I ran across a session about hexagonal thinking at the Lowcountry Google Summit this summer. The description said something along the lines of , “Hexagonal thinking is a great visual tool for enabling organization and deep understanding of a topic.” I love the book “Making Thinking Visible” so this was right up my alley.
I’ve since used this strategy twice — once with adults at a PD session and once with fourth graders at the beginning of a unit. Here’s a brief rundown of how it works:
1. You provide a group of students with ten (give or take) hexagonal pieces of paper.
2. You give them a large list of words that are loosely associated.
3. The students pick ten words to write on the hexagons and must join the word cards by linking words that they thought had strong connections.
4. Everyone in the group must be able to explain the connections between two (or more) of the words linked together.
5. Groups can share out their connections, you groups can walk around the room looking at other groups’ connections.
6. Give each group three more hexagons that are a different color. Students can write down three words they wished were on the list and they must be able to use these new hexagons to make additional connections.
I used this strategy to activate prior knowledge with my Native American unit. There were many words on the list that the students knew (teepee, culture, longhouse) and many they were unfamiliar with (kachina, kiva, potlach). It was awesome seeing the groups make totally different connections. One group focused on hunting and survival. Another group went with art and culture. Students looked up or explained new vocabulary (we are 1:1 ipads so everything is a Google search away). They disagreed about some of the connections (weaker ones got pushed aside for stronger connections being made) but the students worked well together in groups of four. I also was able to see where there were some misconceptions and things I needed to focus on while teaching the unit.
With adults in a professional development setting, it went equally well. Here’s the link to order your hexagonal paper cutter (only $12!) If you wanted to print your hexagons, there are several free options online including this awesome one from Pam Hook’s (HookED).