What is the Hot Air Balloon Strategy?

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Schoolchildren Studying In Classroom With TeacherIn this strategy, a diagram of a hot air balloon is used as an aid for learning. The different components making up the image, i.e. the balloon, burner, and the basket, are used for illustrating or representing all important elements of a topic. The strategy incorporates two fundamental study techniques; Questioning and Visualization, to promote learning.

Strategy in Practice:

The hot air balloon strategy can be used to introduce new topics, connect the old and new information, compare and contrast answers of different study groups, summarize and assess learning.

Use of the strategy assists in comprehension, organization and prioritization of information. Being a visual cue, it aids in the storage and recall of facts. It also encourages students to take up a structured approach to planning and implementation.

To teach the strategy, draw an enlarged picture of a hot air balloon with an anchor. This can be done using a chart or a flip board. Explain that each part of the image is symbolic of a question. These questions are framed based on the study needs, to encourage students to reflect and generate all possible answers.   These are then listed down in near the appropriate part of the hot air balloon.

Consider the example of using the technique to plan a project.

  • The basket can represent the people essential to the working of the project;
  • The balloon can be the steps or elements necessary for completion,
  • The burners stand for the skills essential (motivation, organization etc.)
  • The anchor represents the difficulties or issues that may hinder the completion of the project.

Having taught the strategy, student groups are assigned to different workstations or work boards to practice the strategy. To initiate learning, you can provide a template that has the image and questions already printed on it. As they master using the strategy, you can encourage students to decide themselves how to represent the questions on the image. There can then be a class presentation with groups explaining and justifying their answers and diagram.

You can also include the following activities in your session, to facilitate active learning.

  • Answers to the questions are prepared beforehand (these can be statements or key words) and written on index cards or post its. Students are then instructed to pick one card. They then have 30 seconds to read, decide and paste the answer on the correct component of the diagram.
  • You can combine the Carousel technique along with the strategy to generate maximum answers and a debriefing can be conducted.
  • Hot air balloon exit slips can be made and students are instructed to answer the questions in not more than two to three lines.
  • The strategy can be used by students to create a quick and short recap of the information comprehended.

Discuss here: What strategies do you use to help students learn to summarize?

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