Getting students to think at higher levels and encouraging them to use the academic language of the lesson can be a challenge. I know because I used to teach in an 8th grade classroom in Arizona and I wouldn’t normally call any technique magical, except for this one. This technique, which I refer to as “Fairy Dust”, is simple yet highly effective and gets our students thinking at more critical thinking levels and using more academic language. What’s magical about it is the almost immediate effect I saw it have on my students, even the most resistant.
Here’s the process:
Instead of asking a recall level question, like “Who…What…When…Where…?” Ask a How or Why question. If students are required to elaborate more on their responses they are likely to not only think at higher levels of cognition (analyze and evaluate), they are also encouraged to use more academic language in their responses. To get the the discussion going, give students a sentence frame that connects to the question.
Here’s how it sounds:”Get ready to explain to your partner how you solved the equation.” then prompt students to share “When you’re sharing you can get started with: One strategy I used to solve the equations was… or try using transition words, First I…Then I…As a result I… Finally I…” Then let them turn and talk, you walk around and listen in and encourage them to use the language frames they need to express their thinking.
I was amazed to find that within the first few tries of this technique I had students expressing themselves in more depth than I had ever heard them before. It lead me to believe that my kids had it in them all the time, they just needed a little Fairy Dust to bring it out.
Great resources for getting kids to think at higher levels and sentence frames that support them can be found here: http://padlet.com/SIOPTeacher/TeacherPage