Learning discernment

Sebastian Wernicke: 1000 TEDTalks, 6 words 

I use the Hemmingway activity Sebastian refers to in his talk a lot. It can be used in lots of different ways.

To capture learning and check progress, it’s a great activity to use with learners to summarise their learning so far from the lesson in no more or less than six words. It also works well for revising whole topics, processes, principles or complex methods.

As a starter activity, it can work really well to assess prior learning. Put the topic you are about to cover on the board and, following a small group discussion, ask learners to summarise, in six words, what they think the topic is about or PREDICT what important information they will need to know or be able to do. That way, you can start from where they are, rather from where you might have ordinarily assumed they are. You can also ask them to connect the topic to prior learning in…yes, that’s right, no more or less than six words. Whenver we place restrictions on divergent thinking tasks, we immediately give additional challenge and purpose to the creative thinking we are hoping to witness. You could, for example, up the challenge by asking learners to summarise a topic in six words (no more, no less) but also include a number, a musical note, a colour, an emotion, a chemical compound….whatever is appropriate. The important aspect of thinking in this way is, of course, the PROCESS, rather than the PRODUCT. And that’s using the Hemmingway “6 words” activity can do.

The talk itself raises the issue of the Information Age – what to do with SO much information? How do we make sense of the knowledge that’s out there? What skills do we and our learners need to mindfully practice in order to exercise some form of control (self-efficacy) over their own information-drenched lives?

The learners of the 21st century need to be discerning in how they respond, receive, search out, use and create new knowledge. An exercise such as Sebastian Wernicke endeavours to accomplish really shows us the challenges ahead of our learners as they forge their own unique pathways through the internet galaxy.

Oh, and for the record, my six word autobiography reads as follows:

“Should have played cricket for England.”



2 thoughts on “Learning discernment

  1. Hello, thanks for your email. <br/> <br/>Unfortunately Jen no longer works with us. <br/> <br/>Please email Lucy@spaceunlimited.org who will direct your query to the correct persons or alternatively call the Space Unlimited office on 0141 424 1403. <br/> <br/>Many thanks.

  2. Summarizing learning in 6 words is quite challenging and I think that is where the thinking process stretches. Psychologically speaking, constraints actually unleash creativity – too many options paralyze it (especially when we talk about young students who do not have the necessary life and education experience to enrich their imagination). I will definitely try it with my students!Thank you and…welcome back to blogging!

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