Posts Tagged ‘Active Engagement’

Summarization-Lingusitic and Non-linguistic

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Summarization Pyramids

A summarization pyramid is a versatile tool that comes in many formats, has many sizes, and can be used with many prompts. It’s easy to adapt the basic foundation of this technique to your curriculum and your students’ needs.

Basic Sequence

Construct a pyramid of lines on a sheet of paper. When first playing with this format, begin with eight lines, as shown below.

Summarization Pyramid













For each line, choose prompts that yield one-word or short answers for the shorter lines and longer responses for longer lines. If you have a large pyramid and a prompt that requires a lengthy response, consider asking students to use more than one line of the pyramid for their response. Consider these prompts and add your own as you experiment with this strategy:

• A synonym for the topic
• An analogy between the topic and a sport
• One question the topic sparks in you
• Three attributes or facts about the topic
• Three words that best describe the topic
• A news headline that would capture the essence of the topic
• One or two other topics related to this topic
• Causes of the topic
• Effects of the topic
• Reasons we study the topic
• Arguments for the topic
• Ingredients of the topic
• Personal opinion of the topic
• Demonstration of the topic in action
• The larger category from this topic comes
• A formula or sequence associated with this topic
• Insight gained from studying the topic
• Tools for using the topic
• Three moments in the history of the topic
• One thing that we used to think about the topic that we’ve discovered to be incorrect
• Samples of the topic
• People who use the topic
• What the topic will be like in 25 years

This list could go on forever. As you decide on prompts and pyramid sizes, challenge yourself to choose experiences that will allow the students to interact with the topic in several ways. Your goal is to have your students learn something from more than one angle in order to promote retention of the concept or skill.


Variations and Extended Applications

Consider asking your students to create a visual related to the topic as they respond to your prompts. For example, use clouds with various forms of precipitation to express information about the water cycle, a ziggurat to express information about Mesopotamia, or a bar graph or pie chart to express information about graphing data.


Research on the “dual-coding” theory of retaining knowledge suggests that knowledge is stored in two forms-a linguistic form and an imagery form. The linguistic mode is semantic in nature. The imagery mode, in contrast, is expressed as mental pictures or even physical sensations, such as smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic association, and sound (Richardson, 1983). The imagery mode of representation is referred to as non-linguistic representation. The more that we ask our students to use both systems of representation—linguistic and non-linguistic—the better they are able to think about and recall knowledge.


Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Planning for Student Processing Time

November 15, 2009 1 comment

0000-4378-4~Try-Trying-Success-PostersSeveral of you are using advance organizers as a way to provide instructional scaffolding for our students. Instructional scaffolding is a way of offering students templates, direct instruction, and other tools that can help them experience success. The idea is to provide support until our students can “fly solo.”

Providing students with a fill-in-the-blank style advance organizer is a great scaffolding strategy that also serves as a summarization device.  See the example below:

Advance Organizer:  Dividing Mixed Numbers


Working independently, fill in the blanks below.When dividing mixed numbers, we must first turn each mixed number into a ______________________.


Once done, we change the operation from division to ________________________________________. Now, we multiply the first fraction by the__________________ of the second fraction. If our final answer is top-heavy or an ________________ fraction, then we rewrite it as a _____________________________, and we reduce it to ___________________ terms.

students-interacting-in-classTry this method, and see how it works for your students. Write your own summarization of the material that you’re presenting. Then review what you’ve written and make a second draft, replacing key words and phrases with blank lines.

Either during or after the learning process, ask students to complete these fill-in-the-blank organizers by writing the correct terms. If appropriate and if time allows, they might share their responses with a class mate and agree on the best answers.  As students discuss their responses, they will engage in evaluation of their own responses as well as the responses of their peers.  Furthermore, if answers differ, students will justify their responses as they converse.

1_46e6d5a459042-76-1Even though you will have a specific idea of what word or phrase goes in each blank, you will be surprised at how our students can show us that the blank can be interpreted differently and how something else can fit logically into the space. When we are open to allowing students to explain their logic and reasoning for selecting a term or concept, we see that our students have a lot to teach us too!

Advance organizers are a great means of formative assessment.  Teachers can quickly discern what students understand as well as where clarification is needed.  The use of questions, cues, and advance organizers has an average effect size of 0.59 and can result in a 22 percentile gain in student achievement (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).

