Stronger and Clearer Each Time [MLR 1]

Several quick structured discussion opportunities help students revise and refine their ideas, making them stronger and clearer each time
261 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Stronger and Clearer Each Time is a Mathematical Language Routine (MLR), a structured but adaptable routine for amplifying, assessing, and developing students' language. This routine can be adapted and incorporated across lessons or subject areas wherever there are productive opportunities to support students in using and improving their English and disciplinary language. The Stronger and Clearer Each Time strategy is designed to be used with prompts or problems that invite a thoughtful written response. In this routine, students engage in several quick discussions with peers, using a structured paired strategy in order to help each student's response and thinking become "stronger and clearer each time" as they incorporate their peers' feedback.  The Stronger and Clearer Each Time routine is effective because it provides a purpose for student conversation - to improve their responses - as well as gives students the opportunity to practice discussing subject-specific concepts.

Plan It

Prior to implementing the Stronger and Clearer Each Time strategy, it is important that you strategically plan for implementation by completing the following:

  1. Develop a thought-provoking question or prompt that supports students to think critically about a specific content area goal that is aligned to the lesson or unit of study. 

    • If you are using the OUR/IM Math curriculums, review the task and lesson narrative to see how Stronger and Clearer Each Time is used. For specific examples, review the content blocks below.

    • Use the planning template in the resource section below to help you plan for implementation.

  2. Consider what modifications may be needed by students. Review the EL and Special Education Modifications in the content blocks below for ideas.

    • Consider providing students with sentence stems. Review the example stems in the resource section below.

  3. Decide how many rounds of peer conversations the students will engage in, and how the pairings will be chosen. 

    • Review the BetterLesson "Student Discussion Pairing Tools" strategy or the "Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up" strategy for additional information on how to implement a variety of pairing routines.

  4. Determine how you will introduce this to students. 

    • How can you model this routine for students?

  5. Consider whether students should be able to look at what they wrote while talking, which may be helpful for students who are building their subject-specific language, or if you want students to practice speaking without a written guide, which may be good practice for students who are less comfortable improvising verbally.

  6. Review the "Giving and Receiving Peer Feedback" strategy in the BetterLesson lab for information on how to support students in giving one another peer feedback.

Practice It

15 minutes

Now that you have planned for the Stronger and Clearer Each Time strategy, it is time to implement it with students:

  1. Introduce this routine to students and set clear expectations. 
    • Consider modeling the routine with a few students or co-teachers.
    • Provide students with an Anchor Chart. Review the anchor chart examples in the resource section below to support implementation of this routine.
  2. Have students individually look at the problem or prompt and write down or draw their idea/reasoning for solving the problem a certain way, their ideas for how to respond to the prompt or any thoughts or questions about the topic. This is the prewrite draft, so it does not need to be complete before moving on to the structured paired discussion step; there will be a post-write to see if the sharing with others improves students' responses.
  3. If this strategy is being used specifically to encourage practice with subject-specific language, students should be asked to write in complete sentences.

    • Give a minute for students to think about what they will say to the first partner to explain what they are doing, or did, to solve the problem or respond to the prompt.
  4. Explain the goals of the paired work and the paired discussion protocol to students.
    • Remind students that oral clarity and explaining reasoning are important. Even if they have the right answer or they both agree on a response to the prompt, the goal is either (1) to be able to clearly explain it to others as a subject-specific expert would or (2) for the other person to truly understand the speaker's ideas.

    • When one partner is listening, he or she can ask clarifying and justifying questions (i.e. "Why did you do that?") to draw more language and ideas out of their partners.

      • Consider providing students with sentence stems to support this discussion. Review the Sentence Stem resource in the resource section below.

    • As students rotate through partners (see step 5), they will continue to strengthen and clarify their idea each time they talk to a new partner. You may want to provide students with a moment to jot down new ideas as they come up after discussing with a new partner.

  5. Using a structured pairing strategy, have students work with a rotating group of partners (having up to 2-3 different meetings with different partners).
    • Partners should switch one, two, or three times, with students explaining and then strengthening and clarifying their idea each time they talk to a new partner.

    • Optionally, turns with each partner can emphasize strength (focus on subject-specific concepts and skills) or clarity (how to describe the concept to others).

    • See the "Students Agreeing or Disagreeing with Partners' Thinking," "Students Share Their Answers," and "Student Shares Thinking with Group" videos in the resources section below for examples of students giving sharing responses with one another and strengthening their peers' answers with feedback and clarifying questions.

