Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


308: Build an Easy Careers Unit
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Hexagonal Thinking in the Digital Classroom: Step by Step

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So maybe you keep hearing about hexagonal thinking and how wonderfully it works for unlocking student discussion online, but you just can’t quite wrap your head around how it. 

I hear you. 

Today,  let’s walk step by step through how you can use my free digital hexagonal thinking kit to design an activity for your students for tomorrow. If you haven’t yet, you can sign up for the kit below, so you’re ready for action when you finish reading this post! You’ll also join a community of 40,000+ other creative teachers who receive my Friday emails full of ideas for creative teaching.

Before we start, you might want to scan through this digital gallery of hexagonal thinking in action in other ELA classes over at We Are Teachers. I created this with examples from some of the amazing teachers in my Facebook group, Creative High School English (come join us!). 

1. Start by Selecting Big Ideas relating to your unit to put on your Hexagons

In hexagonal thinking, the really interesting conversations come when students debate how to connect the ideas, characters, books, social movements, artistic pieces, famous figures, etc. that are on their hexagons. So start right where you are in class. Maybe you’re in the middle of a book, and you can easily add character names, a few style characteristics of the book, the author’s name, and related books you’ve read. Then you go a step further and list some things going on in modern politics or art that relate, or parts of history that could connect. Maybe you include a specific meaningful quotation or two. There’s no one right way to do this.  

Here’s what this might look like with hexagons you could move around in class. But today, we’re talking about digital hexagons, and it’s just the same! Simply open your kit and type the terms and ideas into the column for terms. Each of them is a moveable text box that students can shift around as they discuss. 

#2 Screenshare to show Students the Examples in the Kit of Hexagonal Thinking in Action

Before diving into the activity for the first time, take a second to walk your students through what the work can look like. There are three different examples in the kit, showing the set up, the final web, and the written connections. Choose one or two to show your students. 

The Set-Up

The Web, with Connections labeled for the Writing
The Written Connections


#3 Divide Students up into Partners or Small Group Breakouts to Work

Give students their copies of the slides you want them to have from the kit, including the example, directions, web with terms put in, and space to explain connections (unless you’re going to have them share their connections in some other way. 
Be sure you have the sharing settings set to allow them to edit their copies. 
Talk about your expectations for the group and your timeline up front. They should know what time they need to return and how they will be sharing their connections back to the group before they leave (will they just turn in their writing? Choose a leader to present back? Individually record flip grids? Share their work in a gallery?) 
Now give them time to work, checking in to the breakout rooms to answer questions. Remember that nothing goes perfectly the first time! This is an activity you could easily repeat every week or two, and the kids will become much more adept over time, as with any discussion strategy. 

#4 Guide Students in Sharing their Work

Don’t let the time run out on your class without letting students share back somehow. This can mean each group checks in with the whole class for 60 seconds, sharing their most interesting connection and then turns in their individual writing. This can mean everyone records a Flipgrid video to share about their key connections. It can mean you do a digital gallery walk, having each group save their slide as a “PNG” file and drop it into a collaborative slide deck that everyone can come and see at the end of class. Whatever works best for you! 
Hopefully this quick walkthrough makes it easy to imagine getting started with this activity soon. If you could use a few more visuals of what hexagonal thinking looks like in person, check out this hexagonal thinking IGTV episode I recorded for you. 

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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