Share One; Get One is another quick processing technique that works as a “brain dump” to break lectures and other extended learning experiences into smaller chunks. These mini-processing activities can be done at any time during the lesson.

Present the lesson’s concepts as you normally would. When it’s time to take a break and have students process what has been presented, ask them to fold their paper or draw a grid of nine squares, big enough to cover at least half a sheet of notebook paper. In any three squares of the matrix, ask students to record three different concepts, facts, or skills they recall from the presentation. Now, ask students to move around the room asking classmates to fill in the remaining squares with concepts, facts, and skills that they haven’t recorded on their matrix. Each classmate can add only one idea to another classmate’s matrix, but students can add ideas to as many matrices as time allows. The task is complete when six different classmates have filled all remaining six squares with different concepts, facts, or skills. Then students return to their seats.

Two%20Students%20Sharing%20PaperAsk your students to make a coherent summary of the presentation using the information recorded in their matrices.  Have your students put the concepts, facts, and skills in logical order and to rewrite the points from each square in sentence form. This manipulation of content and skills into a particular format is very effective because it forces students to interact with the material, not just record it. It also allows the students an opportunity to interact with the learning environment and to get out of their seats.


Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Summarization Techniques that Work

November 7, 2009 2 comments

As we continue to make adjustments to our instruction based on the results of the 6-week benchmarks, pacing guides, and formative assessments, retention is a common area of concern. Putting strategies in place to assist students with comprehension and retention of lesson concepts will decrease student and teacher frustration.

mnemonicsConsider poor old Aunt Sally. She’s constantly making mistakes in the mathematical order of operations. You will have to excuse her if you already understand when to perform each order of operation: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” is an extension of PEMDAS, the angry-old-ladyclassic acronym for the order of mathematical operations. This mnemonic device assists students daily in understanding what to do and in what order. When you think about it, PEMDAS is also a summarization strategy. Creating acronyms for concepts, cycles, protocols, sequences, and systems is a great way to allow students to summarize and retain information.




writing3One way to begin is by asking students to list the essential attributes of something that you have been teaching. For example, say that you have been focusing on how to write good introductions to essays. In response to your prompt, students might generate a list that includes the following:

• Hook the reader with an interesting attention getter that provides background information to set the stage for your thesis.
• Add your thesis statement.
• Provide an organizational hint to serve as a preview for the content of the essay.
• Use a clincher to transition from the introduction to the first body paragraph.

Classroom Instruciotn Book

Great information on summarization can be found in this book. See me to borrow a copy.

Then, ask your students to examine each attribute and identify a single term to serve as a key word for remembering that attribute. This group activity involves discussing and deciding on key words, providing yet another opportunity for summarization. Key words for remembering how to write good essay introductions might be attention getter (AG), thesis (T), organizational hint (OH), and clincher (C).

Now it’s simply a matter of sequencing the letters in an order that makes sense. If the attributes are things that do not need to be in a specific sequence, then all the students have to do is move the letters around until something coherent and meaningful emerges. If the sequence is set, such as the steps in a math problem, the process of how a bill goes through Congress, or the metamorphosis of mealworms, the order of the letters is nonnegotiable, and creating a memorable acronym can be a bit more challenging, but it is certainly a worthwhile task.


thesis_funnelThis technique can also work as a pre-assessment activity. You might ask your students to create an initial list of attributes as a whole class activity. Then, have the students revise the lists on their own (another opportunity for summarizing). As mnemonic devices, acronyms can be even more powerful when created by students themselves. Consider asking each student to design his or her own acronyms for something to be studied, and then vote on the top three. The voting criteria might include clarity, accuracy, and how easily the acronym can be remembered.


wormeli book

See me if you would like to borrow this book.

Summarization is not only a technique proven to improve student achievement, but it is also a method of formative assessment that can help you assess where your students are and help them self-assess. By implementing various summarization strategies, we can help provide students with yet another exposure to higher-order thinking activities.



Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Westerberg, T. R. (2009). Becoming a great high school: 6 strategies and 1 attitude that make a difference. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Formative Assessment… Now what?

