Monday, July 29, 2019

Why I Use SOLE

In my last post, I described using the SOLE strategy in my classroom. I focused mostly on the mechanics of SOLE, the three steps to the method with a few tips along the way. My post was getting long, so I decided I would save the WHY for another day.

SOLE can be used a lot of different ways, but I use it to kick off each of my eight units in chemistry. On Day 1 of the unit, my students consider a Big Question that previews the new unit content but also bridges to the previous unit. For example, I start my unit of chemical bonding with "How can knowledge of the periodic table help us explain and predict the type of compounds elements will make?" We have just finished the unit on the periodic table, so this is an attempt for students to pull information they have just learned and use it to lay a foundation for the next unit. There are many ways to use SOLE, but many of my whys are based on the way I use it.

Things I love about SOLE in my Classroom

  • The process previews the new content. I could use a pretest or entrance ticket or something to get a sense of what my students already know and understand about a topic, but this is more fun. For me and for them. In their two minute presentations, students give a concise description of what they know. Of course, I also eavesdrop as they work in groups. Hearing chemistry in kid words is helpful. I can use their language when I build on their ideas in our unit.
  • Misconceptions are uncovered. Sometimes what they present is flawed or just outright wrong. Hearing on Day 1 that they have a misconception gives me a chance to address it when it's appropriate in the unit. I typically don't do that during or right after a presentation because my focus on Day 1 is listening.
  • They make great visuals! My students make posters during our SOLEs; I choose the ones I like the best and hang them in my classroom so I can refer to them as we work through the unit. This raises the student expectations because they do like when their visuals are chosen. Plus, the visuals remain up during the test as references, so students get better at creating visuals that will be helpful.

Other things to love about SOLE

  • Students become better at collaborating. Because they have a set amount of time to create something and present it, they are less likely to goof off. They divide the work, they plan what to say, they focus on what is most important.
  • They all improve over time. The first and second SOLE of the year are not typically great, but over time, they get better and better. I ask for responses to three statements on my exit tickets to process the groups: My group worked effectively to answer the question, my group created a product I am proud of, and I understand more about the topic. In the first couple SOLEs there are a lot of Nos and Sort Ofs, but after a few more, there are mostly Yeses. 
  • Students gain experience speaking in front of their classmates. It's not a huge amount of time, but it's still an opportunity to work on presentation skills. 
  • Students do all the work and all the talking on SOLE days, so it's a chance to feel like the expert and also realize that you can figure out the answers to big questions with some friends and some resources.
  • The open-ended Big Questions get a cool variety of responses. Sometimes groups will mention similar ideas, but often different groups present very different answers. I like that students get to hear multiple perspectives on a topic.
What are the things you love about SOLE? Please feel free to comment!

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