Thursday, September 27, 2012

The power of the WSQ

My first attempt at Crystal Kirch's WSQ strategy!

This week I decided to try out the WSQ, sort of. It was more of a WQS, since my students are already required to leave a comment/question as they watch the lesson on voicethread. So by the time they got to the S, they had already done the W and the Q. I looked forward to reading their summaries, and to getting insight into their thoughts. But I have to admit that the idea of reading and assessing everybody's summary was a bit daunting, so instead, on the last slide of the lesson, I told them that their next task was to summarize the steps of the procedure (solve an absolute valued inequation) and be ready to present in class next day, rather than hand it in to me. Here's the voicethread:

But I don't want to listen to a dozen or so of those, so at the beginning of class, next day, I put them into groups (in the virtual class that's called a break out room) and gave them about 10 minutes to put their summaries together as a group. Two birds killed with one stone: those that had watched got to reinforce their learning, those that hadn't got a peer's version of the lesson. I also LOVE that in the virtual class I can spy on them while they're working....and not have them know that I'm doing that! Try THAT in the brick and mortar!

Then I brought them back into the main room and had them present, using the microphone, no texting allowed. More dead birds: we all got to hear other voices for a change, and that wonderful class cohesion started to happen right before my eyes. Kids encouraging each other, joking, imitating me, by writing "Sketch that puppy" on their board! To the virtual class teacher, this is pure heaven!

Here are a few shots of their summaries:

What a great activity! Not because everyone had perfect summaries, because they didn't. The point was they got to work together, discuss, debate, draw, question, basically reveal their thoughts. That has to mean that those thoughts started to evolve somehow, today, in class. To evolve toward something deeper, or maybe even more right. We talked about what everyone had in common, how there were a few steps that were different, some more detailed than others. One student had actually prepared her own powerpoint summary!

Things I noticed:
  • It doesn't really seem to matter that there were mistakes in the summaries, or that some were actually describing another procedure altogether. What was great was what it revealed, to me, and to them. Finding out that someone else thinks like you do can be really empowering. Finding out that you didn't really understand something that you thought you had....better to know now than later.
  • It was interesting to see how two people, or even two groups, each of whom had their own summaries, could put their work together to make something better than each had begun with. The girl whose summary is the second one above noticed that some of the steps in the first one could be put into hers to add more detail. Nice!
  • Some groups, like the third one above, started by working out an example, and then summarized afterward. It seemed to help to have a concrete example next to each step. A strategy to suggest next time, for those who have a hard time putting their thoughts into words.
  • It was crystal clear who had not done any kind of summary beforehand. And my hope is that now they've seen that I expect this, AND, more importantly, that there is a learning and a social benefit to doing it, next time I'll have more participants.
  • Most presentations were basically reading what they had written on the screen. Hmmm. Next time, I'll make a suggestion for an alternate way to present.
What's next?

Well for one thing, this activity solved a big problem that has been dogging me for a long time as an online teacher, how to get that class cohesion happening in a more organic way. I found that since it was based on something they were all already supposed to have done, and since they didn't have to present alone, it felt more authentic than the usual, here kids, here's a problem, you figure it out in a group.

Another thing that only occurred to me afterward is that now that they've done this, it'll be a great lead-in to their blogs, which will start soon, because one of the first things they will do is do a summary of a lesson. This gets them up to speed just in time. But of course, being the seasoned professional that I am, I'll pretend that that was my intention all along.....


  1. I'm going to sort of be doing the same thing tomorrow, as far as the WQSing order goes. I've been letting them 'do their thing' asynchronously up to this point and I didn't like it. So (theoretically) before tomorrow eVERYONE watches video 4a and tomorrow in class they'll all do the assignment that goes with it. It should be a quick one, so part of the assignment will be their first summary.

    To get them to buy in (many frustrated with the flipclass thus far) we did test corrects in groups yesterday on the chapter 1/2 test and today they took a quiz on half of chapter 3 as an open note/open book group quiz. They saw the value of having the notes, they saw the value of collaborating. I could see who the strong students were on the material. The last two days have been awesome. (I hadn't planned on the group assessment or the test correct but figured it was good due to the lack of collaboration thus far).

    Anxious to see how tomorrow goes!

    1. Hi Malisa! I just don't get how some flip class teachers let everyone go totally at their own pace. I'm still insisting that they be at a certain place by a given time, otherwise I can't do this type of thing. Maybe because it's online, we need that more, I don't know.

      I read about your test corrects on your blog, and I just might try that too. Like you said, it's easy to get them to buy into the value of that. Maybe at this time of year, that's the type of collaboration that will lay the foundation for future deeper collaboration.

      Good luck today, I look forward to hearing about it on twitter or your blog. And thanks so much for commenting!

    2. "maybe...that will lay the foundation for future deeper collaboration"

      Today, not so much. It just wasn't happening (at least not with any urgency). I said to each class.

      "Did you like the past two days?" Unequivocal yes. But so many hadn't done notes...I didn't have a game plan for the scope of the people who dropped the ball. I had ideas for a handful. But I just had to let them stay and work and they just used the people who'd actually watched and taken notes. So what should have taken 15 min and left time to do other things, instead took all period.

      I had them do some form of a summary. Not awesome yet. But a baby step along the way.

    3. That's disappointing, but that happens to me too, especially in one class, where I often only have 1 or 2 who have actually watched the lesson, never mind doing notes. I have to do as you did, just let people work on their own. I always wonder about the kids who did work, how do they feel about helping out the ones who didn't?

      A few times I have had something ready for that. I do have some activities that deepen understanding for those who have watched, and give a heads up for those who haven't, at least that's my hope. But yeah, we can't always be ready with that type of stuff, I know usually I'm not.

      This year I am getting tougher, though. I am using my checklists to let parents and admin know right away when someone isn't doing what they need to. Everyone understands the colour red!

      As far as notes go, I do give them notes that have all the diagrams, plus lots of places for them to fill in blanks. Maybe I'm spoon-feeding, but it also reduces the amount of time that it takes to watch the vt, which some have told me can take up to an hour otherwise.

      I hope it goes better next week, have a great weekend, Malisa!

  2. Also: Love that someone wrote "Sketch the puppy"

    1. Haha, me too, my favourite part, being the attention hound that I am!

  3. As always, I love what you are doing, even if my high school math lessons from eons ago don't help me understand the mathematics. I didn't know what WSQ was and had a look at Kirch's blog. My one comment about it is she said that if students didn't understand the problem was them - as teachers we always have to understand that not all students learn the same way. I think your approach of having students work together to summarize gives students more opportunities for learning. Those who didn't understand hear it taught by someone else (their peers) and can question. It also gives them another chance to check their understanding, either by listening, or more powerfully for those who are able, by re explaining.

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