When I was introduced to list-group-label in my education classes, I mentally scoffed at it. I didn’t see the value in it, I thought it was painlessly simplistic, and that it couldn’t possibly offer any real value to students. Well, I officially take all that back. I’ve used it a few times every semester with my high schoolers and very recently with my middle schoolers.
There is a lot of flexibility to this strategy but the basic premise is that your students create a list of vocabulary terms related to the topic at hand (the Revolutionary War) or are given a list of terms, then they group up the words how they see fit (according to when during the Revolutionary War a term came up, or if it was a person/battle/document, etc), and lastly they label their lists with a term that summarizes the list, or connects each item in the list. Ideally some great discussion and material-connecting will come of this 🙂
I have a mix of 5th-10th graders in my classroom right now so I recently did a slightly modified version of list-group-label. I paired my kids up and gave them a list of the vocabulary terms we were going to review. They organized the words into lists that made sense to them and we discussed each pairs’ thought process. Then they grouped up the terms in a way that they saw them connect and we then discussed the groupings. I was pleasantly surprised that almost all the groupings were different (one group did theirs according to “degree of success” which I hadn’t even thought of myself!). Lastly they labeled their lists and we had a concluding discussion. Each time I use this strategy it makes students think outside the box a bit and they always surprise me with the variety of perspectives they produce for this activity. I have found over the years that I have 5 main reasons for using LGL as a review technique and why I think teachers in any content area should give it a try.
1. Vocabulary reinforcement–you and your students will be able to very clearly see if they know which terms are people/places/things/events/buildings/treaties/etc. If you have time, you can even have each pair say or write a quick identification for each term to show that they remember something correct about them. It’s one thing to know that Versailles and the Hagia Sophia are both buildings, but it’s a bit more to know where each is located and the purpose of each building, or to confirm if students remember the different significances between the Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Midway.
2. Pairs work–it is so important for students to have opportunities to work in pairs and in groups and it’s very easy for this to be done in pairs. In the real world people have to be able to cooperate and work with a variety of personalities. Having them work with a different student each week helps students practice working with different personalities, different academic capabilities, they practice cooperating, they exercise some flexibility, and possibly even exert some patience.
3. Form an opinion and defend it–I don’t tell my students how to group up the terms, so not only will they have to form an opinion for themselves on how to make connections and group up the terms, they have to defend it/explain it to the rest of the class. Being able to explain your thought process is a skill that should be addressed in all content areas, and this is a low pressure way to have kids do just that.
4. Make connections between different parts of the unit–we might not have spoken about Magellan and the Aztecs in the same class period, but could there be a connection between them? That’s up to the students to determine. Or, they might see a connection between Tuskegee Airmen and Navajo Code Talkers beyond both being soldiers from minority races during WW2 and they should be encouraged to make those connections.
5. Respect other people’s opinions and see that there’s more than 1 way to think–not every pair will group up the terms the same way, and that’s ok!!! It is so important for kids to learn (and practice) the art of respecting a different opinion, especially if it’s an opinion you disagree with. If the terms have been grouped up differently across the pairs, that’s a great discussion opportunity for students to hear, and respect, the thought process of their peers.
As a bonus reason for using this as a review strategy, you will see growth in your students as the year progresses. Students will think differently and defend their opinions differently based on the material and how they feel about it, and as students get more comfortable with this activity they begin thinking more deeply (especially for making connections between parts of the material). The deeper they think the more they can have organized debates in a controlled way for a longer period of time as they discuss their different thought processes.
If you’ve been on the fence about using list-group-label, go for it then let me know how it goes!!!