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(High School SOSE)
What is it? Cubing is a creative, hands-on activity which develops critical thinking and promotes deeper understanding and in-depth exploration of a topic. It uses a cube-shaped graphic organiser and Bloom’s Taxonomy to prompt students to look at a topic from many different angles and levels. On each side of a cube is written a prompt or question based on the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Each student rolls the cube as they would a dice, and then writes a response to the questions they “roll”. Two to four rolls are suggested, and students can do this in groups or individually. Alternatively, students can be given A3-sized templates on which they can write all six answers to the questions by themselves, before using scissors and glue to make their cube and display it in the classroom.
Why is it important? Students who have used Cubing to explore a topic will have a better understanding of the material. Having explored a subject from all angles, they will be able to do more with what they know when it is time to write an assignment or do a test.
Critical thinking is more than just thinking. Critical thinkers are active, not passive; they are thinking from multiple perspectives, recognising patterns, evaluating what they’ve been told, are good at solving problems, and unlike Homer Simpson, are not satisfied with the first thought that pops into their heads (“Doughnuts!”). Critical thinking is difficult to teach and relies on the teacher to ask in-depth questions. Bloom’s taxonomy helps teachers develop higher level thinking skills in their students. (Richardson and Morgan, 2014) Research supports the use of graphic organisers in the classroom as a way of organising information, and visualising how it fits together. (Patziotopoulos and Kroll, 2004)
Things to consider before starting o o o
Include one easy question and one really hard question on every cube. Write questions that will really get students scratching their heads. The purpose is to develop critical thinking, so avoid questions with straightforward answers. Write sentence-starter prompts on the board to help students write their answers. This will show them how to use academic language in their responses. For example: “I associate this topic with….” “There is a link between…” “In comparing _____ with _____, I noticed…” “I hypothesise that…”
Steps in a Cubing Activity 1.
Select a topic that the students need to explore in depth.
Use a Bloom’s Taxonomy poster to help you write six head-scratching questions which correspond to the six prompts on the cubes. To differentiate, write two sets of questions - one very challenging and one less so.
Students can simply rule up a page into 6 squares and write their own extended answers. To do cubing as a game, students roll the cubes two to four times and write responses to the questions which come up. An extended activity might ask each student in a group of six to do an in-depth answer to one question and then present it to the group, who must take notes. The extended answer could become one side of a giant A3 cube to be displayed. Or students could individually fill out an A3 cube template, then make and display it.
Teachers can re-use one basic set of cubes simply by writing expanded questions on the board. It is easy to differentiate by giving a list of higher level questions for some students and less challenging questions for others.
Cubing Ideas for SOSE Topic: Algal bloom in waterways Describe It: What is algal bloom? Associate It: What happens in your own back yard that is connected to algal bloom? Compare It: Compare a creek with algal bloom to a healthy creek. How are the water, oxygen, fish, plants, birds and animals affected? Analyse It: Why do you think people still fertilise their lawns even though it causes algal bloom? Hypothesise It: What do you think is the best solution to algal bloom? Why would that work? Argue For or Against It: In the Murray River, farmers’ use of fertilisers on their farms has caused algal bloom. Yet, if farmers couldn’t use fertiliser they couldn’t grow nearly as much food to feed us. Should they stop using fertilisers or not? Use evidence to support your argument.
Differentiating Questions BASIC “Describe It” question: What is algal bloom? CHALLENGING “Describe It” question: Describe what causes algal bloom and exactly what processes happen to create it.
References Patziotopoulos, A. and Kroll, M. (2004). Hooked on thinking. The Reading Teacher, [online] 57(7), pp.672-677. Richardson, J. and Morgan, R. (2000). Reading to Learn in the Content Areas. 4th ed. Belomont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, pp.198-214. Tompkins, Gail. (2003). Literacy for the 21st Century. 3rd ed. Pearson Education.