Monday, December 14, 2009

Word Webs

We are finishing up our geology unit, and getting ready to do a final project and a final assessment. To review, I made sets of cards with all kinds of rock- and soil-related vocabulary on it. Working in small, teacher-led groups, we went through the cards and talked about what they meant. For some things, we taped examples of the material right onto the card (like gravel, or sand.) For others, students drew quick pictures of something to remind them of what it means. For example, Alex drew a window on the card that said "transparent," and Yolanda drew a wooden block on the card that said "opaque."

Then we put the cards down all over the table, and I asked who could find some that went together. The rules were:
  • You can move the cards around wherever you want on the table.
  • You can put together 2 or more cards.
  • Even if someone already moved a card, you can move it again to put it with another word or words.
  • For any move you make, you have to explain why you put those words together.
(I learned this activity at an Expeditionary Learning Schools institute about 3 years ago but had never tried it before.)

They had a blast, and did a mind-boggling job of connecting words. Here are some examples:
  • Keisha put "clay" next to "rock" because "when rocks get very, very, very, very tiny, they turn into clay."
  • Alex put "roots" next to "humus" because "trees and plants grow in humus."
  • They made this tower of materials that come from rocks, from biggest to smallest:

  • Najah immediately put "water" next to "rock." Curious, I looked at her. "Why did you put those together?" I asked. "Because water is one of the things that makes rocks smaller and smoother!" she announced proudly.
  • Keisha (who has some considerable learning challenges), put 3 cards in order like this:

"Because if you put rocks in a volcano, they turn into lava!"
  • Shawn put "glassy" next to "ice" because ice is glassy. Then someone else put "iceberg" next to "ice" because icebergs are made of ice, and they are both glassy.
  • Alex put "dull" next to "tree." "Because wood is dull," he announced.
  • To my surprise, Yolanda put "dull" next to "opaque." "A lot of things that are dull are opaque," she told me. "And wood is dull, and it is opaque." I thought about it and agreed. Not everything that is opaque is dull, but everything that is dull is opaque (I think).
It was another great moment of teaching, of intellectual excitement and spark. Having the words in front of them really helped them remember what they have learned, and how it all connects. They put things together that I never would have thought of. And all of the connecting and reasoning works to spark their synapses, helping these ideas stick in their brains.

And, once again, it came from geology... Don't tell my dad that I found out, after years of complaining about geology, that rocks could be so fun!

No comments:

Post a Comment