Research Cycle

 The Question Mark

 Vol 2|No 3|January|2006
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The NoTime
Slam Dunk Digital Lesson

By Jamie McKenzie
© 2006 Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

About the author.

Teachers are so busy that they just don't have much time for lesson design and development. They need to throw together a lesson in a few minutes on a Tuesday night that they can use with their students the next day. They need an approach that takes very little time but delivers good results.

To meet this need, I have been working on a kind of Slam Dunk Digital Lesson (SDL) that is quick and easy to build. I call this lesson type, the NoTime SDL.

Good Content plus Tough Questions

Each NoTime SDL combines solid digital content with a number of challenging questions drawn from a source such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). These questions will require that students interpret, infer, analyze, evaluate or synthesize.

For examples of these NAEP items drawn from the 2002 Reading Test, go to the bottom of the page in Chapter Two of the Reading Framework for the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress

"How Is the NAEP Reading Assessment Designed?"

You will find items listed such as the following:

How does the problem in the story compare with another story you have read? Include evidence from the text and another story.

As NCLB now requires that all states measure a sample of students on these tough NAEP tests and some states have not fared well, the necessity of preparing students to handle tough questions will become clear across the entire United States and other countries where high stakes testing is becoming trendy.

To identify sample questions from subject areas other than reading, take advantage of The NAEP Questions Tool at This page "provides easy access to NAEP questions, student responses, and scoring guides that are released to the public."

Good Content?

When building a NoTime SDL, the teacher looks for a "chunk" of digital content that fits comfortably into the lesson flow of a particular unit of study. It may be one of several types of information:

  • Visual - A photograph, a painting, an ad, a video clip, a drawing, a map or a chart
  • Numerical - A database with information about weather, crime, traffic or some scientific phenomenon
  • Text - A news story, editorial, poem, short story, essay or ad

Example One - "Tom and Lilah" - A Visual NoTime SDL

An English teacher who has led her class through the study of several novels touching upon relationships between groups of men and women like Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men or Winton's Dirt Music, may wish to extend and deepen the students' appreciation of those relationships by asking them to interpret the work of an Australian painter, Russell Drysdale, who shows a man and woman standing in front of a dwelling.

The NoTime SDL would be a simple file in MS Word that might look something like this . . .

Go to

1. Start by figuring out what is going on. Who are these people and what is their story? Have one member of your group act as scribe to keep track of the questions explored by your group.

Continue interpreting the painting until I instruct you to move on to the next task.

2. What are the traits of a good title? Make a list of traits and then brainstorm 12-15 possible titles before picking the best one.
Once you have a good understanding of the painting, select a new title that captures the key “story” behind this painting. Be prepared to share your favorite with the group with an explanation of why you chose that title.

Example Two - "Which City?" - A Numerical NoTime SDL

A science teacher who has been leading his middle school classes through a study of climate wants his students to appreciate the difference in weather patterns between various cities and towns in the USA. He might ask them to select a city in which to live based on the following activity . . .

The RCA Building in NYC

Which City?

There are many aspects of weather that might influence the choice of a town or city as a new home. In this activity, you will consider just temperatures, precipitation and snowfall in order to compare 10 USA cities and make a choice.

Enter these three aspects of climate on the top row in a table using MS Word or Excel and then pick 10 USA cities to compare based on these criteria. Enter the cities in the first column, then go to to gather the data to fill into your table.

Example Three - "What's the problem?" - A Text NoTime SDL

An English teacher who has been giving her students practice on difficult questions from the NAEP Reading Assessment might assign the following challenge to her classes . . .

Today you will pick one of the stories in a collection titled Winesburg, Ohio
A Group of Tales of Ohio Small Town Life
by American author Sherwood Anderson. After reading the story, you will answer the question at the end of these directions.

"This collection of short stories allows us to enter the alternately complex, lonely, joyful and strange lives of the inhabitants of the small town of Winesburg, Ohio. While each character finds definition through their role in the community, we are witness to the individual struggles each faces in trying to reconcile their secret life within."

Go to to select and read a story.

Write several paragraphs explaining how the problem in the story you picked compares with another story we have read in class this month? Include evidence from the Anderson text and the other story.

The goal of these NoTime Slam Dunk lessons is to engage students in challenges that they will find intriguing and worthy of their time while empowering teachers to launch learning activities that match curriculum standards and produce the kinds of results we all hope to see in our classrooms.


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