Ep 168: Hexagonal Thinking with Betsy Potash - EB Academics

Ep 168: Hexagonal Thinking with Betsy Potash

Imagine having a go-to discussion activity that is both guided and open-ended, both fun and rigorous, both creative and easy to implement. The Hexagonal Thinking Activity has it all, and Betsy Potash from the Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast is here to share it with you!

Caitlin and Jessica interview Betsy as she walks listeners through this simple activity that helps students develop skills in critical thinking, argument, problem-solving, making connections, and discussion. You can use it with any text, helping students to explore ideas both within and beyond their reading.

Whether students are connecting their reading to themes, quotes, characters, current events, learning from their other classes, or other concepts, they will also be practicing other critical ELA skills along the way. So listen in for this great rinse-and-repeat activity that students will love (plus grab a free download to help you get started easily!). 

Tune in now to hear:

  • [01:50] Guest Betsy Potash joins the podcast all the way from Bratislava, Slovakia, to share some great advice for middle and high school ELA teachers.
  • [02:35] If you enjoy this episode, you can hear more from Betsy at her podcast, the Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast.  
  • [03:10] Betsy shares the basics of Hexagonal Thinking, a discussion method for students.
  • [03:30] Create hexagonal cards (cards cut in the shape of hexagons) and write text on them (a quote from a text, a character’s name, a theme – whatever you’d like to use) and create a deck with them. The deck can vary in number of cards (10, 25, etc.) depending on your class and your students’ abilities. 
  • [03:40] Share the deck with a small group of students and ask them to line up the ideas. Each card has six sides, so each card can only have six connections. 
  • [04:00] Students will debate which cards connect with which cards (does this character connect with this quote? Does this quote connect with this theme? etc.). 
  • [04:30] Betsy explains how these hexagonal conversations build great critical thinking, argumentative, and discussion skills. 
  • [05:30] If you’re watching this on our YouTube channel, you can see Betsy showing what the hexagonal cards look like. 
  • [06:00] Betsy shares advice for getting started with this activity.
  • [06:20] You don’t have to start off with literature! You can practice with TV shows, candy types, movies, etc. to show students how the hexagonal conversation activity works. Model defending choices for students, first by yourself, then together with the class’s help.
  • [09:40] Make this a discussion go-to, not a one-and-done. In other words, use this activity throughout the year to help students develop their critical thinking and argument skills.
  • [10:00] With each time using this activity, add more cards to the deck and add more layers to the conversation (for example, by creating cards that connect with the larger world, outside texts, etc.). As students become proficient, you can even have them make some of the cards themselves!
  • [10:40] You can also utilize images, like political cartoons, photographs, etc.
  • [11:00] Other fun ideas: Add magnets, so students can move the hexagon cards along the wall, or create dry-erase hexagon cards, so students can create their own. 
  • [11:40]  You can use this as a 10-minute warm-up activity, or even a larger assessment, having students write extensively about their choices.
  • [12:50] Betsy talks about helping students work on group dynamics, so they can converse collaboratively and respectfully. 
  • [15:20] Betsy gives advice on helping students to dig deeply in discussions, go beyond obvious, surface-level connections. 
  • [18:00] Betsy shares some different ways in which students can reflect on the activity and give feedback. 
  • [22:10] If you’re wondering how you can assess this activity,  here are three great ideas: students can present their ideas to a small group, give a presentation (like with Flipgrid) on what they feel are the strongest connections, or explain in writing what they feel is the most important connection.
  • [22:10] Get a free download for a Hexagonal Thinking Toolkit to make implementing this activity fun and easy!
  • [22:30] Final hot top: Let the students cut out the hexagons! You don’t need to spend your time at home cutting cards 🙂
  • [23:10] Visit Betsy on Instagram: nowsparkcreativity

Click here to listen now!

Click here to watch on Youtube!

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Then, pick the date you’re going to teach it in your classroom, and sit back while you watch as your students show up to your classroom pumped about what the day holds…and gush about your class to their parents on the car ride home!

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