Thursday, July 18, 2019

Lessons Full of SOLE

Next week I am attending ChemEd2019 and presenting a session about using SOLE in my classroom. As I was gathering resources to share, I realized that I have never blogged about this terrific teaching strategy, so here goes.

SOLE is an acronym that stands for Self-Organized Learning Environments. Using SOLE in a classroom consists of three parts:
  1. Pose a BIG question.
  2. Investigate an answer while working in groups.
  3. Present findings to the whole group.
Many excellent strategies, like Problem-Based Learning (PBL), require a lot of time. SOLE offers some of the same benefits without as much of a time commitment because the whole thing happens in under an hour.

For the last couple years, I have been using SOLE to kick off each of my units in Chemistry. Here's what that looks like in my classroom:

On Day 1 of each unit, I pose the Big Question. The big question previews new content and asks students to connect what they will learn with what they have just learned. Some sample big questions:
  • Why do all models have benefits and limitations to their use and predictive power?
  • How can knowledge of the periodic table help us explain how and why compounds form?
  • What happens at the particle level to make some reactions slow and some reactions fast? 

We operate with some simple ground rules: You must work with a group. You can use one electronic device. You have to be ready to present in 30 minutes and everyone must contribute.

I give each group a research sheet where they can record answers as they investigate. They can also use this to brainstorm ideas for how they will visually represent their ideas and record citations for where they found their information. Then I give them about 30 minutes to explore and create their visual.

When we have about 15 minutes left, each group has two minutes to share their visual representation of the answer to the question and explain why they drew what they did. That leaves just a few minutes left for my exit ticket where each student answers the Big Question based on all they have learned. They also answer four group processing questions (did your group work effectively? Did your group produce something you're proud of? Do you understand more about the topic? What will you do differently next time?).

I choose the best visuals from each class and hang them up on the walls. Then we can refer to them throughout the unit as we talk about topics that were mentioned during the SOLE. It's a great way for me to hear what they already understand (or don't!) about a topic so I can plan accordingly. It also helps students understand our progression of topics and how chemistry builds on what we have just learned. I also try to write a short answer question for each test that incorporates the Big Question from the SOLE. This is a great opportunity to see growth in understanding between the first and last day of the unit.

Of course, this is only one of the many ways you could use a SOLE in a classroom. It would be a great culminating activity at the end of a unit. Or a progress check somewhere in the middle before moving on to a new concept.

Many resources are available to help get you started with SOLE. Create a free account at the SOLE website in order to search ready-made questions, use teacher resources (graphic organizers, rubrics, posters, and more), watch videos, and plan your SOLE). There is also a FREE iOS and Android app that will walk you through the process and help you monitor your SOLE while you implement. With a few clicks, the app creates a lesson plan that will make your literacy-focused administrator giddy.

I'm looking forward to sharing this next week. If you're looking for an easy way to let kids explore a topic and present ideas without dedicating too much time to the process, SOLE may be just the thing for you. I hope you'll give it a try!

No comments:

Post a Comment