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Wayback Wednesday: Likes and Wonders peer review works like a charm!

I’ve decided that it’s too hot to write something today. But not too hot to grab one of my fave posts from a couple years back. Today? A Wayback Wednesday post highlighting a great way to have your kids participate in a powerful peer review process.


I’ve always appreciated the idea of Likes & Wonders. Asking kids to think about art, for instance. Or during gallery walks of student products.

But I haven’t really thought much about the idea of using the same sort of thinking process during live presentations by students. So yesterday was a new learning experience for me when I got the chance to play a part in PBL guru Ginger Lewman’s two day Passion-Based Learning session.

Ginger was working with a small group of high school teachers, walking through some PBL steps and asking teacher groups to do sample presentations. Along with a few other ESSDACK folks, I sat in on one of the presentations as a “student” listening to the presentation.

And it was cool to see the Likes and Wonders idea applied to student presentations.

We’ve all done it. We ask for an oral presentation of some sort. A kid or group of kids get up. They do three or four or 15 minutes of a presentation. Chances are, the preso isn’t that good. And the classroom audience is completely disengaged. Kids in the audience have either already presented and don’t care anymore or they’re presenting next and are freaking out.

The whole point here is get kids to think historically and practice literacy skills. So what to do when presentations aren’t that good and the audience is nowhere to be found?

One solution is give Likes and Wonders a try. The strategy changes the focus from just getting this presentation over with to one where everyone is involved in a collaborative learning environment. And it seems like a perfect complement to just about any of the Project Zero stuff and @EduProtocols like Thin or Thick Slides.

Start by asking students in the audience to create a simple T-Chart graphic organizer. Label one side “Likes” and the other “Wonders.” During the presentation, students create entries on both sides of the organizers. Likes are obvious – what did they enjoy or like about the presentation. Wonders encourages students to look for things that they have questions about.

During yesterday’s example, I “liked” that the group used primary sources as part of the presentation. I “wondered” how they decided what music to use as part of their product.

Following the presentation, inform the presenters that the class will have a quick conversation about their presentation. And that the conversation will be about them, not at them. They will be encouraged to join the conversation after you and the rest of the students are finished and so they may want to take notes as the rest of you talk.

Then ask the audience to share out different Likes. To save time and to provide more feedback to the presenters during this section of the conversation, ask students who have the same or a similar Like as the student sharing a Like to point at that student and yell Yes. When I “liked” that the presenters used primary sources, three other audience members pointed at me and yelled Yes.

No need for raised hands during this portion of the discussion. Let the conversation flow.

The Wonders piece may take some practice on the part of your students. This type of peer review is not something that gets practiced much. But these sorts of questions can be a great learning experience for both presenters and audience members. One tip that Ginger made that I really like was her suggestion of asking students to literally shift their chairs and bodies away from the presenters before sharing their Wonders. This drives home the point that this part of the discussion is about learning and improving, not anything personal.

You may need to guide this more carefully and even provide specific types of Wonders. It’s a perfect time to model for your students – wonder for them about context, evidence, length, and analysis. Using the Stanford History Education Group Historical Thinking Chart with students is one way to model good wondering skills.

After Wonders have been addressed, allow students to share any last minute Likes.

And finally encourage the presenting group to share any rebuttals with you. As the teacher, you act as the mediator between the presenter and the audience. Again . . . there will need to be some modeling and practice the first few times you use Likes and Wonders. But students will become more comfortable with the process as you use it more often.

Could you as the teacher still use a rubric to score the presentation? Sure. But the learning that happens during this type of conversation provides feedback that is much more effective to students than a simple rubric. If we’re trying to improve historical thinking skills and reading / writing / speaking / listening skills, using some form of Likes and Wonders is a no-brainer.

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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.

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