Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22 Crumble - A New Spin on the Carousel

So I went back this morning and reread my notes from the Day of Reading Conference again because there were so many philosophies and strategies that I gained from attending.  Writing these blogs helps me just as much, if not more, than my readers because I use writing as a way to process through information.  Usually, I start my weekly writing with one objective and it morphs in the hour that it takes me to crank it out.  By the end I often have a new idea, and I feel happy about being able to share that with the world.

After rereading my notes from my third session with Cris Tovani, I was reminded of an idea that I wanted to share with my staff.  Because I'm not an auditory learner, I am pretty sure that I tuned out during part of her talk, so the way that she presented this idea is probably not the way I'm going to share it.  Nonetheless, the connection I was able to make while listening to her explain was with a strategy in which many of you are probably familiar: the carousel.  I will first explain how I have originally seen this strategy done, and then I will explain Tovani's spin on this.  What a GREAT way to allow active, social kiddos to learn from each other, all the while practicing their listening and speaking skills!

Project CRISS trainings have included this fun way of reviewing and discussing:
  • On large pieces of poster paper, write a topic or a broad question.  Include enough different topics so that you can split your class into groups of no more than four students. Three is my ideal number.
  • Give each group a different colored marker (so you can monitor group participation in the discussion).
  • Put each group at a different piece of poster paper with the idea that they will discuss and formulate an answer or information related to the topic to be written by one of their members with their colored marker.
  • Set the timer for a specific amount of time (2 minutes, maybe?) and allow groups to discuss and write. 
  • At the end of the specified time, call for groups to SWITCH, and they will move to the next poster to read what has been written, respond to responses, correct information, embellish on answers, and add their own thoughts. Try giving groups the responsibility of changing writers at every switch as well.
  • Carousel through until all groups have gone to all papers.  
  • Choose how you want to conclude this activity.  It could be a quick run-through of all of the papers.  It might be where you take a day to read through and prepare the next lesson based on what you have learned.  Or maybe you used this as a test review, and students are now ready for a test.  This can be used in so many different ways!
So, in an effort to keep up with the theme this year of teaching our kids to observe, I attended a session at the Day of Reading Conference, earlier in the morning, that emphasized the use of observing artwork as a "text".  Interestingly, I heard in several sessions that the word text is not necessarily referring to words on a page anymore - that artwork, videos, and even audio-recordings might be considered text.  It's almost like the word media has been overrun by the word text just to confuse us all.  Flexibility is the key, I suppose.  

Anyway, in both of these sessions, the presenters asked the participants to take a look at a graphic (a piece of art or photograph) and write/discuss observations, ask questions, and make comments or inferences (with evidence to back it up).  Being completely not visual, this activity annoyed the heck out of me because I miss all sorts of clues in pieces where others see things plain as day, but I went along with it because I know I'm in the minority when it comes to learning preferences, and I know many of our kiddos are visual learners.  I also know that if I push myself I will strengthen this area of weakness, so I gave it a try. 

Tovani took this activity a step further and combined it with the carousel.  Genius, really!  She suggested multiple visuals set up around the room or at desks where students perform that same carousel activity listed above, but they respond to a visual instead of a prompt, topic, or question.  Then they have to read what others have written, respond, and add their own thoughts until they've made their way around the entire room.  This type of activity can be used in so many classroom situations using things such as:
  • paintings or pictures of historical events or cultural activities for social studies or language arts
  • graphics of geological, astronomical, or other scientific events or ideas
  • different pieces of art for an artistic period in history
  • listening stations with different musical pieces playing and multiple headsets so that all group members can hear
  • pictures of situations or scenes in health to discuss good decision making
  • sports or fitness-related visuals in PE
  • tough geometry or algebraic equations in math (REALLY tough ones that might require multiple brains or a longer time to figure it out so that one group starts to solve it, and others may have to take over)
  • finished three dimensional projects, websites, or other tech projects
The list here is really endless.

The use of the carousel supports so many of our students in their need to move and be social.  If structured properly and kept moving, this activity can be a beneficial learning experience where you simply observe and let the students learn from each other.  And what better way to teach than to let the kids learn from each other!

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