Every connected educator loves social media because of the incredible new ideas that they get on their feed hourly, and last week was no exception. As I was scrolling through my litany of awesome professionals that I follow, I was instantly struck by Richard Byrne’s share on hexagonal thinking. The method looks similar to something that my teaching partner Laurie and I had done in the past, using dominoes to have students make connections between terms about a certain era. After reading the post from Terri Eicholz (Engage Their Minds), I quickly realized that hexagonal thinking stepped it up a notch with the ability to make more connections and interrelated tessellations. I knew we had to use it and use it soon. Lo and behold, soon was today and it was a great experience for our students in for us.
There are many additional posts that you can consult to check out hexagonal thinking, but here it is in a nutshell: Terms (and images, if you want) can be put on cutout hexagons. These hexagons are then maneuvered and linked in order to display connections between ideas. They can be used to display larger concepts as well. WIth multiple terms, the hexagons turn into an honeycomb of information. There are some posts about using hexagonal thinking for design thinking, which could be my next step in a creative project.
We put the method to work as we introduced the Progressive Movement in our American studies class. We already examined the Gilded Age and the rise of industry, under the title of “Progress and Problems”. To prepare for today’s activity, students watched a 25 minute video overview of the Progressive Era to serve as a preview. In our 70 minute blocks, they were given over 80 hexagons (including some blank ones for them to fill-in if desired) and tasked with categorizing the terms, making connections to get the big picture of the Progressive Movement, summarizing their categories into a succinct definition, and passing some judgment on the involvement of the progresses. Our assignment prompt is available here, along with a collection of our terms and blank hexagon template. You can also make your own hexagons using the HookED SOLO Hexagon Generator. One thing we learned quickly – have the hexagons cut out ahead of time!
The results? Outstanding. Students were completely engaged for 60 minutes, making connections, discussing common categories, correcting and critiquing each other, all in a collaborative fashion. We noticed that students were moving as they looked at the hexagons from different views. They made keen observations about the connections in the movement, including that it was a sometimes fractured movement with many different goals. One student said that she loved the activity because she learned so much and was able to see it develop with her own eyes. That’s tough to beat, don’t you think?
Needless say, this method will become a staple in our American studies class, and I plan to use it in my social studies methods class as well. This can be used at any age level and any curricular area– in and out of social studies. As a formative assessment, it is powerful – but I feel the collaborative aspect and visual representation of thinking is the magic.
Now … it’s back to social media to look for the next awesome inspirational idea. It’s probably going to take only a couple minutes!