Category Archives: Science and Literacy

Power Thinking: Concept Mapping in Smart Notebook 2015

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Powerful Thinking… Powerful Learning

When we teach, we want students to learn. The more we can get them to think about the content we are presenting, the deeper and longer-lasting their learning becomes. In this post, we will explore Power Thinking, a concept mapping and outlining strategy that helps students organize information. concept mapping

Power Thinking: a great concept mapping and outlining strategy for all ages. {Image via Creative Commons}

What is Power Thinking?

Power Thinking is a strategy that students use to organize information, much like you would do in an outline. The most important piece of information, the title or topic, represents Level 1; main ideas are Level 2; other ideas or details become Level 3. Additional levels may be added, depending on the topic or the age of your students. For some students, the information can be color-coded by level, or the ideas can be numbered.

In the Power Thinking strategy, students stand in a circle in an open floor space and take turns placing pieces of information on the floor, building the map one piece at a time. When students run out of information to add, they may move one piece to another part of the map. In my classes, I usually conduct two rounds with information, then two rounds moving information, before ending the task.

The trick to Power Thinking is that the task is performed silently. This allows students who need more think time to process without classmates calling out answers or giving advice. It also requires students to think more deeply as they wait.

The Learning Benefits of Power Thinking

As with any concept mapping activity, Power Thinking helps students think about the many ways they can connect information, leading to a deeper understanding of the topic being studied. The hierarchical thinking that is used also helps students understand main ideas and supporting details. Older students can use this thinking to take better notes.

Power Thinking assists a wide range of learners, providing multiple entry points for the students in your class. The ability to stand and physically move items helps students who need a more active learning environment. Color cues, when used, aid in identifying levels of information, and help some students remember the levels later. Because there are many ways to connect pieces of information, students who are divergent thinkers are able to participate equitably, as well.

Concept Mapping Technology

Thanks to the plethora of educational technologies available in most classrooms today, students can practice concept mapping on many electronic devices. In this post, we will explore the use of the Smart Board and Smart Notebook 2015 software as concept mapping tools to use in Power Thinking.

Concept Mapping Using Smart Notebook 2015

The newest version of Smart Notebook includes built-in tools for concept mapping on your Smart Board.  Follow the steps below to make your Power Thinking Activity high-tech.

Before you teach:

  • Step 1. Open Smart Notebook 2015.
  • Step 2. Click the new concept mapping tool on the top tool bar. concept mapping

Smart Notebook 2015 includes a new concept mapping tool in the main tool bar.

  • Step 3. Prepare term cards for students. On notecards or pieces of sentence strip, write the terms and phrases that you want students to use in the concept mapping activity. {A practice set on bird eggs is included for your convenience.}

Power thinking:

  • Step 4. Pass out term cards to students. Each student should have at least two cards. Adjust the number of terms to match your class size.
  • Step 5. Students begin mapping. One at a time, students come to the board and create a map item by writing the term on their card, and circling it. Circling it causes the term to become a movable item on the Smart Board.
  • Step 6. Students connect items on the map. As students place their terms on the map, they can drag them to other terms and connect them by drawing a line between related items.
  • Step 7. Students move items. Once all the terms are on the board, continue with 1-2 additional rounds, allowing students to move one item to a new location, erasing and redrawing connections.

After teaching:

After the learning task is finished, you may save and print your concept map. Power Thinking can be repeated after instruction of key parts of the topic, and can also be used as a summative assessment after instruction is completed.

For an exciting collaborative twist on concept mapping, see the video, below, where students collaborate to build a concept map of words and photos using their individual mobile devices and the classroom Smart Board.

Get Mapping!

I hope you enjoy this concept mapping tutorial for use with your Smart Board. Happy mapping!

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Snowy Days Poetry Round-up

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Snowy Days in … March? snowy days

Here in New England, our calendar says it’s spring. Despite what the date is, we can experience snowy days in New England from October through March. We might have just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, but we are having a winter that just won’t quit.

Whether you have a one day winter, or live in a place where winter lasts for months, you can tie snowy days into your literacy block through poetry.

In this Poetry Round-up, you can find snow-themed poems for your winter weather studies, or for a day like today, when winter weather sneaks into spring. So, get out your snowshoes and come along for this snowy ride…


Snowy Days Poetry for Poets of all Ages

Poetry is an amazing way to teach students about visualization. Because a poet has to create a strong feeling or image in a small space, the words used must be powerful, and well-chosen.

The poems I have chosen reflect the snowy days theme, grouped by grade level band. When choosing poetry for your homeschool or classroom, there are some rules that can help you select the proper reading level:

  1. Poetry is often more difficult for students to understand than stories. Look for the student’s reading level, and then choose the level below as a starting point.
  2. Practice a new skill or strategy with a poem that is easier to read. Don’t be afraid to use a poem that is “lower” than your child’s grade-level or usual reading-level. The child spends more energy understanding the poem then, rather than figuring out how to read the words.
  3. Students should hear the language of poems just a little beyond their reach. Choose a poem to read aloud that is from the band above where the child normally reads.


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Your Snowy Day Poetry Library

I like to have a range of levels of poetry in my classroom. Consider creating a snowy days theme basket, and adding poetry of a variety of levels for independent reading, read-aloud and small group literature circles.

  • PK/K ~ Incorporate songs and finger plays  about snowy days and winter weather into your daily routine
  • Grades 1/2 ~“Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost; Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children, Jane Yolen
  • Grades 3/5 ~“Snow,” Karla Kuskin; It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing! Winter Poems, Jack Prelutsky; “Jack Frost,” Gabriel Setoun; “The Ant and the Cricket,” Anonymous; “Winter-Time,” Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Grades 6/8 ~ “A Riddle ~ On Snow,” James Parton; “Picture Books in Winter,” Robert Louis Stevenson; “Talking in Their Sleep,” Edith M. Thomas; “Winter Sport,” Anonymous
  • Grades 9/12 ~ “Joe’s Snow Clothes,” Karla Kuskin snowy days


Link Winter Studies to Literature

Add variety to your science lessons by beginning your science class with a poem or a passage about snowy days. When you link science and poetry you add interest to your lessons. You also show a link between science and literacy, and keep your students intrigued.

If you’re packing up your winter literature for the spring, tuck a few of your favorite winter-themed poetry books into a tub and start a snowy days theme basket ~ See my Swiss Family Robinson theme basket directions for details.

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