Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


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129: Try Hexagonal One-Pagers

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For many years now, I’ve believed it’s important for students to understand that visuals help bring meaning and power to words. I think this is a necessary thought shift for the field of ELA education. In our modern world, the visual and verbal are intertwined in most forms of communication. Take all of social media as an example. Political campaigns. Advertising. Web design. Almost every form of marketing. Infographics. 

I could go on and on, my friend. This core idea is a big part of why I love one-pagers, sketchnotes, storyboards, blackout poetry, infographic projects, and blog design as ELA projects. I believe students’ words and ideas only become more powerful in the world when they know how to present them with complementary visuals that help to tell their story and drive home their arguments. 

Which brings us to today’s topic (ahem, I know, at last). Hexagonal one-pagers. If you’ve been loving hexagonal thinking as a discussion strategy (or you’re excited to get started with it soon), AND you like doing one-pagers with your students, hexagonal thinking one-pagers are an awesome extension of both strategies. Ideally you’ve already done some of both things before you combine them, but once you have, boy oh boy do you have a really cool option waiting for you. 

Before we begin, I want to invite you to sign up for the free (and fun) summer PD I’m working on for you right now (it starts next week!). We’ll be diving into hexagonal thinking, and you’ll walk away confident in your ability to use this great strategy to ignite discussion in your class come fall. I’ll teach you how to introduce the concept, build great hexagonal thinking decks for different types of texts, teach your students how to make deeper connections with their cards, give you options for how to have your students write about and/or present their work, and provide help with assessment. It’s going to be a great week! And don’t worry, the “camp” is completely asynchronous. Each day you’ll get an email inviting you to check out the ideas and free resource for the day, and you can catch up when your busy summer relaxation schedule allows! 

Sign up Here

Ready to find out exactly how to get going with hexagonal one-pagers? Let’s do it! You can listen in below, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, or whatever podcast player you love.

So the first step for hexagonal one-pagers is just to make one-pagers, centered around the same sorts of topics you’d normally put on a hexagonal thinking deck. That means inviting students to create one-pagers (small or large) for things like characters, themes, symbols, style, or connections to current events. 

As with any one-pager, I recommend giving students templates with the hexagon divided up in some way, along with a list of components that you want included. Maybe for characters the hexagonal one-pager will include the name of the character, an image related to the character, a key quotation that reveals something important about the character, the character’s relationships, and some descriptors. 

Now, you could give each student a piece of paper with a few mini-hexagons and have them create each one rather quickly, maybe contributing four different terms to their small group’s deck. Or you could give each student in the classroom a large full-size hexagon and either assign them topics from a list you have already made or have them sign up on the board for what they want to cover (so there are no repeats). 

Once your students have created their one-pagers (that just so happen to be in the shape of hexagons), you can move into hexagonal thinking like you would any time. In small groups or as a class, students can begin to shift the hexagons around, lining up the edges to create connections, and discussing and debating what fits where best as they go.

Because this is such a visual critical thinking strategy, I highly recommend you eventually have your students display their final work on the walls of your classroom or in your hallway for a gallery walk and to remain for several days or weeks after the activity. Pass out tape rolls and have students put their work up, including their connection explanations (whether on post-its, paper connection arrows, or pieces of paper) with the webs. In this way, their critical thinking becomes akin to a museum display for the book. 

What do you think? Are you as excited about this as I am? Maybe this will be the new peanut butter and jelly of the ELA world! Fingers crossed.

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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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