Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part V

LauraLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

Students can easily become disengaged during a lesson in a whole class setting. Students who are not called on to answer a question can passively wait for the answer to be given to them, rather than thinking it through for themselves. Teachers usually seek ways for all students to participate so that they are actively thinking and learning during a whole class lesson.

One of the simplest ways to help get all students actively thinking about a whole group activity is to provide think time for questions and ask them to write their answers down before calling on one student to answer aloud. Many questions and challenges in the Gizmo lesson materials have multiple correct answers. This format is a great opportunity to ask pairs to devise a solution and then have them come up one at a time to share their solutions on the Gizmo.

If the Gizmo calls for students to design an experiment, have pairs or small groups work together to create plans at their desks. Each group then presents and defends their plan to the class for the privilege of performing that experiment on the Gizmo.

You can also have students use physical manipulatives similar to the Gizmo at their desks. This will allow them to follow along and explore even when they aren’t using the Gizmo directly. In the User Lesson Materials for Toy Factory, the contributed lesson from Elsie Rivard includes a page of toys from the Gizmo created by using the snapshot tool. Students can cut out and use the toys to participate in a whole class lesson. Recently, I purchased pencil toppers in the shapes of animals to use similarly.

There are even more ways to ensure that all students are participating rather than zoning out during a whole group instruction lesson.

• When one student answers a question, ask the rest of the room to give a thumbs up if they agree, thumbs down if they disagree or a thumbs sideways if they don’t know.

• Use individual whiteboards to have all students respond to questions.

• Use mobile devices so that students can answer the Gizmo assessment questions individually.

Want more ideas? Check out the outstanding book, Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner by Pérsida Himmele and William Himmele.