The Awesome Six Sided World of Hexagonal Thinking

Hexagonal Thinking Title (1).jpgEvery 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!

Hexagons for Progressive Example (1).jpg

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!


How do you Kahoot? Here’s a new idea!


Unless you been completely off the ed tech grid in the last few years, you obviously know the engaging power of Kahoot. There’s something about the platform that turns the simple concept of answering multiple choice questions into the final minute of a close national championship football game – tension, excitement, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and it’s always LOUD! From elementary level learners to my undergraduate method students, I’ve seen Kahoots have students on the edge of their seats, excited to display their knowledge (and crush their classmates). While I don’t have any statistical data to back this up, I predict that most teachers are using Kahoot either as a formative assessment or to review content, right before a test or quiz. However, I think it can be used for much more than the quick review game – how about the foundation of an entire flipped lesson?

I’ve used Kahoots as a structure for in-depth discussions about historical content, based on an essential question and focusing on learning targets. If you flip your class, this is a great way to process the content students have examined at home. It also could be an awesome method of providing skill review for students, especially in the area visual literacy.

To give you an idea about how this progresses, imagine you are in a LOUD 8th grade American Studies class, checking out the ins and outs of the Reconstruction era. The essential question is “Was Reconstruction a success or failure?”, while the learning target is “I can discuss and evaluate the short term and long term impact of Reconstruction”.  

The experience begins with the preparation, as students are asked to examine a reading, video(s), series of websites, articles, or a combination of all three, all with learning targets in mind. Students should be provided focus questions or topics, not specific literal questions.  In my experience, I have students take notes in the form of an applicable graphic organizer (usually rooted to the EQ or target), or in any manner of their choosing.  The flipped goal is to give them a broad base of knowledge about the content, and then we make sense of it in class.

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Class proceeds with a Kahoot based on the flipped content, but designed to dig deeper, answer any questions, and continually focus on an EQ or target.  I enjoy using the Team Kahoot function for this, letting students discuss the content and learn from each other.  It’s always fun to have them develop content based nicknames for their teams.  I also try to get the students moving by rearranging their seats after every four questions, putting them in rank order (thanks to Jason Bretzmann for that pearl).

In between Kahoot questions, I probe for opinions, dig deeper into the content, utilize various tabs on the SmartBoard to share cool content and relevant links to today, categorize information, and use response systems like Plickers for a quick formative assessment.  As we progress, students can add to their notes, ask questions out loud or in another form (back channel chat, online board …), and make observations about the content, all relating to the focus of the content.  A 10-15 question Kahoot can form the structure for an entire class, with students focusing on the content similar to a traditional lecture, but engaging, discussing, interacting, categorizing, reflecting, and moving – and having a ton more fun while doing so.

How do I assess their understanding? You name it! Assessment could be an exit ticket, an PollEverywhere post, a response on a Google form, even an email from their parents stating they discussed the question at dinner – or a student choice! My goals are for my students to be engaged with the content, think about an essential question, and hit a learning target – and Kahoot has been a great platform (in doses) to accomplish these.

I’m sure you use Kahoot in other awesome ways – please share yours! Tweet them on the Twitter thang, and add @chucktaft to your post.  Much obliged … and keep Kahooting!