Friday, October 17, 2014

Make information stick with magnet summaries

It's amazing how much useful information one can retrieve from one session at a conference!  This week's blog stems from the same session from the IRC 2014 Conference as the last two I have written.  The strategy is magnet summaries, which also happens to be a CRISS strategy. Double score!

Magnet summaries can be used in a variety of contexts, which is what I love about the strategies in the Project CRISS manual.  They're all very adaptable.  Here's how this one works:

  •  Give each student an index card or half sheet of paper.  On the "front" have the students write the topic you want them to summarize.  For example, if you're teaching students about variables in math, write variables on the front of the card.  
  • After the initial lesson, have students go back to their notes (maybe do this in partners to keep your interpersonals happy) and find four words that stick out as being key words connecting to the word in the middle (one or more will probably be another vocabulary word, which should help with information transfer).  When talking about variables in math, you might have words like constant, coefficient, operator, and equation.
  • On the back of the card, students can expand their words into sentences.  Depending on the writers, you may choose to let them freely write their summary based upon the five words on the front of it, OR you may want to give your students a frame.  The frame might look something like this:
Today's lesson explains [topic] by talking about ______, ______, ______, and ______.  [Write one sentence explaining each of the four magnet words or combine them into a few sentences if they easily connect.] It is important to know this because ___________________. 

The picture to the right is one way a student could write a magnet summary if you were allowing them some freedom in their writing or if you have very comfortable writers.  One thing that I liked about the session I attended at the IRC Conference is their attention to reflection, which is not included in the example above.  The last sentence in the frame above in red addresses the reflection.  Students need to justify why the information is important.  This does two things - it validates why the information is being taught and creates a reason to connect the information to either new information, past information, or student's lives.  

So think about the next lesson you plan to share with your students.  How can this strategy be adapted?  Could you add it easily?  Could you use it as a formative assessment?  Share your ideas with us in the comments below.  

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