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of meeting with most EOC teachers to discuss the results of the 6-week benchmark tests and how the results will drive their instruction for the next 6 weeks. It is exciting to see that we are beginning to reframe our questions as we strive to achieve 17 of 17 targets and meet AYP.

pics for 11-2We are moving away from asking, “What labels do students have? to asking, “What are their interests and needs?” We are not looking at just what deficits students have, but we are also looking at what strengths our students bring to their classrooms. We are moving beyond thinking solely about questions such as, “How do we remediate?” We are starting to focus on how we can maximize access to the richest possible curriculum and instruction.

We are no longer simply asking, “How do we motivate?” but we are beginning to explore what it would it take to tap the motivation already within our learners. We are moving to the point that all of us are asking, “What circumstances maximize the student’s full possibilities?”

additional picsBy asking these questions, we are moving from the blame frame to exploration of potential for all kids. In her article “Deciding to Teach Them All,” Tomlinson (2003) outlines principles for fostering equity and excellence in academically diverse learners. I thought that this might be a quick reference for exploring ways to reach and teach all of our students now that we have the data about student performance for the first six weeks of school.

Good curriculum comes first. The teacher’s first job is always to ensure a coherent, important, inviting, and thoughtful curriculum. All tasks should respect each learner.

Every student deserves work that is focused on the essential knowledge, understanding, and skills targeted for the lesson. Every student should be required to think at a high level and should find his or her work interesting and powerful.

11-2When in doubt, teach up! Good instruction stretches learners. The best tasks are those that students find a little too difficult to complete comfortably. Be sure there’s a support system in place to facilitate the student’s success at a level that he or she doubted was attainable.

Use flexible grouping. Find ways and time for the class to work as a whole, for students to demonstrate competence alone, and for students to work with varied groups of peers. Using only one or two types of groups causes students to see themselves and one another in more limited ways, keeps the teacher from “auditioning” students in varied contexts, and limits potentially rich exchanges in the classroom.

Become an assessment junkie. Everything that a student says and does is a potential source of assessment data. Assessment should be an ongoing process, conducted in flexible but distinct stages, and it should maximize opportunities for each student to open the widest possible window on his or her learning.

more pics for 11-2Grade to reflect growth. The most we can ask of any person—and the least we ought to ask—is to be and become their best. The teacher’s job is to guide and support the learner in this endeavor. Grading should, in part, reflect a learner’s growth.


Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Deciding to teach them all. Educational Leadership, 61(2), 6-11.

Helping Students Process Information

September 27, 2009 Leave a comment


An excellent resource for more information on summarizing

An excellent resource for more information on summarizing

Last week we explored “chunking” or presenting new information in small, digestible bites followed by summarization strategies. This week I challenge you to examine how you are scaffolding and providing time for students to interact with your content. Whereas chunking involves the size of the bites for the new content, scaffolding involves the content of the bites and their logical order. For example, if you were teaching your students a strategy for how to edit an essay for overall organizational logic,  you might organize the steps into three chunks. The first chunk would be comprised of the steps that deal with determining whether the composition has good transitions from paragraph to paragraph. The second chunk would involve steps that address whether the major sections of the essay (beginning, middle, and end) logically flow into one another. The third chunk would be steps to determine if the essay as a whole sends a unified message. In other words, each of the chunks sets up the next chunk.


 Scaffolding is a form of differentiation that helps meet the needs of all learners.   In the video clip below, the teacher provides scaffolding exercises on the concept of  “loyalty” within Julius Caesar.  Students are asked to connect content to their personal experiences, use their mathematical skills, and justify and evaluate the content of the text.   Students are expected to interact with the content and one another to gain a greater understanding of the curriculum.  Retention of lesson concepts improves when students have the opportunity to use the information they have learned in a meaningful way.

Interacting refers to how students process the information in each chunk. An easy way to facilitate processing is to organize the class into small groups and ask each group to summarize the content in the chunk, identify anything that was confusing, try to clear up the confusion, and predict what information might be found in the next chunk. You are already familiar with many formative assessment strategies to facilitate this process. A few I have seen you use include:

  • Plus, Minus, Intriguing                                           computer girls
  • Brain Dump                                                         
  • Quick Writes
  • Graffiti Write
  • GIST


When you have explored one level of the scaffold and are ready to move on, use formative assessment strategies to determine the level of mastery of your students. Concentrate on having as many students as possible respond. You may want to have students use Response Cards to agree, disagree, or add to a response. Another technique you may want to try is to use one of our voting technologies. The “clickers” will allow students to electronically cast their votes regarding the answer to a question. Student responses are immediately displayed on a pie chart or a bar graph, enabling you and your students to discuss the different perceptions and/or misconceptions regarding the questions. If technology is not available when you want to use it, why not use small white boards to get students actively engaged and allow you to assess your students without giving a grade.

