This blog has recently gained many new readers. Because of that, I thought it might be worth sharing a  “A Look Back” where I periodically share my choices for the most important posts from the past twelve years. You can also see all of my choices for “Best” posts here.

This post appeared earlier this year. 



I’ve written a lot – both here and in my books – about teaching and learning inductively (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching).

One inductive strategy is the use of data sets – a list of short passages (ranging from one sentence to a paragraph) which students categorize and then add new information to those categories.  They can then do a variety of follow-up options, including turning those categories into paragraphs and those paragraphs into an essay.

You can find tons of data set examples in my books and in that “Best” list (including at my ASCD Educational Leadership article, Get Organized Around Assets, and at one of my NY Times pieces.

One of the goals of using these kinds of data sets and the inductive process is to help give students one simple strategy they can use when they have to write essays for our class and other classes.

As students have shared on this blog in the past, they appear to have found it very helpful.

In my Long-Term English Language Learner support class, we’ve been using a data set about Kenya from their Geography test to learn this process. They followed it to write an essay about Kenya.

Now, they get to choose their own topic (subject to my approval) and, using the process I scrawled (with student assistance in reconstructing the steps they used to write their Kenya essay) on the sheet of paper pictured at the top of this blog post, get to write an essay. The sheet uses the topic of cars as an example of how they can construct their essay.

My handwriting ain’t pretty, but it gets the job done 🙂

This instructional strategy, I think, is a good example of transfer of knowledge – applying the skill you learned in one context to another one.

If you’d like a refresher on transfer of knowledge, check out this animated video I did on the topic with Education Week: