Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hexagons Build Connections

I really admire tessellations. When we set up our game of Catan, I always marvel at how the hexagons fit so beautifully together. The same goes for Takenoko, a new game that my son got for Christmas that I just love.

So when I saw some blog posts about using hexagons to review key ideas, I was intrigued. It seemed like a great combination--using tessellations to make content review more meaningful and engaging.

The idea is simple. Take some hexagons, write concepts or words on them, and have students connect the tiles. The key is that students should be able to explain their tessellations, describing how the different ideas are connected.

1. Make or copy your hexagons

I made mine in Google Drawings. Apparently everyone else in my house knows that holding "shift" while creating the shape makes a regular shape--it was a new trick to me! I left some spaces between them to allow for easier cutting.

2. Write content words in the hexagons

Because this was the first time for me to use this activity, I decided to add the content words. I chose words that go along with my current forces and motion unit.

I made four different sets of hexagons, and then copied each set onto a different color of cardstock. This would be handy later. (My first class ended up cutting out the hexagons, which I stored in report card envelopes.)

3. Explain the importance of connections to students

I told my students: "Our goal here is to see and explain how these ideas from our unit are related. The more connections we can make, the more easily we will be able to work with these ideas and use the vocabulary."

4. At first, have students work with one set of hexagons

I circulated to watch carefully what was happening. Some students set up interesting shapes right away, while others struggled a bit. I encouraged them to go back to their resources to check for ideas and information!

5. Gallery walk by hexagon color

For the first set of gallery walks, students got up and walked around the room to hear from their peers. In some cases, the seated students challenged their friends to guess, while in other cases they pointed to the hexagons and shared their sentences. Having the four different colors made grouping for this really easy!

6. Pair up colors

This was really fun! Students got together with partners who
had differently colored hexagons to try to make new connections. Some groups challenged themselves to make one giant tessellation, while others made sets of small ones.


As a review activity, this worked very well to get kids using challenging vocabulary. I heard great dialogue between students as I walked around the room: "I'm not sure how I could add acceleration here" or "What is lift again?"

I hate review games in which only one or two kids practice answering questions, and this worked well to get everyone involved. Some kids even asked to take the hexagons home for more practice!

Next time, though, the hexagons will be much, much more artistic. I can't wait to see what students do when I hand over the blank hexagons to them at the end of the next unit.

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