What symbol best represents who you are personally? As a learner?
It didn’t take very long to answer my earlier question about student engagement and laptops. It was evident early on that students still need to move, talk, and create both on paper and on their HP Streams. The trick is figuring out when they can be pushed through frustration, and knowing when it is time to go old-school.
Lindsay and I decided to jump right in with the technology. We had the students create Excel Surveys to poll the students on their team about personal interests. It was a frustrating couple of days, but well worth it. The students enjoyed taking each other’s surveys. Sorting the data was a challenge; I obviously did not do a great job of teaching them how to use Excel. (More on that later.)
When it came time to share their analysis and look for team wide patterns, the kids were ready to use big paper and markers. They needed a break from huddling around their Streams, and welcomed the chance to stretch out on the floor to share data. Hanging the ‘data gallery’ allowed for much needed movement and a chance to see the big picture.
Next, it was back to the Streams to create infographics to share the data. Lindsay and I are excited to share some of them soon!
Students need to move and talk during lessons. I am not a fan of taking a brain break simply for the sake of a break. There are plenty of ways to mix things up to allow students to integrate their learning and give their brains time to regroup.
Here are quick ways to get them up, moving, and talking to each other:
1. Puzzle Cards – Pass them out while students are working, and then have them find their partner to share ideas or complete a new task. I got a set of three decks at the Family Dollar.
2. Would You Rather? – Make a list of choices and have the students write their answers to reference later. When it is time for a brain break ask the question and have students stand. (Would you rather be able to fly or read minds? Stand if you chose fly.) Once you see who is standing you can group the standing students and move them to a corner(s) of the room, then group the sitting students.
3. Touching Chairs – Students stand and push in chairs. Ask them to touch the back of any seven chairs and then freeze. Once frozen give them a quick task to do with the people closest to them. This one allows for regrouping several times quickly and provides much needed movement.
The social studies teacher on my team asked, “What site do you use to get your grouping ideas?”
To be honest, I’m not sure. I know that I subscribe to professional magazines, newsletters, and blogs. I also spend more time than I would like to admit looking for good ideas on Twitter and Pinterest. 🙂 However, I can not point to one single place where all of my ideas come from. Many are simply things that I come up with on the fly. Others are hybrids of ideas that I’ve read about.
If I accidentally share one of your ideas…Please remember – imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
1. Index Cards – I love index cards. They can be used in so many ways. I like to hand them out at the door with instructions posted on the board. “Use the words/phrases/symbols on the cards to group yourselves in a logical way.” What I write on them depends on how I want to group the students:
- pairs: synonyms/antonyms; cause & effect; riddles and answers; terms & definitions; state & capitol; picture & metaphor
- small groups: lines from characters; quotes related to themes we are studying; characters and character traits; math problems with same solutions; colors
- ordered lines: “I have…who has” (see post from Jan. 28); events related to unit of study; order of steps in solving an equation; order of the planets, events in a story
2. Playing Cards – Uno, Old Maid, regular playing cards…It really doesn’t matter. There is just something so intriguing to students when you stand at the door saying, “Pick a card. Any card.”
3. Dominoes – Practically indestructible. One reason these are great is that you can group by: number of dots; color; sum of dots or many other ways.
4. Stickers – Kids love them. Group by type, color, size, etc. An added bonus is the opportunity for a quick hello with every student.
These are just a few ideas. I would love to hear your suggestions.
We did a Narrative Elements I Have- Who Has? to review terms and examples before examining a narrative. It required 100% participation and cooperation for the class to successfully get themselves in an ordered circle.
I gave each student a strip of paper when they arrived. The directions on the board simply said to get in an ordered circle. It was interesting to watch the process each class used to be successful. In every class, students helped other students who did not know if they had the definition or example.
When they were done, they went around the circle sharing their strips to check for accuracy. (A sneaky way to get in one more quick review.)
Having them work together and actually form the loop was a great way to incorporate movement into the lesson. I can see this used to review academic vocabulary or any factual content in every subject.
Here is a link to a free game generator. It was very easy to use, and there is a brief explanation of how to play.
A sadistic General Zaroff sneaking through the jungle hunting his esteemed guest, Rainsford, in a life or death version of cat and mouse…
Do 8th graders need more than that to be engaged? I was surprised that my class did. I’d incorrectly assumed that the plot of The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell, would be enough to capture the imagination of my students. However, the complexity of the text, vocabulary, leaps in time, and need for inferencing proved to be more of an obstacle than I thought they would be.
General Zaroff’s mannerisms were too genteel, his threats too subtle to evoke an emotional response in my students. Although my arms were covered in goosebumps, they just were not interested enough to tackle such a complex text. I could have scrapped the whole idea, but I believe that students need to spend time with difficult text. I just needed to find a way to engage them enough to make the critical thinking and rereading worth the effort.
Dave Burgess’s book Teach Like a Pirate provided great ideas for crafting a lesson that would hook my students. The premise of his book is that creativity and passion are not lost to education; we just need to consciously plan for it. He suggests thinking about how students can be immersed in a lesson and where a lesson would best be taught.
I decided my students needed to be take part in a hunt. I asked a beloved administrator to be General Zaroff and ‘hunt’ us. I provided him with the time and locations around the building that we would be hiding. The plan was that he would walk past us while reading lines from the story always pretending that he couldn’t see us.
We hid in in the jungle brush of the 7th grade lobby, behind the rocks near a water fountain on the first floor, and crouched in a cave located in the hallway next to the cafeteria and custodial offices. Everywhere we went, we read more of the story and discussed it. What was previously unaccessible to my students became personally relevant.
General Zaroff never came close to us, but believe me we understood what it felt like to be hunted! It was much easier for my students understand keeping one’s nerve and game of cat and mouse when they were caught up in the hunt. At one point I had to the break the tension and admit that even though I knew he wasn’t General Zaroff, I was getting a little freaked out. It was the perfect opportunity to talk about how panic can override logic.
In the end, we made it safely back to our classroom. The last line of the story meant we had to make one more inference. At first they were disappointed because they thought the author left us hanging. Then I heard,”Oh! I know who won! Look at what it says here…” For that, I would trek through the jungle any day.