about point of view in their books they have selected for choice reading time.  We jumped into Kate Chopin by reading a short biography of her together, and then I gave students some brief notes on what the cultural norms were for women during her time.   After listening to “The Story of an Hour” together and discussing it as we read and annotated together (we used the Common Lit version), students answered the four discussion questions from Common Lit (I downloaded and made copies of the questions for students knowing it would be integrated into our review work today).
  • Today, students completed a “Ticket in the Door” that asked them jot down the top 10 things they remembered or knew about the story.  Students then received a set of 15 questions that asked students to engage in some high level thinking questions; I called these the magic square reflections mainly because I created the handout with the questions in squares—somehow, this visual appearance makes the thinking work with the questions seem less intimidating for many of my students.
  • I told students to complete as many of the magic square questions as they could; they could also them complete them in any order.  Students used their copy of the text, their notes I provided them last week on Realism and Naturalism, and their story materials from earlier in the week.  I gave each of my three classes about 30-35 minutes to think and complete what they could.
  • At the end of the 30+ minute block, I asked them to put an x in any question boxes they had not completed, but I told them they would have an opportunity to add notes during our next activity.  I introduced Everyone Up as a game to help us review.  Here were our ground rules/protocols:

Everyone Up!  Our Approach

  1.  Everyone has to stand.  You cannot sit down until you answer a question correctly, and I clear you to return to your seat.
  2. You may use any of your Chopin materials.
  3. You must answer one question correctly; as I call out the questions, you choose when you want to participate.
  4. For questions that had multiple answers or interpretation, I will call upon more than one student; if you want to contribute, raise your hand so I know you want to add to the conversation.
  5. Anyone who wants to remain standing and do bonus questions after everyone has participated may do so.
  6. The only person talking is the one who has the floor.
  7. Raise your hand when you are ready to answer a question or add to a response.

We used our magic reflection square questions, our ticket in the door, and our Common Lit discussion questions as our basis for review.  This technique got everyone involved, yet students had control to choose to answer questions that were their strengths.  This participatory technique involved some movement  yet was not as frenzied or involved as our gallery walk and some of our other active discussion/conversation strategies are—in this case, that is exactly what I was looking for so we could wrap up our work with the story today and start fresh on Monday.  Though our version took more than 10 minutes, we had a rich review without taking up more than 30 minutes.  Several students commented they found this form of review helpful.

Even my most reluctant students were positive and eager to jump into the conversation; after students were cleared to sit, most continued to take notes and add to their existing work.  The activity itself was a formative assessment for me to hear understandings and any muddy points of confusion to circle back to on Monday if needed.  One final formative assessment for today was our exit ticket, one I crafted as a full size handout with  a “3-2-1” set of reflections:

  1.  Name three major understandings you have right now about the story that are significant and meaningful.  Provide textual evidence.
  2. What are two new insights and understandings you now have about “Story of an Hour”?
  3.  What is the most interesting idea you heard from a classmate today?  Why?  How did it help you or connect with you?  Who said it?

While the structure sounds simple, that is the beauty of it, and all students were involved in our review “game.”  I was elated that students who normally hate pair or group activities were upbeat and really shining when their turn (of their choosing) came to share with the class.  I will most definitely try this learning structure again later in the spring.

What “quick review” strategies do you like to use in your classroom and enable students to do the heavy lifting of the review?

Welcome to the Hot Seat: Philosophical Chairs for Participatory Discussions

As we move forward with our inquiry into the future of work, students have formed birds of feather interest groups this week.  Since roughly half the class is interested in artificial intelligence as well as robotics, and other groups have topic areas impacted by these technologies, I thought it would be helpful to have students engage in a discussion around the pros and cons of the ethics of artificial intelligence.

We began by using Cris Tovani’s annotation strategies (I have slightly modified her version—see Chapter 5 of her book to learn more about annotations as an assessment tool) to mark up five articles.

Students had two articles from NewsELA and three news articles from the open web.  Students took about 30 minutes to read and annotate their articles with a focus on thinking about evidence and talking points that would support or refute the ethics of artificial intelligence.   A few students took up my offer to use colored mini-sticky notes to flag their “pros” and “cons” they had noted.

After this 30 minute period of reading, annotating, and thinking, each student then received an index card and was asked to write one of the following to describe his/her feelings on this statement along with his/her name:

  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Neutral

We then reviewed the procedures for participation in the philosophical chairs discussion and the purpose of it:

We then moved to the project room 400 across the hallway; students formed a squared off “horseshoe” with one side representing agree, one side representing disagree, and then the back or horizontal row representing neutral.  I was a bit surprised to discover roughly 85% of the class fell into the neutral zone, but I rolled with it.

At first, the students were struggling with a couple of points:

  • Articulating their talking point clearly in 60 seconds
  • Articulating a clear pro or con; many wanted to present both sides (I suspect this is why so many fell into the neutral zone?)

As moderator, I did gently remind the first few students in the “hot seat” to focus on a pro or con instead of explaining why they were neutral.  After a few rounds, they got stronger and stronger with their responses and began asking more thoughtful questions of the person in the hot seat and moving with their feet to another position when they heard a good point or compelling example to change their thinking.  Only once did I have to redirect a few students to show respect as listeners.

Overall, everyone did a great job following the rules of participation, and every person present got a chance to speak.  I do think strong articles and students annotating well are critical to helping students come prepared with relevant information and strong/specific evidence to share with the group.  My only regret is not budgeting more time for the activity—somehow, 45 minutes did not feel long enough!     We did not have enough time left to complete the essential post-activity reflection, but students jotted notes during the activity and will complete the reflection in class on Monday.

The ticket out the door was to write on the original index card whether your position had changed or not, and if so, what was the new position.  Nine students did change positions by the end of class, and 14 remained the same.  On Monday, we’ll do some reflections on the discussion as well as self-assessment.  Students will also meet in their birds of feather groups and finish their compass points discussion.  Bravo to Period 1B for a great job with first ever Philosophical Chairs discussion today, and I’m looking forward to more like this one!

Many thanks to the creators of these resources for inspiring me to try Philosophical Chairs!