Yesterday my Year 9 class were finishing up our Ecosystems unit in anticipation of quickly moving onto our next unit, Splitting the Atom. We have our half yearly exam coming up very soon so I wanted us to do a revision activity but without spending a whole slab of precious class time on it. Enter the SOLO hexagons!
Now I’ve talked before about using the SOLO hexagon activity in class, with some examples of how I’ve used them. But when I’ve done these activities, I’ve used the small hexagon template and had the students write on the hexagons and cut them out with scissors. The good and bad thing about this, though, is that it can be time consuming to get the students to build solid connections between ideas.
So what I’ve done this time around (with the gracious help of our lab assistant) is to use the large hexagon template (which has 2 per page), cut them out and laminated them. I also had a brainwave and stuck some magnetic tape on the back. The lamination means that you can write on them with whiteboard markers and erase them. The magnetic tape allows you to stick them up onto the whiteboard and make a whole-class tessellation!
I asked the students to write one idea, word, concept relating to our Ecosystems unit and then take turns to put them up on the board, connecting their idea to the ideas already up there. Here’s a photo of their efforts:
At the end we had a few clusters of ideas that I wanted us to recognise, so I wrote those subheadings based on the students’ suggestions.
All up, this activity took 10 minutes tops! Now admittedly we have done the hexagon activity a few times now, so they have some experience and know the format by now, but it was a productive and efficient way to summarise our ideas. There were a lot of ideas not represented (can you tell that we’ve covered the water cycle most recently?) but it was a helpful way to cap things off.
A word to the wise, though – it can be a lot harder to clean marker off laminate than an actual whiteboard!
Today I moved to the next level in my implementation of SOLO (see what I did there?). In my Year 9 class we were revising the concept of food chains and webs, which they covered in Year 8 but now with the Australian Curriculum has become a topic for Stage 5.
We’ve recently introduced SOLO, developing a familiarity with the five levels and completed a survey on attitudes to learning and intelligence and the growth mindset. It was now time to start to introduce the concepts of learning intentions and success criteria.
Learning intentions are a way of articulating to students the purpose and goals of the lesson. I realise that having goals for a lesson isn’t a new concept, but it is an important part of using SOLO in the classroom. They allow students a clear point of comparison at the end of the lesson when they reflect on their learning. If the students know at the start what they are setting out to accomplish, then they can more effectively gauge where their understanding is at at the end.
Success criteria are a way of outlining to the students what success looks like at each of the levels of SOLO, i.e. what does a relational understanding of a particular learning intention look like? Alice puts it really well when she describes them as follows:
…success criteria are what students have to do to be successful in that lesson. The success criteria are classified by the SOLO taxonomy, which lets both the student and the teacher know how the student is progressing and adjust the teaching and learning process accordingly.
Here are my success criteria for this lesson:
The students really seemed to respond to the clearly articulated learning intentions and success criteria. They had a clearer idea of what was expected and what level of understanding they were working at. They were still a bit unsure of what to do – it’s all still very new and there were a number of new factors today – but overall it was very positive.
I definitely need to improve on articulating the strategies that the students can use to achieve success and I think I assumed that they had too much knowledge already. Many of the questions and problems that arose related to knowledge that I had assumed the students had and so I had to backpedal a few times to address this. Nevertheless, the students had a much clearer idea of how to improve and make progress and we’re definitely making positive moves towards adopting the growth mindset. Here’s a sample of one group’s effort that is working at the relational level for this lesson:
Definitely lots to celebrate here!
The new school term started back today, and so I’ve decided to start implementing SOLO into my everyday practice. At the moment I feel rather unprepared for it all, so I suspect that I’ll just have to feel my way through for a time.
Over the next few days I will be introducing SOLO to my students in a more explicit sense, discussing the levels in the taxonomy and what each one represents with some scientific examples. I have an introductory PowerPoint based on one that Alice posted that I showed to my Year 10 class today and will roll out to the others over the next little while (I’ll endeavour to put it up if I get the chance).
Tomorrow I’m also going to start giving my students a survey to find out their attitudes about intelligence, effort and scientific ability. I plan on using this as a way to introduce the concept of the growth mindset, which I see is crucial to success using SOLO.
Watch this space!
One of the fantastic activities we learnt about (and modelled) at the SOLO workshop yesterday was the SOLO hexagons. Alice blogs about them here.
At the workshop we were introduced to this activity by brainstorming about the topic of morning tea. We had a blank hexagon template and had to fill in as many of the hexagons as possible with words, phrases and images that related to the concept of morning tea. We then cut them out and combined our hexagons with the others at our table, lining up and tessellating our hexagons to highlight connections between related ideas and words.
Here is a snapshot of our work:
Every connected edge and vertex between hexagons is another connection to articulate and explain. It’s a beautiful activity because no two groups will make identical connections for identical reasons; there’s no right or wrong answer or “right way” to do it. If the students can thoughtfully make connections, they can succeed at this activity.
Pam Hook also has a free hexagon template generator that you can use to make your own labelled hexagons for a more guided approach.