With the newly implemented Common Core State Standards and the highly controversial state tests created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, listening and speaking skills have become significantly more valued in education. Up until now, teachers have not been held too closely responsible for the speaking and listening skills of students. Some of you may be outraged. When, between September and June, do we have the time? Where in our already bursting curriculum can we fit these standards? Though clearly, with technological advancements and the increased usage of television and social media, it is clear that these standards are necessary for our students to master. Read on for a compiled list of YouTube channels and podcasts that can sharpen your students’ listening skills and generate hours of discussion. Continue reading
With the holiday season just around the corner, and PARCC testing looming in the distance, my colleagues and I have had much discussion recently on – what I have affectionately come to call – dangler days. Days that you’re not to sure how to handle – they just dangle there, and you’re left to figure out whether to attach them to a lesson or a unit, or just hit play on the newest Pixar blockbuster.
This includes those last-minute delayed-opening/early-dismissal/snow days, those days when half of your students are out on a band field trip, those freakishly odd weeks when you only see your students for two days, and the dreaded testing days when your students are mentally exhausted and daydreaming of a utopian world without multiple-choice questions. You can’t possibly move on with instruction because then you’d have to catch up the other half of your students before school, after school, or during recess – which would be a ridiculously inefficient waste of time for everyone. So what are you to do?
Fear not fellow educomrades! I’ve compiled a list of activities you can utilize that will allow the students who are present to simply have more practice with concepts and skills they are already familiar with (and quite possibly have some fun while doing it).
My students absolutely LOVE having the chance to shine in the spotlight and having a role to play. Unfortunately, I rarely have time for reader’s theater in my 6th grade ELA classroom. There is just too much “stuff” we have to get through in time for state testing and my students need all the practice and feedback they can get. So, when we do have a random dangler day or two, I love slowing down to perform some reader’s theater. This can work for ELA as well as History/Social Studies classes. Below, you’ll find a list of links with resources for reader’s theater scripts. They range from short 3 minute scenes from movies (A Christmas Story) to full-length plays (A Christmas Carol) and even historical fiction/historical reenactments. Reader’s theater can help students with skills such as fluency, intonation, visualizing, identifying character traits, and can lead to a deeper understanding and connection with a text.
With a recent emphasis being placed on teaching methodologies such as gamification and flipped classrooms, the foreseeable future of education is obviously heading in a more technology-driven direction. Some schools are even delving into the beginning years of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Teachers are expected to know more and do more with technology. One very useful (and fun!) tool that can easily be implemented into the classroom is the tablet, whether it is made by Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, or any other company. The tablet has opened the gate to a world of paperless and effortless classroom management, as well as a ton of engaging learning tools and activities for students. Whether you have only one tablet for yourself, a few tablets to use with groups, or a class set (luck you!), there are apps and uses for each setting.
Setting Up Rosters, Policies, and Procedures
No matter which way you are able to use your tablets, one thing is for sure – there is a bit of set-up required before you can frolic through the fields of technological glory. If you are setting up your own tablet for management purposes, you need to enter your class rosters at the beginning of the year for a variety of apps, which can take some time. Some apps also allow you to insert any notes or parent information for quick and easy communication. If you are setting up tablets for classroom use, you need to make sure you have a strong wireless connection, load any apps you will be using onto all of the tablets, and define tablet policies and procedures. Some of my classroom policies and procedures (for sixth graders) included how to hold the tablet while walking to your seat (two hands, against your chest, like a snuggly teddybear), closing down all apps after use, locking the screen when a teacher is instructing, and staying focused on the instructed app (rather than playing games). If a rule was broken, the student would get one warning, if there was a second offense, the student was suspended from using the tablet for the rest of the period and would receive a lunch detention with the teacher. Once you get through the initial stages of setting up policies and procedures and instructing students how to navigate the tablet, the real fun and learning can begin! Below are some of my favorite apps that I use on the iPad (though many of them are compatible with Google Play and Android).
Synonyms (Apple) – Free! – A simple game in which students receive a word and it’s definition. The object of the game is to figure out the synonym using the set of letters provided. Students practice and learn synonyms, definitions, and spelling.
4 Pics 1 Word (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Students receive four pictures that have a common thread or theme. With the letters that are provided, students have unlimited time to guess the word. There is also a “cheat” button that helps narrow down the answer. Students practice problem-solving, higher order thinking skills, and spelling.
NearPod (Apple) – Free! – An interactive slideshow platform. Upload your pre-made powerpoint presentations and add interactive slides that receive real-time feedback from your students such as quizzes, polls, short-answer questions, and even drawings. After the lesson is over, you will receive a detailed data report of your students’ responses.
Socrative (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Basically, a student clicker system. You create the quiz ahead of time, or ask questions verbally, and students input their answers on their tablets (short answer or multiple choice). After the assessment is over, you will receive a detailed data report of your students’ responses and their final scores. Yay for no grading (unless you have short answer questions, which you must grade yourself)!
Pick Me Buzzer (Apple – BigRedBuzzer on GooglePlay) – Free! – Perfect for playing a trivia review game or jeopardy style game with students. Each student or group uses their tablet to press the big red button. On your tablet, you will see which group buzzed first to give their answer.
Edmodo (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Edmodo is excellent for creating a social network within and outside of your classroom. You can provide copies of worksheets, give quizzes, create discussion boards, and even post grades. The app is an easy way to stay connected.
Show Me (Apple) – Free! – Turn your tablet into an interactive whiteboard! Not only can this be used on the projector screen, but it can also be helpful working one-on-one with a student.
GoodNotes (Apple) – $5.99 – This is a great tool to use when annotating a picture, a page in a book, or a PDF. You can highlight in various colors, circle, underline, and make notes. Documents can then be exported, copied, or printed, in order to save or collaborate with others.
Ask any middle school student what they do for fun outside of school and a vast majority of them will unsheathe their Excalibur-like thumbs and declare video games as their number one pastime. It is no wonder that many students – regardless of their skills and abilities – have suffered a loss of motivation, attention-span, and interest in the comparatively mundane, one-dimensional world of school. So how can teachers compete with the programmed, interactive, instant-gratification of video games? Easy. Gamification.
Say what? Gabe Zichermann of Gamification Corp defines buzzword gamification as ” the process of engaging people and changing behavior with game design, loyalty, and behavioral economics”. Gamification is a motivational system that many schools and businesses have been experimenting with. To put it simply in terms of education, it is a way to motivate your students through game-like features such as tutorial and modeling, badges and trophies, leveling up, and teams. It sounds easy enough, but if you are unfamiliar with the world of video games, this is a daunting challenge to take on. Don’t worry – you can simply dip your toe into gamification next year to try it out, or you can go full force – the point is, there are varying levels of intensity in which you can “gamify” your classroom. Whatever level of gamification you might be implementing next year, you must always remember that the ultimate goal is that your students are making meaningful learning experiences. If it isn’t working out for you or your students – that’s fine. You should never support a method that you know does not work for your students or the desired learning outcome.
Here are some basic steps you can follow to play around with gamification in your classroom this coming school year:
Step 1. Identify what learning goals your students will achieve.
This can either be skills specific to your content area or even social and behavioral skills. Make sure that your goal is specific and measurable.
Example: In the middle school language arts classroom, a goal could be that students will be able to successfully identify three personality (character) traits of a given character.