Betsy Potash has set the educational world on fire in the last few months with her posts and resources for hexagonal thinking activities, a learning structure that encourages and fosters creative cognition.   Hexagonal thinking projects can be:

  • Digital or analog
  • Individual or collaborative
  • A formative or summative assessment
  • Applied in all content areas and for multiple age groups

Betsy has published and podcasted extensively about this learning structure, so I won’t attempt to replicate her explanations and resources, but here are some of my favorites to help you get started:

I originally planned to do the digital version of this, but when I learned Chromebooks would be collected a little earlier than I anticipated, I spend an entire evening converting the projects to analog format (third link above) for each book club text (seven!), and then printing all the tiles on my home printer (hint:  add a footer with page number to your slides so you don’t get confused printing your pages).

A ream and a half paper later plus two ink cartridges, I had one for every student.  In hindsight, I am really pleased the project was analog because cutting, pasting, arranging, and working with hands has been PERFECT for the end of the year.  I already had plenty of glue sticks and scissors in my supply project, so the only other item I needed to order was this construction paper; thankfully, I purchased two packs, and each pack was less than $10.  I did purchase three bags of quart Hefty slider bags for students to store their tiles in once they finished cutting because most needed more than one class day to cut and arrange.

I used this project as an individual summative assessment of students’ understanding of their book club texts.  Our book texts included:

  • The Poet X
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham
  • House Arrest
  • Forget Me Not
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • The Distance Between Us (Young Readers’ Edition)
  • Farewell to Manzanar

Once students finished cutting their tiles, I either provided individual instruction for steps or directed them to my tutorial videos that I embedded on our daily Canvas lessons.  Thanks to Studio in Canvas, I can easily push videos from my YouTube channel to them and stay safe within our district filter.

I was able to borrow some tables from other teachers to establish a large supply table and “turn in” area for completed projects; other tables were used as “staging” areas for projects in progress by class period.  Most students were able to complete the project and analytical writing piece in three class days (class periods of 45-50 minutes each), but some students did need four.

I was impressed not only by how engaged and absorbed in the activity most students were, but also their thinking and the connections they saw between their tiles.  I will DEFINITELY do this activity again, and I plan to use it this fall with a whole class novel study and/or short story unit.  This is already one of my FAVORITE learning activities of all time, and I strongly encourage you to give it a try whether you go digital or analog though I think I will continue to do an analog version whether it is individual or small group; I would also love to use butcher paper and put these on display in my classroom and our hallways this fall as well.  Below are some photos to show you our work in progress!

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