In today’s era of schooling, education is not only about facilitating the flow of information but is also about urging students to think for themselves. Structuring their work, handling their time fittingly and developing connections with their peers are skills that will drive them to be successful all through their lives. To guide the students towards actively processing information and connecting the dots of a concept, their ideas must be reflective and concentrated.
To make learning and thinking visible and documented in the classroom, we gravitate towards visible thinking routines. These are not merely graphic organizers but a way for learners to direct their opinions and organize the flow of ideas aptly. The learners are required to answer questions in a particular structure that allows them to probe further into concepts to explore a situation. VTRs such as ‘Peel the fruit’ permit learners to go deeper into a theme to discover its intricacies and reflect on their actions. Another well used VTR is ‘I used to think… now I think’ where pupils can clearly examine how their understanding has increased over time. As a facilitator, I firmly believe there is a VTR for every classroom pursuit that will persuade the students to ask pertinent questions that will strengthen their inquiry journey.
One of the strategies that appealed to me but is less known is the ‘Hexagonal Thinking Strategy’. It moves marginally away from being a VTR while continuing to focus the student’s thoughts towards making connections and building collaboration in a classroom. The idyllic moment to present this strategy is towards the latter phase of a unit of inquiry when the students have gained ample knowledge to join the dots between all of the things that they have learned mindfully.
In this activity, the young ones are separated into smaller groups and invited to work collectively on a certain topic. You will need to have several cut-outs of hexagons available which should be distributed to the groups. The facilitator will put down a hexagon in the center with the main topic printed on it. The students must then brainstorm to find connections to the key topic and fit them together. For example, if the central topic is Earth, pupils will commence churning out what they know about the Earth. If they contend that ‘landforms’ are connected to Earth and justify their thoughts to their peers, they may write the term on another hexagon and join it to the central topic. This activity carries on while ensuring that topics that touch each other’s sides must be related. If they do not connect in any way, they need to reconsider their move or place it next to a different hexagon.
Students have to use their higher order thinking skills to evaluate whether the topics connect, or break barriers and research to find ways in which they do. They need to collaborate with their mates to bounce ideas off one another and justify their thought process to be able to put their ideas down and create networks between hexagons.
This approach used to work splendidly in the physical classroom, and I designed a virtual version to use through MS Teams as well. For more information on how to adapt this strategy to virtual learning, please check out this blog post- https://reviewmirror.in/2021/02/08/learning-and-teaching-during-pandemic-times/
Team spirit is palpable while engaging in this undertaking and having the groups compete with a fixed time goal is a great way to instill a feeling of friendly competition amongst the students. After the activity is over, each group can take a gallery walk and examine the other teams work to see which points they missed or supplementary connections that could have been created. This task engages all types of learners and if a child is facing obstacles, appointing a peer mentor or buddy can help the child ease into the team.
I hope that you find this strategy helpful to drive your students further into their inquiry excursions. Let me know if you have ever tried this and how it worked out in your classroom by commenting below!