Friday, November 20, 2015

2015-2016 Focus: #TeachingHOT

#Teaching HOT is our instructional focus this year!  Teaching Higher Order Thinking (HOT) skills is essential for our students today.  Our common core standards and Project Based Learning (PBL) projects require higher order thinking.  In addition, many high stakes tests such as the ACT and ASVAB require higher order thinking.  The wording of these tests calls upon students to process, reason, seek evidence, reflect, and generate knowledge based on what they read/write, whether in a scientific context, mathematical context, historical context, etc., so it is very important to “explicitly” teach these skills within the classroom.  Furthermore, many students have jobs or will have jobs that require them to think “on their feet” or “outside of the box.”  

It takes more mental rigor to plan for and teach higher order thinking within a teacher’s content area, but it is worth it for the students in the end.  Munford High School’s administrators, teachers, and students have bought into teaching HOT.  We discuss “how” to incorporate teaching HOT in our bi-weekly DEN talks.  For example, teachers share student work samples, and students are invited to the Den Talks to share how they are affected by learning in this way.  Teachers have opportunities to collaboratively plan and present HOT lessons with their peers. This allows teachers to gain information about HOT strategies that they might not have been privy to prior to the presentations.  Our teachers also have HOT word walls in their classrooms, which serve as an anchor chart throughout the day.  Our students live in a world where they are expected to think, and our goal is to provide them with the tools to help them do so.


  1. One of our goals at Munford High School is for every student to graduate on time and be College and Career Ready. Our "#Teaching HOT" initiative is one way we will reach this goal. Go Big Red!

  2. I am excited to see a concentrated focus on critical thinking skills across the board that opens the door of each content area in teaching. I like how it also meshes well with what we are doing with Project Based Learning!


  3. In Leaders of Their Own Learning, we are focusing on student-engaged assessment. Student engaged assessment "changes the primary role of assessment from evaluating and ranking students to motivating them to learn. It builds...critical thinking skills...students need for college and careers." Our focus on HOT (Higher Order Thinking) skills is helping our students learn the language of the standards and giving them a greater awareness of their own thought processes (i.e. how to determine the structure and function of an organelle).

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  5. The history department was given "infer" as our new HOT word. As a department, our inference lesson will revolve around American imperialism. After setting up a real-world scenario where students are to infer what was discussed between the teacher and an administrator, we will define "infer" and develop a list of synonyms. Students will then be provided three primary source documents concerning imperialism. In groups, students will utilize the HIPP method (Historical Context, Intended Audience, Purpose, and Point of View). Teachers will observe students in their groups to check for understanding. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will journal their responses to the following question: To what extent was late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century United States expansionism a continuation of past US expansionism and to what extent was it a departure? Individual responses will be used to check for understanding.

  6. By being able to compare and contrast, students demonstrate common higher order thinking skills that are essential to science, these skills are also essential strategies needed to be successful on standardized tests. Compare is to show likeness, and contrast is to show differences; moreover, standardized tests also use several related terms to include differ, deviate, vary, and separate.
    Many instructional strategies can be used to incorporate the #HOT words such as graphic organizers including T- Charts and Venn Diagrams. When comparing and contrasting ideas, objects, people, and events, there are a number of critical thinking steps, represented by the acronym ALIKE:

    A=account for literal similarities and differences
    L=look again; don’t miss the obvious
    I=investigate the hidden details of likeness and differences
    K=know the categories
    E=express in alternating or dual descriptions

    The science department will use T-Charts and Venn Diagrams to compare and contrast subject specific content. We will use these as “BEFORE” strategies and embed them within our lessons.

  7. Understand: to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of; comprehend / to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of. Understanding is the foundational level of thinking that opens the doorway for more analysis, evaluation, and critical thinking of a topic. Example of instructional strategies are: KNWS chart, Think, Pair, Share, Turn and Talk and KIM chart.
    To understand, a student must get the GIST:
    Get the big idea, main idea, or theme;
    Identify details to support the main idea
    Say it in your own words
    Test by creating a summary

  8. The electives at MHS were given "explain" as our HOT word. The skill of explaining is essential to real-world applications. It is used in giving directions ("Let me explain how to get there"), describing procedure ("Can you explain how this works?"), and in interpreting discussions ("I want to explain in terms everyone can understand").

    In the Talk-Through, the instructor teaches the thinking skill explicitly. This can be done with an order of operations represented by the acronym TELL:

    T: tell the big idea
    E: express supporting statements
    L: look for more details
    L: listen for questions and respond

    Students can practice TELL by creating sandwich words.

    1. Choose a topic.
    2. Have students brainstorm words relevant to the topic.
    3. Students break off in pairs and choose two words to focus on.
    4. Students create a new word by combining their two words.
    5. Student pairs create a psuedo-definition of their new word.
    6. Ask students to explain why it is important to know the history of words and their meanings.
    7. Have students decide: Was this open-ended assignment easier or harder than a textbook assignment? Why or why not?

    We decided to use the TELL acronym in teaching appropriate situations in which to make a complete stop while operating a vehicle.

  9. To kick off the new semester, the English teachers will introduce the new HOT word "develop" to students. According to the text, “To develop is to bring out the capabilities or possibilities of something or to bring to a more advanced or effective state.” In student friendly terms, develop means to create a plan of action, a plan outlining steps to create a solution. The plan is intended to address a problem, real-world or fictitious, through making a series of steps that logically create a plan to address that problem.

    In November, Liz Huntley came to speak to the students about overcoming personal obstacles and shared her personal story, which is told in her book More Than a Bird. Munford High School has partnered with Mrs. Huntley to provide feedback about the book for a forthcoming study guide about the book she is in the process of creating, so some students will be reading and studying the book in English classes soon. This seemed like a fitting opportunity to introduce the HOT word "develop" as we discuss how students can develop a plan for overcoming their own personal obstacles.

    In class, students will brainstorm personal issues that they may be facing, which may be similar or dissimilar to the variety of issues Mrs. Huntley outlined in her speech to the students (and in her book), and collaborate to develop potential plans for overcoming those personal obstacles. Examples may include overcoming poverty, paying for college, establishing priorities for their academic vs. personal lives, etc. Students will develop these plans after reading and annotating a selection from More Than a Bird and discussing how Mrs. Huntley addressed her own issues in life.