Wednesday 13 August 2014

Using SOLO Hexagons With Early Years Learners

I have found using hexagons to be a fantastic way to make learning visible in so many contexts. Being able to place and move hexagons around leads to learners making connections and being open to considering connections they might not have noticed before. 

I begin by asking them a question:
What do you know about.... and we generate ideas - as many as they wish onto blank hexagons - template available at Pam Hook's site

"But these kids can't write yet!" That's ok! Representing an idea can be done in many ways, have them draw their idea, tell you their idea and you scribe it, take a picture of their idea if it is concrete..."

Some questions I have asked when using hexagons are 
"What are you really great at?" & "What would you like to learn to do better?" (great questions for building personal connections at the beginning of the year)
"What are some living things that you know about?" (Intro to a 'Living World' Science focus)
"Who are some people who help us in our school environment?" (Health and Social Sciences focus)

An example I used in an ECE kindergarten setting was
"What is your favourite food?"

A Learning Intention might look like 'WALT describe how we relate to each other in Room __'

You will probably notice that these are 'low level/shallow' questions. This is because I want to generate Unistructural level responses with which we can use to work through the rubric. 

In the early years, when I am teaching learners to use SOLO Taxonomy, I use it more as a constructive teaching 'tool' (for want of a better word!), than an independent self assessment 'tool'. I have to scaffold them in to using it and teach them about it - just like I have to teach letter sounds, words, counting forwards and backwards... before they can apply these skills to reading, writing and solving maths problems.

If they are able to respond to the question onto a hexagon with a relevant idea, I help them notice this on the SOLO rubric (Unistructural). What is our next step? Where can we find out? 

We use the hand signals and indicate on the rubric. I bring students together and see if each can connect it to one other hexagon. (Multistructural - at this level, they don't need to explain why they connected it). We usually do this on large card on the floor. I usually model by using my own hexagon first and describing what it shows. Then I ask "Does anyone else have one that is a bit like mine, that can connect with mine?" Keep using the learning language!

There is always one that wants to join to the teacher's! But... Can they justify how it connects? I might need to help them with this - that's ok! They are 'Prestructural at using hexagons'! I expect them to need help! Once they can justify/explain a connection, they are moving into relation level against the learning intention. I use think, pair, shares a lot to encourage discussion between students. I ask them to describe their hexagon and talk about how it may connect to another.

When a learner has a contribution they can't or don't want to connect, we might ask others for help, or begin a new 'cluster'.

Be warned - kids will WOW you! And it's awesome! With my class of ECE learners, one learner wanted to connect her chicken to another learner's ice-cream... I couldn't rationalise this, so I asked her to "Tell me more, can you explain, can you tell me more about that?" (note the purposeful repetition and use of language). Her response "They are the same colour!" Further questioning led to me finding that her favourite flavour was caramel, not goody goody gumdrops! :-)

At this point, once we have made as many connections as the students wish, we can move them around if others have different ways to connect the hexagons - as long as they can justify it (or I can help them to). This is SUCH a great oral language generator! I absolutely use Google if there are any questions they want to clarify - why not? I don't know everything (like if Spider Crabs are a real thing... It's amazing what they ask!) and to not know, is ok, I'm a learner too!

To look at the hexagons overall, and make an Extended Abstract generalisation; 'looking at it all together', I ask them to stand up. They notice the clusters from another angle and I find this helps them see an overall picture. "Most of us are great at ...."  or "More people like...." or "Lots of us want to learn about...We could help us!" "We know lots of living things that live in water... We wonder...." And often that wondering can generate and inform your next planning step.

I name every child's contribution because it enables them to feel ownership of their idea. It also helps toward my own assessment, to ask them if they think they have contributed enough, and so parents and whanau can see and enjoy what their child has said. 

It's SO important to refer to the rubric and explain why they have met the particular level for this learning goal - this is what helps make the learning VISIBLE. 

This is only how I use hexagons... I'd love to hear and learn about how others use them! 

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