Sunday, February 1, 2015

Scaffolded thinking



The opportunity

I was approached by an English teacher last week to create and facilitate a lesson on Romeo and Juliet. The main objective was for the students to create questions to prompt inquiry about the play, Shakespeare, Narrative, Language etc. We had a 3 minute conversation setting it up while I was busy doing something else, then when I had time I went over what he said and formulated some questions of my own ... 

Questions : round 1

  • Have they read the text?
  • What is the purpose of the questions they need to create? What do they need to be thinking about (context ... relationships? perspective? misunderstandings? etc)
  • What is the specific part of identities & relationships that you are focusing on ? 

When he replied with his answers (and the unit plan) I started to plan what might be possible ... then I read Buffy Hamilton's post on  Igniting Inquiry with think puzzle explore and thought how I could incorporate this style of a lesson into what we wanted to achieve.

Questions : round 2

  • Do the questions the students are creating need to be focussed on narrative? ie what makes a narrative? what is the effect? What are the elements etc? Rather than on Romeo & Juliet and the history of the story/ context/ characters / Shakespeare? or both??
  • Why I am asking is .. I want to give them some short stimulus to prompt them to ask questions, but I want the prompts to be appropriate to the unit and where you are heading with it...
The reply ...
"The questions created should initially focus on narrative, but I am hoping the students will learn to appreciate storytelling and how important it is and has been to all societies since the beginning of time. I also want them to gain an appreciation of Shakespeare and why his narratives are so highly regarded and what we can learn from what is seen now as high brow literature, but was written for the masses."
The planning 
We had one hour for the students to be inspired and stimulated enough to want to know more to then ask questions, which would be used at a later date in their unit to direct their own learning.
Something I have noticed in school settings is that students are not given much time to think, ponder and delve into a topic before they are required to formulate 'good' questions. How can one formulate questions if one has limited knowledge of the subject? This was driving how the activity was going to pan out.
Once I understood what the purpose and the context of the questions I started to look for stimulus resources that would support the 6 main themes of  
  • "Shakespeare speak" (the language of Shakespeare)
  • "What is it about Shakespeare?" (why are we still studying him 500+ years later?)
  • "Time and place of Romeo and Juliet"  (what is the context of the story)
  • "How the story was told" (narration devices used by Shakespeare)
  • "Themes of Romeo and Juliet" (self explanatory)
  • "Modernising Shakespeare" (Why modernise Shakepeare?)
(I chose 6 themes as we have about 28-30 in each class - 6 would mean  groups of about 4-5 and they tied into with what the teacher wanted to focus on)



These headings were each placed on three large pieces of paper. Under each heading was placed the focus for that paper ...  Think, Puzzle, Explore

The resources were created to support each theme and copied for each member of the group. (It would be a screen free lesson). (If you would like to see the resources, please contact me as they used sources from different places and I am not sure it would be good to share on a public forum without permission even though they have all been accredited appropriately)






The lesson 

I introduced the lesson and how it was going to work through a short keynote presentation below ...





The students were keen to get going. The first time we went through the activity I prompted them to move to the next stage of the activity by changing between slides. We gave them about 2 minutes for Thinking about and recording their prior knowledge. The Puzzle section was allocated about 15 minutes to read and talk about the stimulus material and to create questions, then about 3 minutes for exploring and reflecting on any new learning from the stimulus material. Once they had completed one topic, the sheets and resources were moved to the next table via a rotation cycle we had set up. The second and third time the students were able to move through the activities at their own pace.


The students had not done an activity like this for a while, so it took at least one rotation to figure out what needed to be done, by the third rotation they had it sorted and were experts at it.

I had two classes on the same day and unfortunately I had run out of time to make the professional looking pages, so i had to resort to handwritten. Not what I wanted to do, but what was required.

The result
Having the three area allowed for us to see what their prior knowledge was, and then in the explore section we could see their new learning or thinking about the theme or concept. The Puzzle section was the actual focus of the activity, and the questions the students created ranged from simple factual questions right through to conceptual. See below.

The created questions ...

How is it that Shakespeare’s invented words are still in use today?
Can you translate old english?
Why did shakespeare choose to make up words and how does he explain them to people?
Was there rivalry between other writers and him?
When, how and why is the new language adapted by people?
How do they learn unknown words without the dictionary?
Is our understanding of Shakespeares language equivalent to what he wanted to express?

Why did Shakespeare write Romeo & Juliet at that time and place?
Did everyone in the time period understand Shakespearean language?
What has changed over time in different versions of the story?
[What were] Romeo’s tastes [in women?]

How can they express & feel passionate about someone they don’t fully know?
Is shakespeare’s true intention to have different characters so individual audiences can choose who is the main character in their heart?

Which literary device does he use the most?
How does he get the inspiration for Romeo & Juliet
How did people respond to Romeo and Juliet first came out? was it very popular?
Why does Shakespeare want the audience to know the ending of the play before they have even read it or seen it?

Why does he make his characters wear tights?
Why did he create Romeo and Juliet play?
Has there always been tension between parents and teenagers?

How can Shakespeare change the grammar of english - Wouldn't that be bad english?
How does Shakespeare always seem to make all of his plays seem magical and dream like?

Who is Baz Luhrman?
Why did Disney base the Lion king on Hamlet?

Will people still be learning about Shakespeare 100 years into the future?
Is Shakespeare timeless enough to be modernised?
Are people going to modernise the modern version later?

This was just a sample of the questions the students created, some of them are so good and will allow quite a bit exploration and thinking.

The prior knowledge and new understanding comments were also interesting and highlighted some misunderstandings and confusing, which will be good to straighten out.

Feedback from the students :


  • Liked working in the small groups on different topics
  • Were able to learn a little bit about a number of things
  • Didn’t need to stick to one topic for too long.
  • Liked the critical thinking and making the questions together
  • The length of the stimulus articles was suitable for most.
  • Would have liked more time for the question creation and to discuss their learning from the sources.
  • One student said the activity was tedious doing the same thing over and over again.
  • The length of some of the stimulus may have been a struggle for some
  • the second class commented that the paper needed to have more guidance - this class didn’t have the same instructions on the paper as the others.



Reflection for improvement:

Take 80 minutes to do 3 rotations

Include discussion time about the stimulus with driving questions to help thinking
Have the students place their own questions etc into the google form (save teacher time)
Give the time to give better instructions at the beginning
Have the printed slides on the large paper for all groups and classes
EXPLORE - is not the right term for this activity as we really wanted to focus on the questions, maybe reflect, ponder with a question - "What are your new understandings?"

Overall I think it was a successful lesson and collaboration and, with some tweaking, will be better next time! Thanks Buffy Hamilton for the inspiration!

1 comment:

thestylinglibrarian.com said...

Hooray for inspiration and reflection, inspired... :)