ABC Brainstorm–a pre-writing or pre-discussion strategy. Students are either provided with or create a list of each letter of the alphabet, and then they are provided with a topic. They must come up with words and ideas related to that topic, and they must correspond to each letter of the alphabet. Students can work individually or in groups. *The teacher will want to make sure that the topic provided is broad enough that students can list many possible terms.*
Carousel Brainstorm–a pre-writing or pre-discussion strategy. Students are put into groups of three or four and given a piece of chart paper and a topic. Each group is equipped with a marker of a different color, and they are given a short amount of time (maybe thirty seconds) to brainstorm words and ideas related to the topic on their page. When time is up, they must pass along their paper to the group on their left so that that group can add ideas to the paper. Each group’s paper should make a full rotation to each group before returning to its original group. At the end, ideas will be scattered all over the paper in different colors like graffiti. As an extension to this strategy, the teacher can have the students in each group circle the three most central ideas to their topic, and perhaps create a definition using those three terms. *The teacher will want to make sure to add additional time for each rotation while students are still adding ideas to the charts. Once all of the obvious choices are taken, students may need to think a little longer to come up with ideas to write on the paper.*
Concept of Definition Map–a vocabulary strategy. This strategy helps students move beyond one-dimensional defintions to gain a more robust understanding of the meaning of a term. It asks students to define its category (“What is it?”), its properties (“What is it like?”), and illustrations (“What are some examples?”).
History Frame–a social studies comprehension tool. This strategy is a modern-day take on the story map commonly used in English class. When students study historical events, they’re asked to explain many of the same elements that they would look for in a story, such as:
- When and where did this event take place?
- Who was involved?
- What were the problems or goals that set this event into motion?
- What were the key events?
- How was it resolved?
- What’s the reason that this event matters?
This type of framing or mapping can also be used in science class to complete an experiment or lab report: Story Mapping Across the Content Areas
Inquiry Chart–a research tool. This chart offers a planned framework for examining critical questions by combining a student’s background knowledge with information found in several sources. On any given topic, a student will have to answer a few key questions (found in the header of each column) and record answers to those questions based on background knowledge and information pulled from different sources. There is also a space at the bottom for students to record a summary of their findings. This would not only make a great planning tool for a research paper, but it would also help students with internal citations and the works cited page at the end.
Opinion-Proof–a pre-writing or pre-discussion activity. This chart is a variation of Cornell notes. Students are great at putting forth opinions, but the idea here is to get them to back up their opinions with facts, concepts, or research. Teachers can either assign students an opinion that they must prove, or allow them to form their own opinion. Those opinions are written in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column, students must support that opinion using citations from a text, video, newspaper, story, or other source. This is great tool to prepare students for a debate or a persuasive essay. It is very easy to design, but a graphic organizer (as well as a partially completed example) has still been provided.
Power Thinking–a note-taking strategy. This is a familiar, traditional format for outlining notes in a hierarchical nature. All of the information that the students write down from the lecture or the text they are reading is categorized into main ideas, subtopics, and then supporting details. This method of note-taking really challenges students to classify which concepts are most important, and which concepts are secondary.
QAR–a question/answer strategy. This is a format for teaching students to strategically answer questions by identifying the type of question that was asked. There are four basic question/answer relationships:
- Right there: The student can physically point to a single sentence or phrase in the text to find the answer word-for-word.
- Think and search: The answer is in the text, but it is scattered around among different sentences. The student must grasp ideas that extend across multiple paragraphs.
- Author and you: The answer is not in the text, but you still need information that the author has given you, combined with what you already know, to answer this type of question.
- On my own: The answer is not in the text, and in fact, you don’t even need to read the text to form an answer to the question.
Questioning the Author–a critical thinking strategy. This strategy offers a series of questions that the reader can ask the author to evaluate the author’s intent and success in communicating it. This is not merely an invitation for a student to “challenge” or “critique” the author. If a passage is difficult to read, it may very well be because the author has done a poor job of writing it. However, if a student points out the fact that a passage is poorly written, he or she should be required to improve it and re-write it. Questions for the author include:
- What is the author trying to tell you?
- Why is the author telling you that?
- Does the author say it clearly?
- How could the author have phrased it more clearly?
- What would you write instead?
3-2-1–a comprehension strategy. This strategy gives students a chance to summarize key ideas after reading a text, focusing on the ideas that are most important to them, and pose a question about ideas that are still confusing. This is a a great alternative to assigning the questions at the end of the chapter, and a good way to informally assess students’ understanding of what they’re reading. Using this strategy, students identify: 3 things they found out, 2 interesting things, and 1 question they still have. Of course, this is a simple, general version that can be used across content areas. Subject area teachers can modify this strategy to use with more specific content. For example, a history teacher could modify 3-2-1 by asking for 3 difference between feudalism and nation-states, 2 similarities, and 1 question they still have.