It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. As cyclical as education is, it’s almost impossible not to.
We do the same activities year in and year out — even if we’re constantly trying to reinvent our classes. It happens to the best of us.
Twitter is a great way to get unstuck. It also helps others to get unstuck. Kudos to Jane Highley for that.
She recently posted a question that caught my attention:
How can designing a timeline be a rigorous activity?
Higher-order thinking and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge have been top of mind for me. (I spent some time recently with Alice Keeler, my co-author for Ditch That Homework. Spend more than 15 minutes with her and you’ll hear her say “DoK”. And that’s a good thing.)
- Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge: Depth of Knowledge (DoK) categorizes tasks according to the complexity of thinking required to successfully complete them. (via Edutopia)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy: The go-to source for higher-order thinking for decades. The original framework consisted of six major categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. It was revised and improved in 2001. (via Vanderbilt Center for Teaching)
Timelines. Poster projects. Brochures.
Any traditional activity can be put through the DOK/higher-order thinking process. Take an old, tired activity and put a deeper spin on it.
Here were some suggestions I gave Jane for her students’ timelines:
1. Compare timeline with another from history (or with present times). Compare/contrast kicks the Depth of Knowledge up to DoK level 2: Skills and concepts. Some ways to compare/contrast:
- How does this timeline compare to a civilization/event/period in another part of history?
- How does this compare to present times/today?
2. Identify problems and give advice to people of that time. Giving advice kicks the DoK up to level 3: Strategic thinking. Some questions to ask/answer:
- What was a key mistake/error and how could it have been fixed?
- What was a general/overall problem and what could have improved it?
- How could people have lived differently to make their lives better?
- How could a leader have changed his/her leadership style or decisions to have a better outcome in history?
3. Create a new ending. This also kicks the DoK up to level 3: Strategic thinking. This is like putting a fork in your timeline. There’s the way it happened and the way it could have happened. Ways this could be done:
- Identify a turning point in the timeline. Determine how it could have been improved and what the outcome could have been.
- Go into the future. Take a timeline that goes to today and predict the future based on what you know.
- Swap characters. For the timeline or events of a life you’re studying, pick a different person to lead or live through those events. How would that person have responded differently?
4. Categorize events. Tagging events on a timeline can help students make sense of them and what the timeline says as a whole. It kicks the DoK up to level 2: Skills and concepts. A deeper explanation of why they’re categorized the way they are takes it up to level 3: Strategic thinking.
Some ways to categorize items on a timeline:
- A simple good/bad (or very good/good/bad/very bad) or helpful/harmful
- Grouping the items on the timeline into categories and tagging each based on those categories created by the student
- How it impacted society
- How expensive it was
- How important it was
5. Identify common themes. What does the timeline say as a whole? This kicks the DoK up to level 2: Skills and concepts. Explanation and justification of those themes can bring it up to DoK level 3: Strategic thinking.
The themes could be added above or below the timeline. Think of them as a headline or a title. A subheadline or secondary title could be added to give further explanation, like a secondary title better explains a vague title of a book.
Several tools can help you create timelines, like:
- Google Drawings: It’s simple. It’s part of the G Suite apps for education. You can save your product as an image file. I made the above infographic with Google Drawings.
- Sutori: Sutori lets students create and share visual stories collaboratively. It was formerly HSTRY.co, which was focused on social studies. Now it’s been rebranded so it’s inclusive to all subject areas.
- Timetoast: From the site: Timetoast timelines are a beautiful way to share the past, or even the future. Creating takes minutes. It’s as simple as can be!”
- ReadWriteThink Timeline: This tool walks you through creating a timeline by date, time or event, step by step with text and images.
Question: How else can we kick up the thinking in a timeline activity? What other advice do you have for Jane? What other tools can we use? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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