Sunday, October 30, 2011

Daily Assignment #88: Modeling Thinking Aloud

Modeling Thinking Aloud is a strategy a teacher would use to demonstrate effective strategies students might use when solving math problems, reading a difficult text, decoding a word, solving an analogy, what is needed for graduation, how to take a multiple choice test,or any other task.  The teacher verbalizes his/her  thinking as they work through a problem.

For example:    suppose during math class you'd like students to estimate the number of pencils in a school. Introduce the strategy by saying, "The strategy I am going to use today is estimation. We use it to . . . It is useful because . . . When we estimate, we . . ."
Next say, "I am going to think aloud as I estimate the number of pencils in our school. I want you to listen and jot down my ideas and actions." Then, think aloud as you perform the task.
Your think-aloud might go something like this:
"Hmmmmmm. So, let me start by estimating the number of students in the building. Let's see. There are 5 grades; first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, plus kindergarten. So, that makes 6 grades because 5 plus 1 equals 6. And there are 2 classes at each grade level, right? So, that makes 12 classes in all because 6 times 2 is 12. Okay, now I have to figure out how many students in all. Well, how many in this class? [Counts.] Fifteen, right? Okay, I'm going to assume that 15 is average. So, if there are 12 classes with 15 students in each class, that makes, let's see, if it were 10 classes it would be 150 because 10 times 15 is 150. Then 2 more classes would be 2 times 15, and 2 times 15 is 30, so I add 30 to 150 and get 180. So, there are about 180 students in the school. I also have to add 12 to 180 because the school has 12 teachers, and teachers use pencils, too. So that is 192 people with pencils."
Continue in this way.
When reading aloud, you can stop from time to time and orally complete sentences like these:
  • So far, I've learned...
  • This made me think of...
  • That didn't make sense.
  • I think ___ will happen next.
  • I reread that part because...
  • I was confused by...
  • I think the most important part was...
  • That is interesting because...
  • I wonder why...
  • I just thought of...

    At the end of the Think Aloud, process what you did with the students.  Ask, "What were the strategies I used?",  "What did they sound like?",  "What did they look like?"
    As the students respond chart the strategies.

    When it is time for the students to do the task on their own refer to the strategies on the chart. Encourage the students to verbalize their thinking as they do the steps in the task.

    I recommend writing a script for yourself.  In this way you will remember to include all the strategies you want the students to use.  Within the script include false starts and  confusions, it will be more like what the students might do when they are on their own. 

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Daily Assignment #87: Pre-Alert

Pre -Alert is an effective Attention Move.  There are many ways you can use this strategy.

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Best Effort,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Daily Assignment #86: Inside-Outside Circle

Inside-Outside Circle is a summarizing strategy developed by Spencer Kagan.  This is a great strategy to get students to interact with each other and to get them up and moving.  It is especially helpful for ESL students who need to practice oral language.


  1. Half of the students stand up and form an inner circle, facing out.  They are Partner A. 
  2. The other half of the class forms an outer circle, facing a partner from the inside circle.  They are Partner B.  
  3. Put a question or a statement on a board, or have students summarize  a text, etc... 
  4. Give the students "Think Time," about 10-15 seconds.   
  5. Partner A shares their response for 1 minute.
  6. Partner B shares their response for 1 minute.
  7. Ring a bell, chime or just say "Switch".
  8. The outside circles slides 2 people to the left, clockwise.
  9. Repeat #5,6,7, 8 alternating which Partner responds first.
The teacher needs to decide how many times the circle moves and how long the responses should be.  Some teachers shorten the response time each time the circle moves.

This is also a good strategy for the teacher to do an assessment of student learning.  The teacher stands in the middle of the inner circle and listens to the conversations.

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Best Effort,


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Daily Assignment #85: Homework Buddies

By now you probably know your students fairly well.  This is a good time to pair students up as Homework Buddies.  Explain to the students that they may exchange phone numbers and call each other in the evening if they are experiencing difficulty with a homework assignment.  You can also use these partners to share homework assignments between them so they only have to do half the homework on occasion.  Homework Buddies can also be used to check each others' answers the next day.  This is a much more interesting way to go over homework and it engages the students in the process.

 Make sure you are clear about the usage of Homework Buddies for your class.  If in setting the system up you do not provide clarity on the difference between copying and helping you will end up with a mess.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daily Assignment #84: Questions-Part 2:Designing Thinking Level Questions

Questions can "enhance student learning by developing critical thinking skills, reinforce student understanding, correct student misunderstanding, provide feedback for students, and enliven class discussions" (Caram and Davis 2005, Inviting Student Engagement with Questioning. Kappa Delta Pi Record.)

