I’m going to speak from my own math experience when I say teaching vocabulary was not easy. We did Frayer Models, creative pictorial representations, and graphic organizers which worked well for many of my students. My struggle was getting students to use the formal academic language when they were doing collaborative activities, justifying thinking, writing, and talking about math. I needed a way to have them practice using the academic language so they were ready to use it to explain their thinking.

Desmos Polygraph provides an opportunity to collaboratively teach and practice vocabulary and give students the need for formal academic language. What is Desmos Polygraph? Glad you asked.

Have you ever played Guess Who? You ask yes or no questions to narrow down the person your partner chose on their game board. Desmos Polygraph gives you the ability to create the same style of game with 16 images that you choose.

The goal is to play 2-3 rounds allowing students to use informal vocabulary to describe what they see and figure out which image their partner chose. The images are mixed up on each students’ screen. That means questions like, “Is it on the top left?” won’t work in this game.

After the initial rounds, you can use the informal student questions and descriptions to build formal content area vocabulary. Use the teacher dashboard to monitor the questions each pair is asking and you can use student work to springboard discussion on the formal academic vocabulary. Desmos conversation tools allow you to pause the activity to have a whole group discussion and anonymize student names to show student work examples.

You also have the ability to create follow up questions to get students to share questions they would ask to differentiate between two images.

Then you can play a few more rounds looking for the use of the formal vocabulary. Students are automatically paired with other students who log into the same Activity Builder session so you can play with your class, other classes in Shakopee, or a class anywhere in the world that connects to the same session.

Polygraph has the ability to push student communication and critical thinking skills. In addition, students will find the need to use academic vocabulary as the task will require increasingly specific questions to narrow down which image their partner chose.

Scaffolding Strategy from Shakopee: Give students sentence frames or word banks to support the use of formal academic language in playing Polygraph.

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