Recently, I was gifted the opportunity to teach a lesson in a seventh grade biology class, known for being a challenging group of learners. Although, the content for learning was heavy on the academic vocabulary, I wanted to engage the learners in a way that would bring their thinking to light, without direct input from me. Whenever vocabulary comes to mind, I immediately think of one of my favorite methods: The Frayer Model. Knowing the population I was serving, and the dependency on heavy academic language, the words of Jon Corippo came to mind, and I wanted to Seacrest the hell out of this lesson, i.e. it was a new opportunity to Iron Chef this lesson.
A little background information, I have tried with limited success to be able to produce a reasonable explanation in a finite amount of time how a group of learners facilitates this process, let alone doing in context without losing momentum with reluctant learners. In addition, I was teaching the students a new method of vocabulary usage with the Frayer model, and I was expecting to teach them the content within the 50 minutes that I had with them. I felt the cards were stacked, but I don’t mind failing and loved the idea of the challenge.
Feeling encouraged by a new understanding of the Iron Chef process, I started the lesson with a quick introduction to get the students ready for learning. Introducing the Frayer Model separately, I chose to use fast food establishments as the non-content specific example for students to get used to that idea. I read and showed mine of Taco Bell, the students then were numbered off 1 to 6, to form the groups of 4 that I needed. The students then sat in their groups of 4, each student chose a number which corresponded to a specific restaurant, and I instructed the students on where to go and what they would do. We interacted in a timed, chunked manner through this process. So the learners were writing their Frayer models while learning the structure of the Iron Chef lesson. We moved from Home groups to Expert groups, then back, it worked so beautifully, I couldn’t believe it. After less than six minutes, I had managed to explain both concepts.
Placing the words on the screen, we followed the same format, the learners were give three minutes to dive into the reading, pull out their information, before we would move. When time was up, I checked they knew where they were going, then I released them to share, if they didn’t finish their Frayer model, they could do so as they shared out. I gave 90 seconds for this, then back to their seats. Two minutes of sharing out whole group, each one writing what the other members of the group had to share, then we were off again with four new words.
Repeating this process, with less time, and the increase of tempo proved beneficial, as the structure wasn’t new anymore, they were able to get through it much quicker. The students also quickly related where they were at and how they needed to finish some pieces.
We were able to cover a large section of reading, discover new words, make associations, and synthesize information with three new structures in less than 50 minutes. Having front loaded the expectation of what was required before the leave, I was able to finish with three minutes of students creating a visual representation of how all the pieces fit together. A projected word wall of things they might consider including added a nice touch. Students surprised me with how much they pulled out of it, and I was able to instruct for less than a total of five minutes total. Not to mention this challenging class more than rose to the occasion of amazing learners, they actually were having fun.
A couple of little things that would facilitate this better next time, is a visual for where students need to go based on their number, that part I was unclear about, especially for the first few times. There is also the additional piece of differentiation for there were a few learners that already knew the academic language and the concepts, so they were done within a minute of the time to fill those pieces out and they weren’t learning as much…so adding or modifying that piece for them would also need to be taken into account…I forgive myself on this piece because I didn’t know the students at all.
Being able to climb Mt Everest in this lesson made my day, especially now that I feel I am able to successfully understand the finer parts of Iron Chef lessons, and being able to clearly communicate that piece without losing the momentum of learning, are huge wins in my book.