Bloom identified and defined 6 question categories:
  • Knowledge: remember, memorize, recognize, repeat, list.  These are the who, what, when, where, how questions.  Examples: Who were ....?   What is a ...?  When did the...?  How did ...?  Label...
  • Organizing: compare/contrast, transferring, classify, organization and selection of facts and ideas.  Examples:   Compare the ...   Contrast the ...  Classify the...   
  • Application: problem solving, applying information, use of facts, rules and principles, show, solve.  Examples:  How is ... an example of ...?  How is ... related to ...?  Why is ... significant?
  • Analysis: subdividing, sort, categorize.  Examples: What are the parts or features of ...?  Classify ... according to ...  Outline/diagram ...  How does ... Compare/contrast with ...?  What evidence can you list for ...? 
  • Synthesis: create, design, develop, synthesize, hypothesize, devise.  Example: What would you predict/infer from ...?  What ideas can you add to ...? How would you create/design a new ...?  What might happen if you combined ...?  What solutions would you suggest for ...?
  • Evaluation: evaluate, development of opinions, judgements or decisions.  Do you agree that ...?  What do you think about ...?  What is the most important ...?  Place the following in order of priority...? How would you decide about ...?  What criteria would you use to assess ...?
When planning a unit of study make sure to include higher level thinking questions, which you have designed from Bloom's 6  categories.  
    If you want to check the category the questions you are asking fall into, ask a colleague to observe you and write down all the questions you ask.  Then sort them into management and content related.  Sort the content related questions into Bloom's 6 categories. 

    Caram and Davis say that teachers have a tendance to "ask questions in the Knowledge category 80% to 90% of the time. These questions are not bad, but using them all the time is." Teachers need to incorporate higher order level questions into their instruction, which will require deeper thinking and more in depth responses. 
      "There are these four ways of answering questions. Which four? There are questions that should be answered categorically [straightforwardly yes, no, this, that]. There are questions that should be answered with an analytical (qualified) answer [defining or redefining the terms]. There are questions that should be answered with a counter-question. There are questions that should be put aside. These are the four ways of answering questions."          ---Buddha, Source 
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      Best Effort,

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Daily Assignment #83: Questions-Why do we ask the questions we do?

    We pose questions to students for many reasons.  Some reasons might be:
    • to determine what students know and don't know
    • to develop critical and creative thinking skills
    • to provide a review of material and content
    • to prepare students for what is to be learned
    • to engage students in discussion
    • to teach students to ask questions
    Sometimes we ask questions as an attention move, e.g. "Are you paying attention?", "Tim, are you with me on this?", "Maria, what are you doing?"  Some questions are to check for understanding /comprehension during a lesson.  A teacher might ask a question which requires a student to recall specific information.  These are the "who, what, when, where, how questions, e.g. "Who are the main characters in To Kill A Mockingbird?, "What is the name of the Shakespeare play about the Prince of Denmark?",  "What are the names of the 5 food groups?", "When did the Cuban Missile Crisis happen?"

    Here is a list of some other types of questions:
    • Rhetorical: used for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a reply.  EX: "Is the Pope Catholic?",  "How much longer must women suffer this injustice?"
    • Clarification: "Why do you say that?", "How does this relate to our conversation?"
    • Probing: "What could we assume instead?", "What would be an example?", "What generalizations can you make?"
    • Perspectives/Viewpoints/Open Ended:  "What is another way to look at this?", "Please explain why it might be beneficial?", "What might be the strengths and weaknesses of...?"
    • Closed: these questions require a yes or no answer.  EX:  "Is Athens the capital of Greece?", "Does the moon rotate around the earth?", "Did the Germans invade Norway?"
    • Hypothetical: "What would you do if...?"
    • Reflective:  "What might you do differently next time?", "What could you have done differently?"
    • Leading: used to gain acceptance of your view, "You agree with me, don't you?"
    • Inference:  "What might be the reasons Ophelia went mad in Hamlet?"
    This list is certainly not complete.  There are lots of other types of questions but this will help you to begin your thinking about why you ask the questions you ask.

    My next blog will take questioning to the next level by showing how to phrase/design higher level thinking questions using Bloom's Taxonomy.

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    Best Effort,

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Daily Assignment #82: Carousel Brainstorming

    Carousel brainstorming can be done as an activator or a summarizer.  This strategy lets the teacher know what students know about a topic.

    Put students in groups of 3-4.  Each group has a sheet of chart paper and a particular color of a marker. On each chart paper the teacher has written a subtopic related to the main topic of study.  One student serves as the recorder.  Give the students 30-45 seconds (set a timer) to write down on the chart paper all the terms they can think of that they associate with their subtopic.  

    At the end of the 30-45 seconds, the students pass their charts, keeping their assigned colored marker, clockwise to the next group.  Do this until all groups have had a chance to work on all the list and the sheets have made it around to the original groups.  Each time add about 10-15 more seconds to the alloted time, because it will be more challenging for students to add new information to the brainstorming list.

    When the activity is completed, post the charts around the room to use for future reference.  Ask the students what they noticed or what did they learn from the brainstorming?  

    Topic:  Circulatory System

    • Heart
    • Lungs
    • Arteries
    • Veins
    • Capillaries
    • Gases
    Topic: Database

    • What is database used for?
    • What do you see when viewing a database?
    • What are examples of databases that we use in everyday life?
    • What fields of information would you place in a database of your friends?
    • What types of information do not necessarily belong in a database?
    Topic:  U.S. Government
    • legislative
    • executive
    • judicial
    • checks and balances
    Topic:  Systems of the body
    • muscular
    • skeletal
    • digestive
    • lymphatic
    • nervous
    • endocrine
    • cardiovascular
    Topic:  Animals
    • mammals
    • amphibians
    • reptiles
    • birds
    • insects
    • fish
    Topic:  Parts of speech
    • nouns
    • verbs
    • adjectives
    • adverbs
    • prepositions
    • pronouns
    • conjunctions
    • interjections
    I hope you will experiment with this strategy.   It helps students to know that they do know something about a topic that is about to be studied or it helps students to review a topic they have just completed studying.

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    Best Effort,