In my last post I explained my CSI lesson with year 9 – where they explored, retrieved and explained their choices of Shakespeare’s language from Macbeth to answer a specific question. At the end of that lesson I asked them to write down their best and most relevant quotations onto three hexagons. They were confused. I explained that I would explain next time. They weren’t really that bothered. They left and so did I!
The following day I used the hexagons with them. It was the day after my last ever observation for my GTP so I shouldn’t really have had the energy to plan quite as much as I did, but a strange sense of ‘I have to do as well as yesterday’ took over even though no one was watching me! I’m glad I did plan so well and carry on with these ideas in the following lesson because in the last few weeks this class seem to have matured hugely and both these lessons seemed like a bit of a turning point. In this lesson we began by reviewing the previous day’s learning (if not just for my benefit as it was a bit of a whirlwind!). They proved they had remembered a lot from the day before and I was very impressed at how well they could now quote Macbeth! I had read through David Didau’s post on hexagons before planning both my CSI lesson and this one. It really helped and is a good starting point for anything to do with SOLO. http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/01/28/hexagonal-learning/ as is Lisa Jane Ashes work on Hexagons http://lisajaneashes.edublogs.org/2012/01/31/hexagon-heaven-week/
At the beginning of the lesson I asked pupils to get out their hexagons. I gave them 7 more hexagons which had character names, some ideas and themes already written on them. After recapping and sharing ideas from yesterday I asked them to place three hexagons next to each other out of their 10. They had to include one quotation hexagon in this group.
They worked in pairs and I went around the class to encourage and question their primary choices. Their first play with the hexagons was a case of (where I had cut them in straight lines) “ooooo they fit together”, “put that one there”, “Put that one here”. I didn’t give them any direction in terms of a question to answer at this point; I merely implied they should choose two hexagons linking to their quotation. I then asked them to add two more hexagons (to make 5), but this time I asked them to add at least one hexagon that related to a wider theme found in the play. I kept moving round the classroom questioning their choices before I told them they could add all the hexagons if they wanted.
After 5 minutes I stopped them. At this point they had all made some lovely shapes on the tables, but I knew they hadn’t yet explored the links they had inadvertently made. I asked them to pick one quotation hexagon and draw in their books the lines and therefore hexagons that were now surrounding it. They then had to pick a particular point or node where these hexagons met. They were asked to explain why those three sections linked by verbally following the PEE method. They had to explain this link to another pair in as much detail as possible.
As I went round the room to question and focus their thinking I was amazed at what I was hearing after just a few blurry moments. At first they made obvious statements such as “Lady Macbeth said [X] which shows she is manipulative. Being manipulative is linked to her ambition”. The strange thing was when I asked them to explain further which words in the quotation made them think she was for example. manipulative (one of the words on a hexagon) they didn’t just rephrase the keyword as they would normally do. They thought about the term manipulative – what it meant and how the keyword from the quotation could link. One pupil, who was not a likely candidate to make such statements, made fabulous links between a quotation and the theme of revenge. He spoke about King Duncan, Banquo and Macbeth’s character flaws using only the quotation from Lady Macbeth; eventually summarising to say that Shakespeare had used the quotation to comment on the behaviour and attitudes of four main characters and therefore proving it was an important piece of language. He did this all whilst using three main words from the hexagons he was exploring. The conversations I heard were astounding and I was really overwhelmed at how something so simple could tease out such creative and higher order thinking skills. These answers were, without a doubt, developing relational links and I am sure many more of their verbal answers could be considered to reach extended abstract. I only wish I had photographed or recorded their work that day. I am sure that this lesson has really helped focus their ideas in their essays which are (she says half way through marking them) absolutely brilliant in many places. The next challenge was to get these strong verbal explanations on to paper. This is a point where my class really struggle but with a lot of hard work from both sides we managed it earlier this week. I believe that when we discussed our ideas at the end of the hexagon lesson they were all in awe at the complexity of their points and also a little bit scared by my beaming reaction to their ideas! However, my response did seem to push them on to want to get their ideas down on paper as best they could. In turn the following PEE, structuring and planning lessons – also using hexagons, were not too painful because they knew they could provide great answers and wanted to prove it.
In conclusion, hexagons work – I don’t really know why or how but they have magic powers which I hope to be using again soon. I really found they forced me to focus my questioning as well. What started out as making a jigsaw game really came to fruition and it took very little effort. The best part was I wasn’t expecting any specific answers, even though I knew what I wanted my overall outcome to be. I knew they needed to be able to make links between their evidence, the assessment focus (Lady Macbeth’s level of guilt) and the overall themes by the end of the lesson but they proved there was no right or wrong way of doing this. Hexagons seem like a wonderful way of joining up thinking and digging deep for ideas. Moreover, they really helped them hit that final KS3 APP Assessment Foci of relating historical, cultural and social context in this lesson. Many included ideas about the witches, 16th century hierarchy and stereotypes which we had studied previously. This was a really great achievement. I should point out that these pupils are in set 3 of 4 and ensuring this level of engagement or enjoyment can sometimes be tricky. I really do think they enjoyed doing this – as much as year 9 in lesson 1 can enjoy anything!
Maybe not this weekend but certainly in the future I will be more than happy to keep cutting out hexagons if it means I get these sorts of essays again. I couldn’t be more proud of their work this term and that, somehow, has something to do with these funny little shapes.