Tired of doing jigsaws with your students and asking them to think-pair-share? Looking for some new ideas, but don't want to spend time endlessly searching the Internet? Then you oughta know about...the National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) and their activities and protocols.
Comprehensive doesn't even begin to describe NSRF's A-Z listing. There are over 40 activities/protocols just under the letter "C." While there is no way I can introduce you to all of them in this blog post, I will you give you five ideas about how to utilize these activities/protocols and a few of my favorites. Some activities/protocols are for use with students, some are for use with teachers and other staff members, but most could be used with either group and any age/grade range.
Use #1 - Team Building
Whether it is the start of the school year, a new club or group is forming, or you just need to get your students up and moving, having a repertoire of team building activities is helpful. Especially as your students get older and everyone has done "the knot," you want to have fresh ideas to get your students thinking creatively. Team building activities help to build community in the classroom, allow students to get to know each other or become more comfortable with each other, and provide opportunities to practice leadership and communication skills.
I prefer ones like the Blind Count, which students have to complete silently. In this activity, a group of 7-12 people who are blindfolded must get in sequential order without talking after each person is given a specific number that they are to represent.
Use #2 - Professional Development
We have all
In Affinity Mapping begin with an open-ended question related to your PD topic, i.e. How do reading deficiencies affect students in the classroom? or What skills should students have mastered by the time of graduation? Group members first write responses on Post-it Notes, one idea per Post-it. Then group members silently post their responses onto chart paper and arrange their responses into categories. At this point, group members can converse and create labels for each of their categories. Finally, groups will share out, noting themes between groups.
Use #3 - Group Discussions
Sometimes getting your students to talk is like pulling teeth. You know they have plenty to say. They talk in the halls, at lunch, when you are trying to start class, but when you ask them to discuss a text, silence. I find the most success with highly structured discussions like the Final Word.
This discussion format can be used with an article, a novel, a chapter in a textbook, a children's book, a poem, etc. Break you students into equal size groups. Each group member underlines (or writes down) a quotation from the text. It's a good idea to ask them to pick a back-up quote in case their first choice is taken. A group member begins by sharing his/her quote and the reason(s) for selecting it. Why does s/he agree/disagree with the quote? What questions does s/he have about that quote? What issues does it raise for him or her? What does s/he now wonder about in relation to that quote? Then, going around in a circle, group members share responses to the quote. They can expand on the presenter’s thinking and the issues raised for him/her by the quote, provide a different look at the quote, or question the presenter’s assumptions about the quote and the issues raised. After each group member has responded, the presenter gets the "final word." What is s/he thinking now? What is his or her reaction to what s/he has heard?
Use #4 - Interacting With Text
Annotation may seem like a buzz word these days, but students need to be interacting with texts to create meaning. All too often, I ask a student a question about a short text and his/response is, "uhhh, I have to look back for that." If students are reading without purpose, they may be reading, but nothing is sticking with them. Just using a simple technique, like the Text Rendering Experience can help resolve this issue.
Using a short fiction or nonfiction piece, ask students to read and mark the sentence, the phrase, and the word that they think is particularly important. Now students have a purpose. As they are reading and rereading, they are hunting for the best sentence, phrase, and word (I don't know why something like this becomes competitive, but trust me, you will hear groans when another student "steals" their sentence, phrase, or word). There are three rounds of sharing out once students have finished reading and marking the text. In the first round, each person shares a sentence from the document that he/she thinks/feels is particularly significant. In the second round, each person shares a phrase that he/she thinks/feels is particularly significant and a scribe records each phrase. In the third round, each person shares the word that he/she thinks/feels is particularly significant and a scribe records each word. Finally the group discusses what they heard and what insights might be gained from the words that emerged.
Use #5 - Writing Prompts
Engaging writing prompts can be used to begin or close a lesson, as an activity of choice for early finishers, as a transition between lessons, or as part of a creative writing unit or course.
Presenting students with unusual information or inspiring quotations is a great way to spark ideas. Post the description of a Village of 100 People or one of these Quotes for Closings and allow your students to reflect in writing. Are your students surprised to learn that if the world was a village of 100 people, 70 of them would be unable to read? What do they think Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he said, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself?"
Some of NSRF's activities/protocols require you to log-in (after registering and creating an account), but the majority are accessible without doing so. To keep myself and my new found ideas organized, I am thinking of creating digital folders based on the five uses above and saving my favorites for quick, easy access. I also have this bookmarked so it is just a click away when I need it.
Take some time to look through some of NSRF's activities/protocols and after you check it out, feel free to comment below with your favorites!