Saturday, 6 September 2008

Hilda Taba (part 2), Wordle, and numeracy

In one of my earlier posts (Aug 16, 2008) on Wordle I said:
"I reckon this idea could be adapted for numeracy: sorting out maths vocabulary words; ranking measures in order of size; sorting measures into length, weight or capacity; sorting shapes (well, names of shapes) according to properties; etc."

Well, site-contributor Dave Norgate has speedily proved my
point: he's created a set of numeracy Wordles that does everything I wished for and more! There are four Wordles in his resource – covering 2D shapes, maths vocabulary, odd and even numbers, and metric units. Dave has also very kindly provided fill-in charts for two word clouds: one provides a structure for straightforward sorting (maths vocabulary); the other demands sorting followed by ordering (metric units).

Linking this back to my previous discussion regarding Hilda Taba - you might like to think of a Wordle cloud as the collection of data (the first stage or strategy in her model) and Dave's blank charts as the next stage where data is organised so that students can visualise and attain concepts.

The number of ‘phases’ in each stage seems to have been extended since Taba’s work was published in 1971. It varies with each source that I look at (see references at the end this post). Here’s my attempt at a summary – but I make no claim to expertise in learning theory.

Stage 1 (three phases)
Concept formation – collecting data through class brainstorming (maybe into Wordle - see below!), individual lists, answers to questions, etc. 3 phases: list, group, label.

Stage 2
Attaining concepts - organising data using: whiteboard, smartboard, flip chart, fill-in tables, handout, Wordle (more on this below), etc.

Stage 3 (I’m not sure how many phases!)
Develop generalisations, compare, explain, apply principles (predicting).

Anyway – I must wander back to some practical uses of Wordle…

Of course you don’t have to start at Stage 1 - phase 1 (listing) to make use of Taba’s model. All the existing (as of Sept 6th 08) Wordle resources on provide pre-collected data in a word cloud; the words or numbers in the cloud may also be partially grouped. Examples of these include (all kindly contributed by Dave N):
Sorting nouns and verbs (and then listing alphabetically)
Identifying misspelt words
Identifying 2D shapes
Sorting odd and even numbers

In all these cases you are starting at Taba’s Stage 1 - phase 2 or 3. However, you could (assuming you have a PC, data projector and Internet access to Wordle) collect the data live in-class and start at Stage 1 - phase 1.

This can be done through brainstorming and/or careful questioning. Before you start you’ll need a clear objective. What concept do you want students to grasp? It could be naming the properties of 2D shapes, distinguishing between odd and even numbers, recognising metric measures and selecting appropriate units, etc. The questioning is crucial if you want to avoid too many stray words or groups in your Wordle. You’ve got to get the balance right: to prevent a wild goose chase you'll need to elicit plenty of relevant data (words) that allow learners to make connections and ‘get’ (attain) the concept.

I recommend enlisting a willing student to type-in the words – or, even better, pass a wireless keyboard around. If accurate spelling is a prerequisite for your Wordle – get the students to type into a Word document (with spellchecker turned on) and then paste the list into Wordle at the end of the brainstorming session. This also keeps Wordle a secret until the last minute – assuming your students haven’t seen it before!

Now, a great feature of Wordle is that, when using it live, you can delete words one by one from your cloud by right-clicking on them. You can use this to facilitate Taba’s crucial middle stage 2 and whittle your data down to one group.

For example, if you were creating a cloud similar to Dave’s (right) you could firstly delete (or ask students to delete) all the words that are not names of shapes or objects (e.g. addition, weigh, perimeter). This could be followed (amidst much discussion about properties, etc.) by deleting all the names of 3D shapes (for example) until you’re eventually left with a set of 2D shapes. If your group is working at Level 1 or 2 - keep going! The possibilities are endless - ask the students how they could regroup and classify what's left. Perhaps they'll suggest deleting those with more than four sides, or those with only one pair of parallel lines.

Of course, I’m not saying that Wordle is the answer to everything! For more advanced grouping and ordering you may well have to stick to the traditional whiteboard, fill-in table, matrix or chart method – although maybe you could have more than one Wordle going on at once!

I’ll leave you to think about Stage 3 and its generalisations and predictions...

I'm guessing this was taken in the 1950s – Taba was born in 1902

Taba, H., Durkin, M. C., Fraenkel, J. R., & NcNaughton, A. H. (1971). A teacher's handbook to elementary social studies: An inductive approach (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Chapter 5 is available online at (I’m not sure if this is a summary or the entire chapter as unfortunately I have not read the original – out of print – I’d love to see it though!).

There's also good clear coverage of Taba's model in Teaching Young Adults (Gill Turner, Joe Harkin, Trevor Dawn) RoutledgeFalmer 2001
This book uses a useful egg timer depiction. I'd better not reproduce it here because of copyright issues but if you search for the book in you can preview various pages including the egg timer page 46.
The book also includes an extended Taba model (page 47). This extended version is great for planning: it's full of imperatives for learning objectives. For example, Stage 1-phase 1 not only suggests list but also collect, find, choose, bring, underline, highlight and tick. It also relates Taba's model to the Kolb / experiential learning cycle (page 48 - also viewable via Google books).

1 comment:

Keith said...

Interesting pedagogy, I had never heard of Hilda Taba before.

On the ILT front, I've worked out how to get Wordle images so that they scale up nicely. You have to install two pieces of free software, PDFcreator and Inkscape.

You 'print' your wordle from the wordle web site as a PDF file. Then you import the resulting PDF into Inkscape, accept the defaults, and then save the result as a windows meta file (WMF).

That file can be inserted into PowerPoint or Word and you get smooth letter forms even if you print it at A0. I'm thinking of posters &c rather than handouts...