  6. Once students have worked with at least 2-3 different partners, they should take some time independently to write down their final draft explanations. These drafts should incorporate borrowed ideas from peers as well as a more refined examination of the initial ideas. Thus, the response becomes stronger and clearer than it originally was.
  7. Have students reflect on their two drafts to determine how they made their responses stronger and clearer. This can be a whole-group conversation, or students may write their reflections.

 

Reflect and Refine

The Stronger and Clearer Each Time strategy will take time to refine in your classroom. After you begin implementing Stronger and Clearer Each Time, consider the following:

  • What went well? What would you change next time?

    • Was the prompt or problem a good fit for this strategy?

    • Did students have sufficient time for their pre-write, their conversations, and their post-write? 

    • Did students rotate the right number of times? Should they rotate through more peers or fewer peers next time? 

  • Which students’ final drafts were indeed “Stronger and Clearer” than their first drafts? How will you support students whose work did not improve through this process?

OUR 6-8/IM 6-12 Mathematics

Stronger and Clearer Each Time is a Mathematical Language Routine used in the Math Curriculum. For more information, review the overview and sample activities in the resource section below. 

OUR K-5/IM K-5 Math

The Mathematical Language Routines are integrated into the OUR K-5/IM K-5 Math curriculum grades 3-5 to support students to develop their math understanding and language at the same time. For more information, review the overview below and example activities from the curriculum.

Distance Learning Use Case for Stronger and Clearer Each Time

Kelly Kennefick
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Stronger and Clear Each Time can be used during synchronous learning time in distance learning. Use Stronger and Clearer Each Time to provide students with an opportunity to engage in discussions and to strengthen their responses. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Develop a thought-provoking question or prompt that supports students to think critically about a specific content area goal that is aligned to the lesson or unit of study. 

  2.  Decide if students will complete the response during the live session or if they will prepare their response during asynchronous learning time. 

    • They do not need to complete the draft as they will have the opportunity to strengthen it, but if this is new to students, model or explain the idea of Stronger and Clearer Each Time.

  3. Schedule your live session. 

  4. If you want students to complete the prompt on the live video call, introduce the question or prompt and provide time for students to create their own responses. 

    • If students have already created their responses during asynchronous learning time, skip this step. 

  5. Model Stronger and Clearer Each Time during the live session with a student or a co-facilitator. 

  6. Determine how students can be paired together. If you are using a platform like Zoom, use the breakout room feature. 

    • If you do not have access to Zoom, consider using Padlet and Google Hangouts to construct your own breakout rooms. See the video in the resource section below for a tutorial.

    • If you cannot break students into small groups during the live call, consider doing this breakout in a silent way via the use of a digital tool such as a Google Docs. 

      • Organize the document so that students can easily see where to write their statements and who their feedback partner is for each round.

      • See the “Silent Discussion” strategy in the BetterLesson Lab for more information.

  7. Explain the expectations of Stronger and Clearer Each Time. Consider providing the directions and sentence stems to students to review. 

    • Remind students that oral clarity and explaining reasoning are important. Even if they have the right answer or they both agree on a response to the prompt, the goal is either (1) to be able to clearly explain it to others as a subject-specific expert would or (2) for the other person to truly understand the speaker's ideas.

    • When one partner is listening, he or she can ask clarifying and justifying questions (i.e. "Why did you do that?") to draw more language and ideas out of their partners.

    • As students rotate through partners, they will continue to strengthen and clarify their idea each time they talk to a new partner. You may want to provide students with a moment to jot down new ideas as they come up after discussing with a new partner.

  8. Give a minute for students to think about what they will say to the first partner to explain what they are doing, or did, to solve the problem or respond to the prompt.

  9. Pair students together to share their responses. Put the students in breakout rooms and have them engage in the protocol.

    • If you are able to use Zoom breakout rooms or Google Meet small groups, jump between breakout rooms to listen to students’ conversations.

    • If students are writing and providing feedback in a document via a silent conversation, use the comment function to provide feedback. 

  10. Repeat step 9 a few times until students have engaged with a few partners. 

  11. Have students revise/strengthen their individual responses.

Using Stronger and Clearer Asynchronously

This strategy works best during live sessions, however, it can be modified to work asynchronously. For students working asynchronously, consider having them review the prompt and work to strengthen a statement you have written. Then have students submit their written revisions via your LMS, email, or through a packet if they are completing paper and pencil work.

Stronger & Clearer in ELA

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Students are given an opportunity to refine their thinking, language/vocabulary, and/or understanding through a series of linguistic experiences. First, students independently create work product in response to a prompt or problem and then prepare their thoughts on how they will express their thinking to a peer. Next, students begin a succession of discussions about a topic with different partners. The strategy closes with independent synthesis, done by writing a final response to the prompt or problem. This strategy usually uses the same question through each of the successive discussions, but can also use a progression of guiding prompts that push students to dig more deeply into their understanding to arrive at the final conclusion.

