For literacy this term our intermediate school has been learning and discovering all about significant moments in history. In particular, one of the main focuses has been racism and civil rights. As a whole, the students have been examining the impact of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and even Michael Jackson’s influence on race relations through song. The learning, overall, has been powerful and the students have been strongly engaged with the content.
I’ve been thinking about thinking and reading more and more about hexagonal learning - via Chris Harte in particular. This model seems simple to implement, yet a fabulous means for getting the students to discuss, justify and even argue.
As an introduction to this way of organising ideas and thinking, I took our topic of civil rights and racial inequality and put together 20 hexagons with a variety of words and phrases.
To begin this idea for the students, I took the context of musical instruments and had them justify to a partner why certain instruments belonged together. There was much debate - even around a simple topic.
The basic instructions were to make sure that each group fully discussed and justified the placement of each hexagon and each group member had to agree on why it was placed there. The learning was around the discussion, the connections and the choices.
Because the students had been heavily engaged with the subject matter for 6 weeks before attempting this activity, there was no need to cover vocabulary or ideas. We jumped straight in.
The first thing that struck me was how quiet they all were as each student thought individually through the options first - taking a small handful of hexagons and placing them together in different ways. Within 3 - 4 minutes the noise began, as I had hoped.
Not one student asked me if they were doing it right! Yay!
20 minutes in and there was a clear divide amongst the students. Those who argued, those who discussed, justified and then compromised, and finally those who were happy to accept any answer.
As I roamed around, I would deliberately point out interesting connections and have the students justify their choices - occasionally the students backed down straight away and removed the hexagon, but on more occasions they stood their ground offering some reasonable justifications.
After 45 minutes the arguers were no closer to completing but had had some great discussions. The compromisers were scrambling to complete but had well thought out connections, and the acceptors had long since finished and were happy with what they had done.
As the teacher - what a fabulous way to formatively assess the understanding of content knowledge, connections, relationships and their application.
My next step is to have some of the more confident students record their justifications for others to hear and initiate further discussion around their choices.
I see great potential in this strategy and will definitely be trying it again as soon as possible.