Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Communication with Actively Learn

I LOVED being in a class where I saw students take control of their learning and work together to read and understand text.  Students in Mr. Osorio’s class brought in their own articles, shared them with their peers, and read and annotated together.  From that, they worked together to answer some Text Dependent Questions and some Under the Surface Questions.





Two Engaging Strategies

The past two weeks I have supported a fellow in implementing two engaging strategies to get his students talking, discussing and sharing ideas.  The first one is called:

Speed Dating

Essentially this is a strategy used to get students to talk to multiple people, multiple times, in a short time frame.


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CORE — I love this strategy and have seen it been used in a variety of different ways.  He wanted the students to practice their presentations and presentation skills.  So they were literally saying the same thing to each partner but each time they would receive feedback on their content in their presentation and their presentation skills.  After three rounds, they were ready to present!

MATH —I have also seen this used in a math class.

  • Each student receives a problem.
  • They become an expert on their problem.
  • They think through all the different ways to solve the problem and make sure they have the correct answer.
  • Then the start with a partner.
  • They exchange the problem with their partner.
  • They have time to work through and solve their problems.
  • Partner A explains to Partner B the work they did and their answer.
  • Partner B listens and corrects them if they made a mistake.
  • Partner B explains to Partner A the work they did and their answer.
  • Partner A listens and corrects them if they made a mistake.

Professional Development —I have actually ran this in a PD.  I called it Speed Geeking (Crystal Kirch is the originator of this idea).  Here is the Slides Presentation to explain


The second strategy that I have seen is called:

Gallery Walk

This is a strategy to engage students in collaborative, conversations while they walk through the classroom.  Stations or posters are set up around the classroom, on the walls or on tables. Small groups of students travel from station to station together, performing some kind of task or responding to a prompt, either of which will result in a conversation.  In our lesson we placed QR codes up that linked to images.  Students had to discuss:

  • What do you see? (literal)
  • What does it mean/represent? (figurative)
  • What one word or short phrase summarizes the image? — this they write with a marker in the circle map.

As they progress through the stations, they are not allowed to repeat a word so it becomes more difficult as they go.  Here is a Youtube Video that walks through the ins and outs of a Gallery Walk.

Jennifer Gonzalez also discusses this strategy on her blog.


Adobe Spark

I LOVE Adobe Spark!  This is definitely worth your time.  It is super simple and easy to use on both the IPad and on the web.  There are 3 different parts to Adobe Spark.


Here is an example of an Adobe Spark Page

Here is an example of an Adobe Spark Video that a student made



Scaffolding in just the right way…

Let’s get real…teaching English Language Learners can be a challenge.  I have been teaching students who are learning English for 11 years and every year it is a challenge, but I love it!

Today in a discussion with a colleague we discussed the difference between scaffolding and simply dumbing down the curriculum.  It is so important that we learn that scaffolding isn’t just giving less work, writing less, doing less problems, providing sentence frames…Scaffolding is giving the students the tools/support needed to access the content.

I think that the seesaw has always been the image that I have used to help me understand how best to scaffold to reach my students.


I start by teaching my students the skill, the process using content that is familiar and little easier for them to access.  Then after students have mastered the skill, then I begin to raise the rigor of the content.  I may use sentence frames to support students in the beginning but what I hope is that those frames support them in learning the skill that they can then apply to more rigorous content.