Tuesday, October 23, 2018

2 Column Notes and Definitions, with a Twist
Barbara Sturtevant

I recently did a lesson on physical features for my 6th grade geography students. I provided them with a partially organized 2 column note set that already segmented the vocabulary into categories, though students didn’t know that. The left side column was already filled out, but not the main idea headings or the details on the right. This time though, instead of reading the textbook or me providing definitions, I decided to incorporate some reversed learning. With each waterform, I displayed a few images of the feature. Students studied the images and then had to create a definition that worked to explain what the feature was, and in some cases, how it differed from similar ones. For example, I displayed the following image:

As a class, students puzzled out that gulfs and bays (for 6th graders, there is no need to study the difference!) are both bodies of salt water. Upon closer look, students worked together to evaluate the shapes of the gulfs and bays and came to the conclusion that it must be how the coastline bends around. Words tossed out by students were ‘curved’, ‘u-shaped’ and ‘c-shaped’, in addition to a few gesturing with arms or drawing pretend lines in the air. Students then put the definition down on their 2 column notes, using whatever phraseology worked best for them. Many also included arrows, other diagrams or fully colored sketches.

Instead of providing the definition and having students copy it down, they became more engaged and used many critical thinking skills to decipher meaning and visual literacy. We often ask them to illustrate a word for meaning, but this time the provided image led to meaning. It is also a form of categorizing - why are these landforms grouped together by name? From here, students will transfer their 2 column notes to a top-down web, including creating the category names now knowing the definitions of the places. Hopefully when it’s time to identify physical features in the world and evaluate their uses, these strategies will help students truly understand them!

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