Clear expectations are essential when you are going to mix things up. Students are eager to try something new, but need to feel confident in what their part is. To do this I start by passing out two sticky notes to them. As I do, I explain that they are going to keep notes on them from the section of our history book we are reading today. They are going to be placed in teams and will only write a note when I call out that number.
I will read to them so they concentrate on what they are going to keep as a note. Basically, I will read a paragraph or two and then call out a number. When I do that number will answer the question I ask referring back to the book for the answer. When I call out a number, I might ask them to define the bold word, tell me the main point of what I read, or answer a specific question that I ask from what I just read.
I then walk around and assign numbers. I number the students one thru four. A good trick, is to make sure they write their number as soon as I give it to them on their first sticky note. It makes for less figuring of what number someone is and the student talking that can come from a student not knowing.
I ask them to turn to the specific page and remind them that they only have to write the note if I call on their number. I start reading and then call out a number. I ask the "number ones" to define the bold word, peasant. I read a bit farther and I have the "twos" write down the main idea of the section. I keep going until ever number has had to answer, find, or define four different sections.
When we reach the end of the section the book has some "end of the lesson" questions. They are questions that require a recall answer. For example, one of the questions asked what the time period was called in Europe while the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas were in the Americas. Most students did not even have to look back in the book to answer "middle ages" they just remembered it. I ask five questions that are all this type. I then asked how many of them used their notes to answer. One student says, "never, they weren't hard." Exactly!
I explain that these types of questions only require you to pull out facts from your memory. They might be important, but our brain only has to recall what it remembers. I tell them that these types of questions are often found on tests as multiple choice. We study for them by making things like flash cards and practice knowing the answers over and over.
I then ask them some questions about the vocabulary words. I tried to make so each group had to define one. Each group looks back at their notes to answer for the class. I then ask, "why did I not have any group define the bold word, knight?" They finally get to the idea that it was already something we know, "so why waste time writing it." I do tell them that some of like to write things to help us remember, but in this case it was not necessary.
To really get them thinking, there was a section that described the Aztec leader as welcoming Cortes and befriending him because they thought he was a returning god. I ask the class, "Why would Montezuma and the Aztecs think that Cortes was a god?" This takes some time to discuss and they really get into it. The connections really start happening as soon as student mentions the armor. I love when I can step back and just let them roll, I just prompt and keep it going.
The excitement of the discussion was so awesome. I had to then focus their attention on to the questioning. I asked how the question I asked was different from the book questions. They had all kind of answers for this. One student said it was because of the notes they wrote, and another really made me smile when they said, "because we had to think." I love lessons that come together with excitement and they get the gist so easily.