Once you have determined student understanding, then you will know whether to reteach or accelerate before moving to the next chunk.




Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization In Any Subject: 50 Techniques To Improve Student Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Summarization in any Subject

September 21, 2009 7 comments


Students today must learn facts, of course, but they must also be skilled “information archeologists.” They must dig for information, make sense of it, and attach meaning to what they have learned. They must identify the main ideas, as well as the supportive details, the principle arguments as well as their evidence.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give to students is to teach them (1) how to identify salient information, no matter what subject that we teach or how we present it, and (2) how to structure that information for meaning and successful application” (Wormeli, 2005). The ability to summarize indicates students comprehend material, and this is the goal of learning.

Classroom Instruciotn BookMarzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) cite extensive research studies in their book Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement to prove summarization is one of the nine research-based strategies that have the greatest impact on student achievement. Often our students struggle with summarization. They would rather copy information from an Internet resource than actually take the time to restate the essence of the text or an experience in as few words possible. Many of us make the assumption that summarization must be done in writing— either with pen and paper or on a keyboard.

boys with teacherThis week and during the weeks to come, let’s explore the versatility of summarization. Summarization is a form of formative assessment that can be written, oral, dramatic, artistic, visual, physical, musical, and digital. Students can summarize individually or in a group. We must make a commitment to use summarization strategies as often as we can to promote comprehension and retention of concepts.

When we do not use summarization strategies, we must ask ourselves “Am I teaching so that students will learn, or am I teaching so that I can cover the required material?

Chunking, direct instruction that is delivered in “chunks,” instead of one long whole, can result in a tremendous amount of information moving into long-term memory. Chunking a lecture means that the teacher speaks for approximately ten to fifteen minutes, then pauses and facilitates a summarizing or processing experience about the information just presented. Summarization/processing activities can last from 1-10 minutes, as needed. Then the teacher continues the lecture and selects another summarization/processing strategy.

LiteracyBlocks_000During our professional development last year, we focused on Vocabulary and Literacy strategies. Several summarization strategies were shared including:
Graphic OrganizersCornell Notes / Q – Notes
–  F-I-T Sheets
–  “What I know…” sentences
– 3-2-1

– Admit Slips
– Ticket out the Door

Please contact Heather Mullins, our Curriculum Specialist, if you need more information on how to implement these strategies in your classroom.

Podcasting — Active Engagement for Digital Natives

September 7, 2009 1 comment

podcastrssImagine this… Students collaborate to create a podcast reviewing concepts before a test. The review is ready when the students are. Ipods, desktop computers, laptops, mp3 players, and cell phones can all be used to bring the review to the student — day or night. Talk about “on demand” learning.

Students can listen to their review podcasts while watching a basketball game, while eating dinner, while standing in line at a shopping mall, or anytime they choose. Imagine what this could mean for our students. Podcasting provides an opportunity to create — the highest level of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

Creating a Podcast
Creating a Podcast is as simple as recording an MP3 file directly on your computer’s hard drive, using a microphone and any of a number of audio utilities. At the most basic level, that is all it takes.

Take time to view this short Common Craft informational video to help you gain a better understanding of podcasting.

Want to know more?

You can get free podcast creation software at Audacity Donna Murray can help you download this free software as our firewall settings prohibit full installation without a site tech administrator.

Podcast hosting and publishing
When you’ve created your Podcast, you need to put it somewhere and let people know where to find it. Many blogging tools now also allow the hosting of Podcasts on their service. However, since audio files are large, there are usually some limitations. Here are some specific Podcast hosting and publishing services.

Odeo (
Podbean (
Podomatic (
Switchpod (

For more ideas about how to use podcasting in the classroom, check out this video.

Podcasting in the Classroom
You can create a podcast of a lesson or have your students create podcasts for assignments. Here are podcastpurple some ways you can include podcasting into your classroom regardless of your content area:

If you are interested in podcasting or podcasts, Donna Murray has bookmarked a variety of resources for you on her Delicious page.


Finally, here is a podcast especially for you. By clicking on the link below, you can listen to a podcast about the eight easy steps for creating a podcast.

Happy Podcasting!