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Yesterday, one of my students looked at what we were doing in class: an analysis of the article “Can ISIS Be Stopped?”

This is an important assignment. We’re working on our argument unit, and ISIS has been a topic that they’ve been passionate about discussing. I want them to write high-level arguments using facts and evidence presented in this article, so it’s vital that we take time to talk about the text, to do a close read of it and really know what it means.

But when one of my students opened the assignment and said, “Ugh, this is what we’re doing today?” I knew that I needed to spice it up.

And so, the Tic-Tac-Toe Fact Find was born.

I remembered that another teacher (I’m talking about you Drew DeJong) had posted an image of tic-tac-toe games on his board, which was an inspiration from Michael Matera’s EXPlore Like a Pirate. 


So, I drew a bunch of tic-tac-toes on the board and split the class into two teams. I gave each team 4 minutes to read a section of the article. Then each team nominated a member to play tic-tac-toe. The catch was that each team had to state a fact from the article to earn a “turn.” Also, the players could play on ANY board–theoretically, there could be up to SIX tic-tac-toe games going at once.

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The games added a great level of playfulness and excitement to the lesson–but also more important things happened that made the learning more effective.

1.  We created a master list of facts as a class instead of each student having their own.  Some facts or evidence students may have normally skipped over were added by other students, making the list of evidence available to use for their arguments more comprehensive.

2. We talked about the facts more and how they related to ISIS. Sometimes students would simply read a sentence, so I could prod them to elaborate the importance of the facts.

3. I was able to clarify some misinterpretations and further explain some of the events happening in the Middle East to further student understanding.

4. During round one, students were simply reading facts straight from the text. During round two, I made them put the facts into their own words. This forced the students to do more thinking and cemented their understanding.

Next week we’ll finish our Tic-Tac-Toe Fact Find and start our arguments using evidence from our master list below: