SOS Story: Thomas McAuliff

The Spotlight On Strategies series (CDN subscribers) is one of Discovery Education’s most popular resources. First introduced 2012, these strategies help teachers use media in effective and engaging ways in their classrooms.

The best part about the SOS is that they are flexible and can be used across grade levels and content areas. We are excited for SOS Story: a new SOS series that spotlights teachers showing how they put the SOS to work in their classrooms.


Name: Thomas McAuliff

SOS Strategies: X O Let’s Go (CDN), Sticky Back (CDN), and Tweet, Tweet (CDN)

District: Greenville County Schools, South Carolina

Role: 3rd Grade Teacher, DLC Member, and DEN STAR

Twitter Handle: @tmcauliffTES


Thomas’ Story

I can honestly say that without a shadow of a doubt that the Spotlight On Strategies series (CDN) have changed how instruction occurs in my classroom. The versatility of the strategies allow me to teach my content and engage my learners with different learning styles.

I designed the beginning of my lesson to be a review of the types of rocks found on Earth. To refresh the memory of my students, students watched the video Rockfinders: The Rock Cycle (CDN). To accompany this review, I used the X O Let’s Go (CDN) SOS strategy to review the content. Using this SOS strategy, students work with a partner to discuss their learning; however, students are encouraged to listen closely and not repeat anything their partner has said. Each round of the talking time is decreased as I used one minute, thirty seconds, and fifteen seconds. After the end of each timer, if the students did not repeat any information, both can record an X or O on the tic-tac-toe board; however, if a student repeats themselves they may not mark on the board. At the end, the student with three in a row is the winner. The greatness of this strategy lies in the role of students having to listen intently to their partner and focus on the discussion. What a challenge that can be during our fast-paced classroom to teach our students to slow down and listen!

Afterward, students were instructed to watch the Minerals segment from the Discovery Education video Rocks: The Solid Earth Materials (CDN). As they watched the video, students were watching and listening new information to use with the SOS strategy Sticky Back (CDN). In this strategy, students write down on a sticky note a fact from the video that no other students in the class would record. Afterwards, the collection of notes are sorted between two categories: Unique and Copycats. Unique notes are those not repeated by other classmates, and Copycats are notes written down more than one time by classmates. The discussion with the students to decide which sticky notes go where allowed me to see which points of the video stood out in the instruction. This SOS strategy also teaches me concepts that I need to address with students which they may not have mentioned on the sticky notes for a possible lack of understanding.

To summarize and close up the lesson, I chose to take the SOS strategy Tweet, Tweet (CDN) and tweak it to fit the needs of my students. I gave each student a sticky note and required them to write a complete sentence summarizing one thing they learned from the lesson. Students then posted their sticky note on our “classroom Twitter” board, in a square assigned to the classroom number. This gave me the opportunity to assess student learning as well as address any misconceptions students might have had from the instruction.

My biggest take away from implementing the SOS strategies in my own classroom has been to not limit the potential of my students. Each strategy can be taken and adapted to meet the needs of learners in any setting.

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