Lifelong Learner & Reflective Practitioner

Lifelong Learner & Reflective Practitioner

Let's Transform Our Schools Into TRUE Professional Learning Communities

Let's Transform Our Schools Into TRUE Professional Learning Communities
In Your School- Do all stakeholders subscribe to the belief that EVERYONE has something to learn and EVERYONE has something to teach? This blog can help you gain insight on how to facilitate this transformative mindset with your faculty!

Jan 10, 2013

Active Learning Strategies

In October, 2009 I led my faculty in a professional development session aimed at introducing them to some active learning strategies that have been proven to keep students more actively engaged in the learning process. The strategies that chose were
• Think, Ink, Pair, Share
• Inner/Outer Circle
• Jigsaw
• Clock Buddies, and
• 3-2-1

To introduce the Think, Ink, Pair, Share strategy, I had teachers think about some specific things that they could do to spike achievement (think). After giving them adequate think-time, I asked them to document their ideas on a POST-IT Note (ink). Once their ideas were documented, I had them choose a partner at their table (pair) and discuss their ideas and their partner’s ideas and compare their answers (share).

To introduce the Inner/Outer Circle strategy, I had teachers number off 1-2, 1-2, etc. Once everyone had called out a number 1 or a number 2, I had all of the number 1’s come to the front of the room and make a circle turning outward. I then had all of the number 2’s go and stand in front of a number 1. I had made a list of discussion topics ahead of time. The first one was “Share with your partner a time in your career when you were really proud.” I gave partners 3 minutes to share. After the 3 minute timer went off, I instructed all of the number 2’s to move one space to the right (now standing in front of a different partner). The next discussion topic was “Share with your partner one strategy that you view to be a successful motivator when it comes to independent reading.” Again, they were given 3 minutes and then instructed to move a space so that they could share with a different partner. We participated in several of these, covering topics such as effective classroom management, cultural sensitivity, homework, cooperative grouping, etc. The last assignment was, “Share with your partner a way that you could use Inner/Outer Circle with your class.

To introduce the Jigsaw strategy, I passed out an article about team development. We are a new administration at this school this year and we have several new teachers and several teachers who are working on newly assigned teams so I thought this would be an appropriate article to share. The article was divided into six sections- the first section explained the importance of teams, explored the difference between a committee and a team, and informed the reader that there are distinct stages of development that all teams will go through. The second section explored the first stage in team development (forming). The third section of the article explored the second stage in team development (norming). The next section explored the third stage in team development (storming), and the next section explored the last stage in team development (performing). The very last section of the article discussed the various ways that team members could effectively recognize and positively utilize the stages to grow their team. It also made the reader aware of the fact that teams can go through the stages in various order. I divided our faculty into six groups and assigned each group to read only one of the six sections of the article. After reading that section, the group was expected to discuss it. They were asked to have one person document the highlights of their section and to choose one person to be the voice of their group during a whole-group sharing. When we were done with this activity, we all had the benefit of gaining all of the knowledge of the entire article, but we only had to read a section of the article. I had teachers share with the group ways that this strategy could be used with their classes.

To introduce the Clock Buddies strategy, I distributed copies of a Block Buddy template to each teacher. I had them go around the room and make appointments with 12 different colleagues (one for each time on the clock). I shared some management strategies with them. For example, when doing this with students you may want to ask all students to write their name in large letters at the top before getting started. Then, have all students stand behind their desk. When a cue is given, students may go and make a 1:00 appointment with someone and then they are expected to go back and stand behind their desks. I have found that scaffolding it like this- instead of just turning them loose to make 12 appointments at one time- allows me to more easily correct a situation where a student is left without a partner, or a student is partnered with one than one person. Once everyone is standing behind their desk and they have a documented 1:00 partner, then and only then should you allow students to go on and make a 2:00 appointment. This process should be followed until everyone has an appointment buddy for each time illustrated on the clock. Once all of the teachers had their clocks completed, I gave them clock buddy assignments. Fir example, “Go sit somewhere in the room and quietly discuss with your 8:00 partner an idea that you have for increasing parental engagement at our school.” Another one was “Meet up with your 11:00 partner and share with them one professional goal that you have set for yourself.” We went through several of these and I allowed teachers who wanted to share with the group to do so at the end of the activity. During this sharing time, I made notes in my planner. For example, if a teacher said that a professional goal was to go back and get ELL certification or to get a Masters, I made a note of it and who that teacher was because I believe that as a school leader I have a responsibility to help them obtain those professional goals. As always, at the conclusion of the activity I asked teachers to share ways that they could use the strategy with their class. I also pointed at to teachers the importance of making sure that they call on the 6:00-12:00 partners frequently in order to get students talking with partners that they normally may not have as much contact with. I have found that when students originally make their clock buddy appointments, 1:00 is their very best friend, 2:00 is their second best friend, 3:00 is a good friend, and so on and so on…By the time they get to 6:00, they may be running out of close friend and are forced to choose a mere fellow classmate. So using the later times as partnering activities will allow students to work with partners that they normally would not have chosen.

To introduce the 3-2-1 strategy, I had teachers read a short article entitled 9 Ways to Spike Achievement in Mathematics. Once they were done reading, they were asked to write on a POST-IT Note- 3 Things that they learned, 2 Questions that they had, and 1 idea they would be willing to try in their classroom during the next week. They hung their POST-IT Notes up on butcher paper and we conducted a gallery walk.

In December of 2009, I led the faculty in another professional development session to introduce some more active learning strategies. The strategies introduced this time were
• Give One, Get One
• Numbered heads Together, and
• Four Corners

Before delving into to the new strategies, I wanted to assess how we had done with the previous taught strategies. I made POST-IT Note posters with the title of each of the five previously taught strategies at the top. One each poster, there were three columns: A column that said “0-1 times”, a column that said “2-3 times” and a column that said “More than 3 times.” Teachers were instructed to walk around the room and place a POST-IT Note in the column that illustrated how many times they had used one of the previously-taught strategies with their students. The pictures of the completed posters are shown below. I will post the same kind of pictures for the 3 latest strategies when we meet again and do another self-assessment.