SOS Story: Jessie Erickson

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 to share SOS Story: an SOS series that spotlights teachers showing how they put the SOS to work in their classrooms.


Teacher:  Jessie Erickson

SOS Strategies: Z Chart (CDN Version) and 3-2-1 Pyramid (CDN Version)

District: Grand Forks Public Schools

Role: Curriculum Technology Partner

Twitter Handle: @JessieRErickson


Jessie’s Story

I was recently working with 7th grade students as they learned about weather systems as part of an Earth science investigation. I chose to use Discovery Education streaming resources because I knew from past experience that it is easy to find materials that support the science concepts I need to teach. This time, I also wanted a strategy to support student learning, so I went to the SOS strategies and searched for something that allow students to take quick notes and jot illustrations to help them understand what they were learning.

SOS Z Chart and 3-2-1 Pyramid

I didn’t just find one SOS to use, I found two! Over the course of several different lessons, students used Z Chart (CDN Version) and 3-2-1 Pyramid (CDN Version) to record information, process what they were learning, and share with one another.

I initially chose SOS Z Chart as a recording tool because it is simple and easy to use, and because it incorporates opportunities to use both linguistic and nonlinguistic representations to record information. It is also a great tool that encourages short and quick note-taking, which helps guide students to recording only the most important information.  In this case, students used their Z Charts to record new learning while watching the Discovery Education video segment Fundamentals of Meteorology (CDN Version). Next, they shared with a partner, and then partners shared out to the class. I found that as they talked with one another they clarified their understanding, made connections to previous reading and activities, and affirmed each other.

I also had students watch the DE video segment Hurricanes Take The Heat (CDN Version) and decided to guide them more specifically by mashing Z Chart and 3-2-1 Pyramid. I set up the graphic organizer so that on the left side of the Z, where you would normally record main points from the video, I had students list 3 things they learned, 2 ways Hurricanes affect humans, and 1 question they still had about storms or hurricanes. The right side of the Z remained the nonlinguistic side where students drew a picture that illustrated what they had learned.

Strategy Adaptations

In addition to combining two different strategies, I also incorporated the use of Google Classroom into these lessons. Recreating the Z chart and 3-2-1 pyramid organizers in Google Draw made it easy for me to share them with my students, and having students turn their assignments in electronically gave me a quick and easy way to assess their learning and develop a plan to address any misconceptions or questions they had.

Ideas For Sharing

I am hooked on using SOS because they are so flexible and adaptable! Every time I try a new SOS strategy I find that they can be easily modified, adjusted and mashed with multiple other strategies. They can be used across all content areas, in all grade levels and with all subjects. I love that I can modify, mash, and reinvent a strategy that is familiar to the students for a quick reflection opportunity for my students. Students love them, too. One of my students shared, “Using Tweet Tweet and Z-Chart makes my answers short and sweet. It is easier to learn from and study off of these types of note pages.”

I try to share a strategy or tool with teachers every week, and have found that there is always a demand for quick formative assessment tools that can be used, modified or adapted for use in Google Classroom. Z Chart works really well in this manner. I just shared it with a colleague who was preparing a lesson using Google Expeditions. He is going to use it as a recording tool as his students take a virtual tour of National Parks.

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