In the now classic book Classroom Instruction That Works, Marzano finds through meta-analysis that students who regularly have opportunities to create nonlinguistic representations of current and new knowledge increase achievement. The effect size attributed to this strategy is .75 ((please remember that the effect size is the increase in student achievement as measured in standard deviation).
What are nonlinguistic representations? Graphic organizers, pretending, acting, performing in some way, dancing, drawing, creating music, dancing, and theater are all examples of nonlinguistic representations. The really nice thing about nonlinguistic expression is that it can be used at any grade level and in any content area. One of my favorite memories from early graduate school in music theory involves an entire class scrambling to represent tone rows called out by the professor. It was tremendous fun, and the activity helped us clarify a variety of concepts about tone rows.
In a more recent article, Marzano provides additional clarification regarding the use of nonlinguistic representations and how they can make the most impact on student achievement (https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/representing-knowledge-nonlinguistically):
- Nonlinguistic representations come in many forms. There is no “one-form-fits-all” for students. Provide choice in representation and allow students the opportunity to express content in ways that are meaningful to them.
- Nonlinguistic representations must identify crucial information. The most important aspects of content must be the focus of the representation. Some students may find that difficult at first and may focus on the “fluff.” Help them focus and edit along the path.
- Students should explain their nonlinguistic representations. Through explanation, students are revisiting content and applying it to their individual learning context. Other students are able to ask questions and further strengthen the learning.
- Nonlinguistic representations can take a lot of time. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of the strategy, because most of our students can’t just whip up some graphic, dance, or composition related to the new content. Because they take so much time, teachers should focus the nonlinguistic representations on the most crucial elements of content.
- Students should revise their representations when necessary. As the unit continues, students learn more. They should update their creative products to reflect their new knowledge in order to keep it meaningful.
As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you might incorporate nonlinguistic representations into your content. You and your students will be glad you did!