A Geography Lesson: Making the learning visible

I remember being new to teaching and asking students to do complex thinking (analyse this…. Explain that…..etc.) and not really knowing how to help them do it. I have seen teachers that simply assume that students should be able to do it and if they cannot, then it is simply because they are “not that smart”. Fortunately I have learned a lot since my beginning days as a teacher (in fact I learn better now than I ever did). Anyway, what follows is a lesson I gave to my year12 Geography class in preparation for their exams. The intention was to de-code the technical words in exam questions and show that success does not come from luck or being brainy but from having effective strategies and applying effort.

These first slides are from a SOLO Learning team meeting I am facilitating tomorrow Then I get on to the slides I used with my class.

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I first learned about Parts/Whole analysis from a course I went to featuring Robert Schwarts and Art Costa. the work of Pam Hook and Julie Mills aligning it with SOLO Taxonomy is what has really made it powerful for me as a teacher. Anyway, these are the slides I used to introduce this to the class.

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I then went through heaps of exam questions to give a meaningful rational to what I wanted them to do. And to show them how it fits with SOLO

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As this was a revision lesson, we then used their notes and a text book to complete the Parts/Whole thinking map. I had them in groups (two groups doing each of the three parts) and at the end we collated it to create some super good revision notes.

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The first box was just for the detail (I am always reminding them that specific facts and numbers equals merit or Excellence (another good strategy) This is Multistructural thinking or bringing in ideas.

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The next box is about imagining if the part were missing or changed. What might that mean. Always good to use tentative language so the thinking is broadened and not limited. This is Relational thinking or making links

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The last box is all about reaching a conclusion or making an overall claim about the function of the part given the thinking that has been done. This allows students to show extended abstract thinking.

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For students to gain top marks (or Excellence as it is known in NZ) they need to show insight. Below is a visual rubric from Hooked on Thinking (Pam and Julie) that I think nicely shows that insight can be articulated by making some broader generalisations or insights about how the parts might influence each other or perhaps which part is the most significant and why.

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This post was a bit rushed so if anyone has questions or comments, go for it.


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