Implementation steps:

  1. Create/select your work product prompt or problem.

  2. Test it by thinking through what your students' responses might be to this prompt/problem. Who might struggle? What supports could be provided?

  3. If you decide that you'd like to turn that prompt/problem into a sequence of "smaller" questions, think that process through. Keeping the same question throughout might feel counter-intuitive, but it works to help students who are struggling to understand, because they will repeatedly hear peer thinking.

  4. Select/create sentence stem(s) (for more support, create sentence frames) that support students to frame their thinking during the discussion.

  5. When first introducing this to routine to students:

    • Make sure you have talk routines in place first (expectations, and the use of sentence stems). If these are not present, establish talk routines first.

    • Co-craft discussion/participation expectations (what will the discussion sound like, feel like, look like).

    • Provide sentence stems (and frames) and include these in your modeling.

    • Model with students what they will be doing.

    • Break the strategy into steps and pause between each of the discussions and reflect on what is working and what is not.

    • Monitor students while they are talking. Try not to enter into the discussion but trust the process. The monitoring is mostly intended to help you to determine when the successive discussions have reached the learning objective.

    • It is critical to include the final synthesis, which in this strategy is to return to independent work, writing their response to the question/prompt.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

This strategy provides rich opportunities for learners to engage their academic language skills in an exchange of feedback with peers in an authentic way. Learners are supported to give and receive feedback and apply what they’ve heard to improve their work.

English learners are required to listen to and provide feedback verbally as well as write to revise their responses. English learners may need to read as part of activities related to the strategy. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:
Modifications:

  1. Differentiate lesson materials. Ensure English learners at all levels of proficiency use scaffolded materials for work that is to be used during the strategy, and have a variety of ways to express learning e.g., leveled text, graphic organizers, templates, discussion frames, sentence starters, graphic representations of writing, models, audio and video content, etc. 
    • Consider the WIDA Can Do Descriptors when differentiating lesson materials.
  2. Put English learners in pairs that will be most supportive. Consider social dynamics as well as language skills to ensure mutual coaching. Ensure both learners in a pair are applying the strategy to the same work product if differentiated (see above). Consider anchoring learners at lower levels of proficiency with learners who speak the same home language to allow for idea generation in the home language. 
  3. Post steps. Create an anchor chart using graphic supports of the steps to be followed during the strategy. Refer to the anchor chart while modeling the steps. 

  4. Provide talk stems or frames Create sentence starters or frames that learners can refer to when providing feedback for their partner. Provide a word bank of target academic vocabulary from the assignment to use within frames.
  5. Use a checklist. In order to ensure robust and focused feedback, create a checklist for learners to use during partner rotations. Have learners record specific feedback they receive in their own words in each of the categories. Have learners refer to the feedback they received when revising responses. See the "Clearer and Stronger Partner Feedback Checklist Template" in the resource section below.

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Use of Stronger and Clearer Each Time is an excellent tool for students with disabilities by not only helping them improve their presentation and speaking skills, but also improve their active listening and collaboration skills to develop relationships in the classroom and increase their mastery of concepts.

Stronger and Clearer Each Time skills require significant executive functioning skills (including focus, organization, working memory, etc.), written skills, and/or verbal expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas, consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Teachers who use Stronger and Clearer should be mindful of learner disability types and needs in addition to formative data when assigning partners and/or groups; ensure that you strategically pair students to support the development of mastery without increasing frustration.  

  2. For students with disabilities that affect their verbal expression, provide additional scaffolds, such as visuals, talk stems, and manipulatives to support their explanations and justifications. See the "Accountable Talk" resource in the resource section below for more information.

  3. Intervene as a teacher to ensure partners have the opportunity to process what has been said. Students who benefit from additional processing time or who struggle with short-term memory should be given time in between partner discussions to stop and jot any new ideas they learned from their partner before moving on to the next partner so they don't forget the feedback they received.

  4. The first few rounds of teaching Stronger and Clearer Each Time usage in a learning setting should end with specific verbal and written feedback from the teacher to the whole class on the level of success in engagement during the task.  This ensures that all students, and especially students with disabilities have specific strength and growth areas identified.  As an example, a teacher may say “I noticed that several students did not stop to jot down the feedback they received from their first partner before moving on to their second partner to improve their response.   During our next Stronger and Clearer Each Time  portion of the lesson, I will be monitoring specifically to see everyone write down feedback from their first partner before moving on to the second partner.”