Friday, 20 March 2015

3-2-1 Bridge: A creative warm-up and follow-up routine

In this post I will talk about the 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine. The word Bridge is used to indicate the routine has two related stages. I have found it an interesting and effective activity in prompting students' creative thinking. This applies to a) activating their prior knowledge on a topic, b) fostering their readiness in generating ideas c) extending their thinking to new directions and d) facilitating reflection on this shift in their thinking. The routine works well as warm-up at the beginning and as a follow-up at the end of a topic. 

Step 1
At the beginning of the topic ask students to generate

3 words
2 questions
1 simile

that quickly come to mind when they think of this topic. Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups. Explain that similes are connections we make, comparing one thing to another because they are alike in some way. The words “like” or “as” are typically used. Ask students for an example of a simile first and provide one yourself if needed.

Step 2
Share the thinking. Ask students to share their ideas with their classmates and make them visible within the classroom.

This is how my students responded to this part of the routine. I tried it with 2 groups of 6th grade primary school students (mixed ability, pre-intermediate/intermediate). We did this routine when working on the topic of friendship. Students first recorded their responses in their notebooks, shared them with their classmates, and displayed them in the classroom on post-it notes.

Step 3
Provide a period of further learning and elaborating on the topic. This may be a text, story, video, image that conveys new information. Make sure that this instructional period is sufficient for students to move their thinking beyond their initial understandings.

Step 4
At the end of the topic, return to the 3-2-1 routine and repeat step 1. That is, ask the students again for 3 words, 2 questions and 1 simile about the topic.

Step 5
Share the thinking by Bridging. You can do this by holding a plenary discussion or having students discuss in pairs how their thinking and final responses might be similar or different from their initial ones. 

In my classroom practice the instructional period involved: a set of questions for students to reflect upon and respond, an extract from a poem, a extract from a short story and a short animation film. It was really interesting how after reading, watching and discussing, new thoughts and ideas came to the fore. Students' final response to the 3-2-1 Bridge revealed a more extended use of the notions of judging, rejection, weakness, betrayal, jealousy and selfishness  when we think about friendship than in their initial responses.  These notions may have to do with many different issues, but some of the ones students thought are important were: appearance, disability, coming from another country, being a very good or a bad student. As one student wrote in her final remarks:

Why don't you want me?
Because I'm ugly, too short, fat
or from another country?
Do you reject me?

It was also interesting that in their final responses many of the students wrote they believed that empathy is important when we talk and think about friendship.

Tip: the routine works well with topics students have prior knowledge of. 

You can have a look here for the whole picture of how this routine was applied in the classroom.