Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 11 Crumble - Using higher level questioning and the jigsaw to engage learners

I'm currently in the throws of planning an experience in a science classroom that includes close reading followed by several discussion strategies.  As I was flipping through my 4th edition CRISS manual tonight, searching for a crumble-worthy topic, I happened across the Question-Answer-Relationship (QAR).  I was then brought back to a conversation I had with the science teacher this last week who was pleased with a set of questions I had developed as the final discussion activity for our three-day experience, and my crumble was born!

Last year, as I was finishing up my graduate work for University of Nebraska, I was assigned some article readings geared toward problem-based learning.  If you've never run across the term problem-based learning, it's the idea that students learn through solving real-world problems - which, theoretically is a genius idea, but in practice takes either a miracle from God (a problem just happens to present itself that meets every CCSS target needed for the unit) or an ungodly amount of planning and finger-crossing.  Either way, I love the philosophy but am completely and utterly intimidated by it. 

So to bridge the gap between a daunting task of creating a problem-based learning experience and a completely un-engaging lesson, try using Bloom's Taxonomy to create questions that mimic problem-based learning or have students create questions for discussion.  Even better, try doing it using the jigsaw strategy. 

How can this work with a jigsaw?  Well, the first thing you have to do is fully understand what a jigsaw is supposed to look like.  Our plan for the students in science is to give them four parts of an article on climate change and allow them to choose which part they'd prefer to close read (see my previous blog on close reads or another recent blog by my colleague Jen White on the topic as well).  Once they've read and discussed their part of the article with a group of students who have read the same part, we plan to number the students in each group to create new groups where there will be four people in each group (one of each part of the article).  If there are seven students reading each article part, then we number the students off by seven in each group and then put all of they students with the same number together for their jigsaw. 

But instead of giving students direction to simply share information from their part with the rest of the group (as is typical in a jigsaw), our plan is to give the students a set of higher level questions to answer as a group.  Examples of the questions are:
  • What one part of human life contributes to climate change more than any other?
  • What is the single most piece of evidence that tells us that climate change is happening?
  • Can we stop climate change?  Why or why not?
  • Should human beings be required to do certain things to stop climate change from happening?
Our goal here with the set of questions is to spur discussion between group members who have all read a different part of an article or piece of text.  It works even better when group members have read entire pieces written from different perspectives.  Do you see how your students will have to use their speaking and listening skills carefully to communicate effectively and how they will learn from each other without just listing off a string of information they read in their part of the selection (that will either be ignored by group members or will superficially be copied down only to be shoved away in a notebook or tossed in the trash later on)? 

If you know anything about Bloom's Taxonomy, you may have identified most of the questions above as evaluation questions (second to highest step on the taxonomy).  We could have taken the discussion questions one step higher, but much of the final step in the taxonomy are more individual and reflective questions, and the goal at this point of the lesson is to get the students to collaborate, not self-reflect.  A few of the questions could actually fall between the final two steps of the Taxonomy - evaluating and creating.

So consider using some of the following question starters when presenting questions for group collaboration.  This table is adapted directly from page 104 of the fourth edition CRISS manual.

Bloom’s Taxonomy
Question starters
How can you adapt this information to __________?
How can you apply _______ to your own life?
Reinterpret _________ to fit with a different point of view.
The author has changed my understanding of _____ by _____.
What is your opinion of _____?
What is the best solution to the problem of _____?
Defend your opinion about _______.
Evaluate the writing of ________.
Compare ____ to _____.  In what ways are they the same?
How are they different?
Categorize the important ideas in ______________.
What connections can you make to ____________.
What is one way to illustrate _______?
How can you apply _____ to ______?
How can you relate ______ to ______?
What will happen next in ______?
What is the main idea about ______?
Predict what ______.
How is this similar to or different from ______?
Explain what is meant by ______.

The jigsaw strategy sounds complicated, and, in fact, on paper it seems to require a lot of organization, but honestly - our biggest task was choosing the text selections.  Once you wrap your head around the jigsaw organization and create a set of four to five questions, you're really all good!  You shouldn't have to teach anything - just demonstrate the close reading (which was described in the close reading blog) and mix up your kiddos.  They get to do the rest, and all you do is facilitate - which is good teaching, friends.  And because of the discussion and high level of engagement build into the lesson, your students are more likely to get involved and stay involved -- meaning fewer behavior issues and more learning!

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