Tag Archives: hexagons

Engaging the Whole Class with Large SOLO Hexagons

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:

20140522-071838-26318864.jpgAt 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!

Using the SOLO Hexagons – Some Classroom Examples

Today was the last day of our first term, so for some strange reason I decided today would be the day that I would road-test the use of the SOLO hexagons that I learnt about the other day.

Despite the admittedly tricky timing, I wanted to use them today as a way for my Year 10 students to finish off their unit on Chemical Reactions. I had hoped that they would use the exercise to build connections between ideas that we had met and refresh their memories.

Unfortunately, the reality was a fair bit more lacklustre than that. I had pre-prepared the hexagons for them but i wasn’t around for the start of the lesson, so they were rather lost. They were clearly also in last day mode, but some of them got something useful out of it. Here’s some samples:


As a spur of the moment thing, I also decided to do it with my Year 9 class. With them I just got them to write ideas down on blank hexagons and then piece them together – much like we did when at the workshop. This class seemed to get into the activity a bit more, and with some direct guidance came up with some useful connections. Here are some more examples:



20140412-170738.jpgLots of quality work here, with great potential for using it in future. I think that I need to work on how much explanation and elaboration I do to help them understand how the activity works. Hopefully this will save some of the blank looks in future!

Exploring the SOLO Taxonomy

Today I had the fantastic opportunity to explore the use of the SOLO taxonomy with Pam Hook. This is something I’ve been really interested in learning more about, ever since seeing it on Alice Leung’s blog.

For those (like me) who haven’t had much experience with SOLO, it stands for Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes. I would sum it up as a way of looking at student learning that is accounting for where their understanding at in terms of connecting ideas.

In a superficially similar way to Bloom’s taxonomy, SOLO is a sequence of five levels:

Prestructural – I don’t know anything about (X).
Unistructural – I have one idea about (X).
Multistructural – I have many ideas about (X) but they are unconnected.
Relational – I have many ideas about (X) and can make the connections between them.
Extended Abstract – I have many ideas about (X), can make detailed connections between them and extend it somewhere new or apply it to novel situations.

(I say superficially because there are fundamental differences between the underlying ideas behind and application of these two approaches, something which became increasingly apparent throughout the day.)

We can also think about it in terms of functioning knowledge (about how to do something), in which case it looks slightly different:

Prestructural – I need help to (X).
Unistructural – I can do (X) if I have lots of guidance and specific help.
Multistructural – I can do (X) by myself, but I don’t know the reasons why and I do make mistakes.
Relational – I can do (X) very well. I know the why and when of the steps. I can analyse the reason for my mistakes and self correct.
Extended Abstract – I can do (X) really, really well. I can take it in new directions. I seek critique and feedback to improve. Others can learn from me and I can teach others how to do it (act as a role model).

The idea behind this taxonomy is that you see the student’s work and rather than assessing it purely for correctness, you see how well the student can state and connect ideas about a topic. Can they only mention one thing about the topic? Can they state multiple facts but without understanding the links between them? Or do they have a deep, conceptual understanding of the topic, to the point of being able to effectively teach someone else? SOLO can help identify these levels.

Here are some of the things that really excite me about SOLO:

  • It’s a system that students can (and should) own. It doesn’t have to be purely a teacher-driven lens to examine students’ work. It will have its greatest power as an assessment-as-learning tool to help students identify a) where their learning is at and b) how to move their understanding to the next level.
  • It assesses where their understanding is at on that particular topic, rather than of the subject or semester as a whole. I see a lot of potential for it to help the students identify their specific strengths and weaknesses, allowing them (especially seniors) to target their revision and practice accordingly.
  • Everyone is prestructural about something at some point- regardless of our life experience or expertise. I may have two university degrees under my belt and have achieved the University Medal, but I’m certainly prestructural about how to hang a door! Everyone has to start out there, but the only way is up!

One fantastic SOLO strategy that I’m itching to try is the SOLO hexagons. A great way for students to bring in ideas about a topic, make connections and then explicitly articulate those connections.

So, I realise this is a lot of detail but I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to learn directly from someone who is apparently quite the guru – especially in a regional area. I really look forward to implementing some of these in my classroom and faculty.