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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New things to try for the new year

As a teacher I feel like I am always learning and growing.  Near the end of last school year I found a great new tool for my tool box: Susan Kaplan's Depth and Complexity Icons. Essentially the icons are a visual reminder of different ways to thinking critically about topics.  

Depth Icons: Language of the discipline, Big idea, Details, Patterns, Rules, Trends, Unanswered questions, and Ethics

Complexity Icons: Across the Disciplines, Changes over Time and Multiple Points of View

The icons can be used in any content area or really about any topic. The teacher can put the visual on handouts with questions, on anchor charts in the classroom or on notes given to the students (or really any where in the classroom)-prompting students to think about the topic in in a new way

For instance Popular Music:

  • What patterns are there to what makes a song or an artist popular?
  • What are the current trends in popular music?
  • What kind of language is uses in popular music?
  • How has popular music changed over time?
  • One that is sure to bring up discussion (especially in the Tween and up crowd): Does everyone like the same music? What are the different points of view about current popular music?


The icons can also easily be applied to content areas.

Civil War:

  • What were the big ideas that caused the Civil War?
  • What unanswered questions and problems were left after the end of the Civil War?
  • What were the different perspectives of the North and the South during the Civil War?

To find out more about the icons here are some links:



I dabbled with the icons with my students at the end of the year, and they were excited (well as excited as fifth graders get for any school work in the last 2 weeks of school). I am so excited to start out the year with them this year.

If you would like to use Depth and Complexity Icons with your students check out these posters: 


Since I will be in a new position, I am so excited to start the year. What new are you excited to try out this year?