Adventures in Hexagonal Thinking Maps in the World Language Classroom

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Early in 2023 my district brought in Bertha Delgadillo to do a PD presentation on using hexagonal thinking maps for community building and assessments in the classroom. At the time I was coaching Cross Country, teaching Spanish 1, 2, & 3 to new groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (which I’m still doing!), and trying to navigate life – so I didn’t really have the bandwidth to do anything besides think, “hey – this could be cool one day.” Well – that day has arrived! I’m reviewing / prepping our sports unit for this year and decided that this is the time to give hexagonal thinking a try! If you, like me, don’t have the bandwidth for anything more than, “hey – this could be cool one day,” that’s totally fine. This post will be here for you when you’re ready!

Hexagonal Thinking maps are credited to Betsey Potash and they are simply a creative way for students to make visible and moveable connections between words / ideas / pictures & more. While this activity can be done with virtually ZERO prep digitally – I prefer to kinesthetic piece of students moving the papers with their hands. Which means I also prefer the work of either myself or my students cutting out said shapes and the time that takes.

You can use a pre-made set of words / ideas / pictures or you can give students blank hexagons to write the words / ideas or draw the pictures on themselves. Personally, I find the idea of student created hexagons super overwhelming for me and my middle schoolers – not saying it’s impossible – just that it’s a task I’m not ready to take on. So I gave my students pre-made hexagons to cut out. The set I gave my students contained 55 pre-made words / ideas, I asked students to create a map connecting at least 20 words for a “meets expectations” and 26+ words for an “exceeds expectation” option in the grade book. I also gave my students the option to add 1 – 2 APPROVED words / ideas from blank cards if they could tell me what word they needed and why.

The beauty of this activity is that there are not “right” or “wrong” answers – the goal is for students to make connections and then justify WHY they made those connections. Connections are physically made by touching the sides of two hexagons together. A hexagon can even have more than one connection to it! Maybe you have a card like “ocean” and want to connect the card “water” and “fish” – you can connect both cards to “ocean”!

This activity has the potential to be super easy for a solid critical thinker – and the potential to be very difficult for a student that hasn’t developed many critical thinking skills. The simplest way to differentiate is in the number of cards students are using and WHICH cards they are using. Advanced students will love the challenge to use 10 extra cards or all the cards – while others may appreciate you choosing just 10 for them and helping them get started with a center card and some connection question prompts. You can also add in drawing pictures for words OR adding blank cards with pictures. Additionally, having students write down why they grouped specific words together is another amazing differentiation up option!

I’m ready to try it! YAY! I was hoping you might want to try it out! You can download a FREE mini version of my Sports / Los deportes Hexagonal Thinking Map Printable cards here. If you like what you see, you can purchase the full 55 card set that includes blank hexagon templates and a digital option here! I hope to put out more sets in the future, so give me a follow on Instagram at @profezulita or follow my store on TeachersPayTeachers to see when new products go live & save 50% on new products!

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