Monthly Archives: August, 2014

Generating and Testing Hypotheses

Dean et al (2012) and Pilter and Stone (2012) both discuss Generating and Testing Hypotheses in their ninth chapter. This strategy is a great way to help students deepen their knowledge and apply what they learn to novel situations, much like they would when encountering problems in the real world. These authors note that there are two ways in which this strategy aids in student understanding: by giving them a chance to reason deductively and by helping them apply general rules to new stations. Dean et al (2012) give examples of four different strategies: systems analysis, problem solving, experimental inquiry (what we most commonly associate with “testing hypotheses”), and investigation. They also note that it is important to explain the reasoning and logic behind hypotheses and conclusions.

Again, I find myself admitting that I have never formally added a component of creating and testing hypotheses to my lesson plan. I do enjoy letting students take what they know and predict what is to come, such as giving them the additional question of “what happens if…” to reflect on at the end of learning something new. Unfortunately, I would never follow up on these reflection questions, potentially leading students to come up with misinformation. According to Dean et al, “teachers must…debrief inductive learning experiences with students” (2012, p. 137). There is a specific rubric for monitoring for misconceptions in Pitler and Stone (2012), in which I would give myself a 2 – Basic for occasionally monitoring and correcting misconceptions, but for the other pieces of the rubric, I would be at a 1 for the fact that I didn’t believe primary students could elevate their thinking to the point they could generate hypotheses that wouldn’t guide them far off-topic.

The texts gave only one example of using generating and testing hypotheses in a primary classroom – skip-counting in a 2nd grade class in the Dean et al (2012) text. The example was students coming up with a pattern in skip-counting by 9s, which they then had to then be able to explain. This is a simple, but effective way to get students thinking about the patters that appear in skip-counting, and later in multiplication. My discussion-mates for this course also provided other great examples – making predictions in reading a text, estimating lengths in math, and exploring science materials before lessons in order to let natural curiosity lead to new avenues of inquiry (credit to Edith M, Kelsey N, and Laura B respectively). I would like to try all of these strategies in my first grade classroom this upcoming school year.

References:

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Video Analysis Two

For my Instructional Strategies course, we were again asked to analyze a video. I chose to analyze this one; although it is well out of my age-range, it seemed like it would be an interesting new perspective I hadn’t yet considered in this course. The video shows a close reading of a text by 10th grade students. I found the teacher used two strategies very well in her presentation of the way in which students were to approach the reading. The video starts with a great introduction, connecting the lesson to other lessons and setting clear objectives, and the teacher provides guidance on how to take effective notes during a closed reading. I believe the teacher did well with putting students into groups, but find there could have been ways to improve the cooperative learning aspect of the lesson.

In the very beginning of the lesson, the teacher starts by stating what they would be doing, referencing what they had done before, stating how this instance would be different (nonfiction as opposed to narrative close reading), and explicitly stating the purpose of a close reading. This all took place within the first 20 seconds of the lesson. According to Dean et al, “clearly stating the learning objectives in student-friendly language helps students focus on what you want them to learn” (2012, p. 7), and the teacher in this instance does a great job helping the students understand exactly what she expects from them that day. She then links what they are learning to why they might need it in the future – she even notes that they are using a text she read in her time in college – which is what Dean et al refer to when they say objectives should help students understand “how they will apply what they are learning now to future studies” (p. 8).

In regards to note-taking, I wish I would have had a teacher who taught me how to take notes when reading a text in-depth. This teacher listed multiple different notations for different situations: Main idea? Underline it. Don’t understand a word? Circle it in orange or pink. Find something exciting? Put an exclamation point and write why you find it exciting. At one point, the teacher states that “There’s no wrong way to annotate this text,” which is very encouraging for those students who might not be so confident in their ability to tease out important information. Pitler and Stone note that “note-taking strategies are not intuitive” (2012, p. 185), so it is critical that the teacher provided so much structure for what to write, but also gave students a little bit of leeway in regards to where exactly they would mark. The annotations will also help students when they revisit the text, which they will likely do as the teacher noted what she wanted them to do when reading “the first time,” and will allow students to better understand their thinking from the first read-through as they re-approach the text to go further in-depth.

While I appreciated that the teacher had students work in small groups, I was never aware of any form of accountability. This may have been incorporated in their overall expectations during group work, but was never addressed in the video. The students seemed to have an understanding of their roles and helped others in their understanding as well, but it did not seem to have the “positive interdependence” aspect called for by Dean et al (2012).

Overall, I believe this was a great lesson. I would have never imagined being able to have such a deep discussion of a text like this when I was a sophomore in high school. It is clear that with a clear objective and guidance as to how to approach and annotate the text, the teacher allowed students to identify the main ideas of the text and to look deeper into the meaning behind the words.

References:

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Identifying Similarities and Differences

When it comes to identifying similarities and differences, the subject of Chapter 8 of both Dean et al (2012) and Pitler and Stone (2012), most teachers jump right for the Venn diagram for some compare and contrast practice. The authors, however, provide other options teachers may not think of, especially in the primary grades. In addition to comparing, Pitler and Stone also describe how to incorporate the strategies of “classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies” (2012, p. 329). The overall recommendations are to “Teach students a variety of ways to identify similarities and differences” (Dean et al, 2012, p. 121), guide students in their learning of the strategy, and provide clues to students. While the norm is to have students learn one strategy well, it benefits more students to give a variety of options to help them find a strategy that best suits their learning style.

In my experience in second grade last year, my mentor teacher had a wonderfully-developed unit on comparing and contrasting. The progression from “I do” to “you do” was very long and gradual, allowing students a lot of practice with the use of Venn diagrams. We began with very familiar concepts, which is recommended by Dean et al when he says “Using a familiar context and familiar content” when modeling helps students focus on the new strategy and not new information (2012, p. 121). This was a wonderful unit to teach one strategy. Unfortunately, students were not introduced to any other ways to identify similarities and differences. Even exposing students to the language around other methods, such as metaphors and analogies, can be beneficial to the long-term familiarization and comfort level with those strategies. For the individual unit, I would say my mentor teacher and I did a Proficient (3) job. In regards to preparing students to have a variety of strategies in their toolkit, however, I would say I lie at a Basic (2).

Next year, although I am moving down a grade level, I would like to find ways to help students learn more ways to identify similarities and differences. I remember being in primary school learning about the Trinity – it was a difficult idea having three parts to one God. My teacher had us come up with our own metaphors relating the Trinity to things with which we were familiar. My classmates came up with a tricycle (three wheels to one trike), a candle (three wicks in one candle), and other creative metaphors. Going based off of my teacher’s example of the shamrock, as this was very close to St. Patrick’s Day, I chose a trillium – three petals in one flower. I would like to expose my young students to such ideas in the same way: heavily guided exposure to the strategies in order to give a foundational understanding of them.

References:

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.