Substitution or Redefinition?

To take a break from reading To Kill A Mockingbird, I led my students in a critical thinking activity I’ve executed in a variety of different ways in the past. Essentially, students were assigned to read chapters 14 and 15 of the novel on their own and write down three separate passages that resonated with them. Passages that seemed significant to the larger workings of the novel. Passages that made them stop– even for a second– and think.

When they came back to class the next day, they separated those passages and we made three large piles. After that, I arranged them into three larger groups each group getting a stack of passages. For time’s sake, I asked them to pick 10. Students were asked to glue the ten passages to the butcher paper in any random order, the organization didn’t matter. They could either do this randomly (which they did because of time) or by the ones that were juicy. Hindsight: Probably should have had them do the latter because two groups had repeats and a couple times there wasn’t an actual quote (meaning a student must not have understood the assignment) and some of the quotes were too short and the significance didn’t seem as obvious.

From there, students were asked to work together as a group to identify the connections between the quotes. They all inherently connect because they are from the same novel, it is just up to the students to make the connection. Some students identified cause and effect relationships, and others identified what we called “common denominator” relationships. For example, there were two separate instances where Jem and Atticus were trying to temper Scout’s passionate wonderings, and students had a discussion that if two people were saying the same thing to Scout that it was likely they were accurate.

I’ve led this activity before, mostly with Romeo and Juliet, and I picked the quotes. What I like about this activity is it is always pretty challenging, but so worthwhile. It helped them summarize the piece, and use critical thinking skills to analyze the relationships between the quotes. This forced them to fill in the blanks and really consider the context surrounding the quotes.

Each of the three groups worked together differently, and their spatial arrangement


Group #1


Group #2

played a pretty big role in that. Two groups taped their poster to the wall and gathered around it, one of them had a table in the middle of the group edged right up against the wall. The other group (group #1) pushed two tables together and everyone stood around the table. This third group seemed to work more cohesively together, I observed everyone gluing, discussing, and writing. Group #2, whose poster was on the wall above the table, had all of the female students doing the work, while the boys stood by the wayside and chatted. The other group (Group #3)in the back with the poster taped to the wall worked a little more cohesively. One student, however, was sort of isolated to the left and didn’t really offer much to the group. Eventually, when I required each student to write something on the poster, she did participate and the group worked with her.


Group #3


After reflecting on this, I went back to a question I’ve asked myself so many times this year I lost count, “How would I do this in a digital environment?”

Here are some tools I think I may use: Lucid Chart (Google Chrome extension), Popplet (the online version), or Paddlet. I don’t have much experience with Lucid Chart, and I haven’t ever asked students to collaborate using Popplet, but Padlet would be a really good tool and could perhaps be a great platform to get each student in the group involved.
As I type this, I am reminded of the SAMR model of tech integration.





I think this image better represents SAMR than the typical sequential diagram most of you have probably seen. This one represents the idea of the SAMR glove. I like this because it shows how messy it can get (even in a good way), and how SAMR is best described as a reflective tool of pedagogy

Mind you, the goal is Redefinition in which the learning task is enhanced and was previously inconceivable before technology. While on the outset, it seems as if the use of these digital tools in this literacy activity is mere substitution, I have to imagine that IF (and I really mean WHEN) students become more engaged, then how is that not transforming it into something that wasn’t possible before? Am I reaching here?



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