Expanding Desmos Beyond Math

It may be a bit of sacrilege to use Desmos, the ultra high-quality math resource, to make a science card sort….but that is exactly what I found myself doing a few weeks ago! The topic was “Shaping Earth,” which was a very vocabulary-heavy unit looking at topics like erosion, cut points, superposition, and so on. It made sense to use the Desmos card sort option as a way to have students work to build more fluency with the vocabulary heading into the assessment.

Due to the number of vocabulary terms, the complexity of them all, and the fact that I wanted some of them to be sets of three (term, definition, and image), I decided to break the words up into three topical groups to keep it manageable.

Students were broken up randomly into break-out groups, with one student sharing his/her/their screen as the group discussed their ideas. Because Desmos also allows for individual matching, students who do better with individual work or with a more “hands-on” approach even during a group-supported activity could do their own version and still participate in the group.

I made an answer key for each set of vocabulary so that, as each pair or triplet was created, students could click “next” to the screen to get feedback on their answers. Getting that feedback is critical! It allows students to “self-monitor and reflect on their choices with teacher facilitation and feedback,” in the form of feedback from Desmos, “but not explicit direction” (UDL Progression Rubric, 7.1 Optimize individual choice and autonomy; Progressing toward expert practice).

I think this was a great use of the Desmos card sort, especially with the use of visuals for the science terms. I would use it again for science or for a math unit such as geometry which has a strong visual component with a lot of easily-confused vocabulary.

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