Skip to content

Tic Tac Tell: Supporting the use of foundational content

One of the advantages of doing what I do is the chance to meet and talk with lots of great social studies teachers. Whether it’s traveling around doing on-site trainings or leading workshops in ESSDACK’s own facility, the opportunities to brainstorm ideas and learn new things are abundant.

Several months ago, I spent the day working with a small group of middle school teachers. The conversation shifted to literacy strategies and what works best to help students read and write in the social studies. Andrew Trent, teacher from Clay Center and colleague on the state assessment writing team, shared a strategy that I had never seen before.

Titled Tic Tac Tell, the strategy is very simple to implement but it has a lot of potential for adapting to different grade levels, content, and complexity. The original focus of Tic Tac Tell was to provide a quick and easy way for kids to interact with vocabulary words.  We know that to learn new vocabulary words and phrases, kids need to experience those words or phrases multiple times in a variety of contexts. Tic Tac Tell works great for that, especially with elementary kids.

But I think you could also use this to introduce, review, and assess a wide variety of concepts, ideas, people, places, or events.

So. How to use it?

The Basics:

  1. Create a tic-tac-toe grid with nine spaces. Insert the nine words or phrases that you want kids to learn and review. Hand the grid to your students. Ask them to create sentences or paragraphs using three words from the grid – the only requirement is that the three words must be selected vertically, horizontally, or diagonally – just like the game Tic Tac Toe. Also require that the sentences or paragraphs relate to the topic of study.
  2. Repeat the process with the same grid throughout the instructional unit.

Beyond the Basics:

  1. Have kids work in small groups, then whole group.
  2. You could have students do a Think/Pair/Share one day.
  3. Facilitate a whole group exercise during which you select three words and ask small groups to quickly create a sentence using each of those three words. The group that creates the quickest (or best or most relevant or most entertaining or . . . you get the idea) sentence wins a point.
  4. You might require students to rearrange the order of the words in the grid – creating new possible combinations.
  5. Have students post their sentences to a Padlet Wall, shared Google Doc, or on a class Wiki so that kids can see what others have created.
  6. Encourage kids to create their own grids – using both words they know and words they don’t know.
  7. Have kids create grids, put all of their grids in a pile, and then have students randomly select a grid from the stack.
  8. For middle school kids, use a variety of options for filling in the grid. Add people, places, events, dates, or concepts such as democracy and appeasement.
  9. For high school kids, use different primary and secondary sources. Instead of sentences, students must create paragraphs showing relationships between the different pieces of evidence or develop an argument using the three sources.

I’ve pasted a PDF of Andrew’s sample below.

tictactell screenshot

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cher #

    I like the idea here although I’m mainly a Music teacher. I can imagine using the same strategy in rhythm composition or melodic composition.

    October 23, 2021
  2. Lindsay Hall #

    I really like this idea to engage with new content and skills while enabling students to explore more choice and autonomy. It obviously lends itself to vocabulary really easily. It offers a fun way to develop classroom knowledge. It would be interesting to intersect this model with the Big History Project Vocab Word Walls. In this activity, students argue that their vocab word is the most important for the unit and the class votes to add words as they move through the unit. The tic-tac-toe activity could give students added incentive to argue for their word(s) or offer new ways to explore their word (sentences, synonyms, etc.).

    I would really like to do this with primary sources to push students to look at several different type of sources (images, speeches, journals, etc.). I think students often prefer certain source types (I know I did as a student), and creating a tic-tac-toe would give them the opportunity to use and explore outside of their comfort zone.

    This would also be great for review before any assessments or before moving onto new concepts in social studies. Students could create grids with major concepts/questions and trade with peers in their class.

    Overall, I love the idea, and I look forward to using it in my classroom for background info, skill practice, and review. I do think that it may be a bigger hit with middle schoolers than high schoolers, but if framed correctly, could be successful in both arenas!

    October 26, 2021
    • glennw #

      Lindsay,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment! I love Tic Tac Tell and am glad you find it useful as well.

      Welcome to the profession! Good luck as you continue your teaching journey!

      glennw

      October 27, 2021
  3. Lindsay H. #

    I really like this idea to engage with new content and skills while enabling students to explore more choice and autonomy. It obviously lends itself to vocabulary really easily. It offers a fun way to develop classroom knowledge. It would be interesting to intersect this model with the Big History Project Vocab Word Walls. In this activity, students argue that their vocab word is the most important for the unit and the class votes to add words as they move through the unit. The tic-tac-toe activity could give students added incentive to argue for their word(s) or offer new ways to explore their word (sentences, synonyms, etc.).

    I would really like to do this with primary sources to push students to look at several different types of sources (images, speeches, journals, etc.). I think students often prefer certain source types (I know I did as a student), and creating a tic-tac-toe would give them the opportunity to use and explore outside of their comfort zone.

    This would also be great for review before any assessments or before moving onto new concepts in social studies. Students could create grids with major concepts/questions and trade with peers in their class.

    Overall, I love the idea, and I look forward to using it in my classroom for background info, skill practice, and review. I do think that it may be a bigger hit with middle schoolers than high schoolers, but if framed correctly, could be successful in both arenas!

    October 26, 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: