Make Review Fun and Individualized

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I do a lot of whole class review, both teacher directed, student directed, and whole group and individual. However, sometimes I want to teach students study skills that they can use outside of class or make the review more self-paced.

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Many of my students don’t study much outside of school, and don’t know a lot about traditional study skills, nor is it easy to get them engaged enough that they are likely to continue outside of class.

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I have used reviewgamezone.com to help combat this. On this website students can play their choice of popular games, but they are tied to review questions. You can set up your own review questions or choose from the MANY games already established. The possible games students can choose from are shown below. The questions are the same, but they are dumped into different game interfaces.

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As a teacher, you can search the games by subject, keyword, etc. to find games that target what you want to test. You can even search by state so that you may find games and questions aligned to your state test. Each set of questions has a number, so you can create a list of game numbers for your students to study from.

The site even includes a teacher study guide sheet that you can print and hand out to your students with student instructions. All you need to do is fill in the game numbers that you want your students to use.

Limitations:

  • You can’t do constructed response questions. This site is basically only multiple choice.
  • You have to make sure that you carefully choose questions sets to target what you are looking for, or create your own.

Pros:

  • Students are engaged, and go back on their own to continue studying
  • The way the website is set up, they are repeatedly asked questions that they missed until they get them correct.
  • It is easy for a teacher to use — you can search from pre-made quizzes, print out directions, create your own, etc.
  • Students have choice over which game they play.
  • I have only used science, but there are many subjects to choose from.

To me, the pros outweigh the cons, and this website has been a big asset in my classroom. I hope it helps you as well.

profile pic2Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
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Feature Friday: Academic Conversation Bundle

Academic Conversation Cover Bundle“Are your students off-topic in class? Get your students talking on-topic with the Academic Conversation bundle. Check it out!

There are so many benefits to having your students spend time in discussion: increased engagement, higher retention, developing multiple points of view, empathy, and forging new relationships. This only works if your students are on-task.

These prompts and response starters are great to keep a conversation going and to make it go deeper. Students will challenge one another, build on ideas, paraphrase, elaborate, support ideas with examples and synthesize conversation. When used with cooperative learning structures, students will share in the conversation in a respectful manner that tames the chatty students while allowing the shy students an opportunity to share in a safe, small group environment.

The bundle includes posters and placements in both 8.5 x 11″” formats, as well as the super-versatile Academic Conversations flipbook that students can hold in their hands or paste in their notebooks.

You’ll use this again and again, every year because it helps students develop socially as well as intellectually. My administration believed in this so much that the principal had these posters professionally printed for every classroom in my 1500 student school! It has really paid off for us and I’m sure it will be a great addition in your classroom as well.”

Mrs. Brosseau's Binder Michelle is a secondary Science and Physics teacher from Ontario, Canada.  She blogs at Mrs. Brosseau’s Binder and shares her materials through her Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
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Using Roles in Collaborative Learning

teen groupWhen students are placed in collaborative groups, whether it be for a lab activity, literature circle, or other activity, it is very easy for them to become complacent and to let some (or one) member of the group carry the load.  While some of this may be intentional, I think that in some cases this is not completely intentional but due to the fact that stronger students may jump in, and weaker students may not know how, or be as quick to contribute.

Whatever the reason, one way to combat this is through the use of roles in the group.  I have found that for group roles to be successful, a few things must be in place:

  • The roles are legitimate, not created (there really are enough different group functions that need each other).
  • Students are held to their roles
  • Students are trained in their roles

This means that some time must be spent in class teaching the job ‘expectations’ and perhaps practicing.   Maybe roles are assigned the first time, and students can choose another time.  I have also found that it helps to have some sentence starters and clear examples for students of what their role looks or sounds like, and how they should/could interact.

There are many free versions online, but here are a few that I particularly like:

Role Cards from Read, Write, Think

POGIL Role Cards

Cooperative Learning Placards

These can even be laminated and attached to the table, or handed out repeatedly as students learn their roles.

Currently, especially with increasing technology use, many students truly don’t have good cooperative learning skills and are not good and the type of group interactions we would like to see.  As teachers, this becomes something we need to teach!

profile pic2Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
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Group work is wishful thinking – 8 benefits of Cooperative Learning

Brosseau - Benefits“Group work is wishful thinking.”
That’s the line that really stood out at me the first time I attended the Great Lakes Association for Cooperation in Education (GLACIE) conference in Toronto. Dr. Spencer Kagan was there himself. This conference was so good I went back for seconds the following year.

What are the benefits of cooperative learning?
You may already be sold on the idea of using cooperative learning structures in your classroom, but you may not have been aware of some of the benefits for both you and your learners:

1. All learners are engaged. In group work, with a group of 4 you’ve got 25% engagement. Install some cooperative learning structures into your class and now you’ve got 100% engagement.

2. More time for you to engage individuals. If you need to conference with a student or a small group of students, the accountability piece in these structures allows you to know that your learners are on-task so you can focus on listening and conferencing.

3. Less behavior issues. If students are actively engaged then boredom doesn’t cause them to do irresponsible things.

4. Frequent processing. With the structures being used seamlessly in your class the amount of transition time lessens and you can use structures frequently in class to review new ideas and check who is gaining an understanding. Think of the 10-2 rule: teach 10 minutes and take 2 minutes to review.

5. A greater sense of community. With different structures you can build new relationships and trust in your classroom. Hopefully, this allows you to say bye-bye to classroom cliques.

6. Greater retention. Structures that allow students to move create a biological response that improves retention of ideas.

7. A more fun class. Increasing the novelty factor but sewing in structures will make your class more interesting.

8. More engagement for those shy students. Students want to feel safe, especially those timid students who do not want to be called upon. If you give them the opportunity to perform in front of a partner or small group of peers then they can build up confidence to share with the whole class. I’ve seen it happen!

Hopefully we’ve got you hooked on the benefits of cooperative learning. Stay tuned to Cross Curricular Corner for more Cooperative Learning ideas.

Mrs. Brosseau's Binder Michelle is a secondary Science and Physics teacher from Ontario, Canada.  She blogs at Mrs. Brosseau’s Binder and shares her materials through her Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
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Using Stations to Keep Students Engaged

It can be a struggle to hold students attention for a class period, particularly when the task is practice or review on a topic that already been touched upon. Many times students need that practice, but do not have the persistence to work through a longer series of practice questions, or review. Also, students can easily get frustrated with sets of practice questions. One tool that I use frequently in my classroom to keep students engaged is the use of stations.

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Many tasks can be broken up into smaller sets of practice (for example sets of 5 test questions that get checked by a teacher, mixed with stations on reviewing vocabulary, labeling a diagram, and another set of 5 questions. Students can get more immediate feedback, and don’t get frustrated when working on a shorter set of questions. These stations can easily be completed in, perhaps 10 minutes and students can move to the next station.

Additionally, stations can be a great way to build in more time for support or individualized help with the teacher. For example, when working with learning to use microscopes, one station can be a station with teacher direction on using the microscope and pointing out specifics, one station on parts of the microscope, one on a virtual microscope on the computer, and one where students can look at slides on their own.

Another example of station work can be a way to build in different learning styles. I often do stations on the same topic, but in different ways. These could be a set of stations where students do a short creative writing, watch a video, again could label a diagram, work with vocabulary, do a reading, etc. Often students need to see a particular topic frequently, but in different ways. This can be a valuable tool to help your students work though a topic. When using this type of stations, it is often helpful to have a wrap up of some type (discussion, writing, questions, etc) for students to pull together what they have learned.

Lastly, even a larger task can often be broken up into chunks and re-written as stations. Station work tends to keep students moving, on a schedule, and focused on the task. They can sustain their focus for 10 minutes (anywhere from 5-20 depending on the task), and then they get to move and start a new task. They also have built in incentive to stay ‘on time’ as they will be moving, and need to get that piece done before the time expires.

I find station work a useful tool at many different points in a unit in my classroom and hope that I have been able to give you some useful ideas as well. I would love to hear your tips for keeping students engaged in your classroom!

profile pic2Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
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Using YouTube to Engage your Students!

As I was considering what to write about this month regarding engaging students I remembered this post I’d written for my own personal teaching blog.  Reprinted with my permission here:

I love YouTube in the classroom.  Several of my college students actually just told me that like how I use videos to enhance my lessons because it makes it more fun!  (I just use the same videos I do in high school.)  It does mix things up and presents information in a new way.

Here’s my list of my top choices for YouTube videos.

Subscriptions:

Crash Course by Hank and John Green is absolutely one of my favorites.  On this channel, “John Green teaches you US History and Hank Green teaches you Chemistry. Check out the playlists for past courses in World History, Biology, Literature, and Ecology.”  They are SO SMART and super engaging.  I love how fast moving they go and the quirky nature of it all.  Here’s one of my favorites:

Thug Notes examines classic literature with an urban flair.  I will caution that sometimes the language is a little rough- but I’d be comfortable in most areas using it in high school.  Definitely in college. From their channel: “Yo, what’s good? Thug Notes is yo main hookup for classical literature summary and analysis. Maybe you’ve read the Cliffs Notes. Maybe you even read the book. But you ain’t know sh*t until you watched the Thug Notes, homie.”  What I really appreciate about these videos is the quality analysis at the end!  He really does look at themes and motifs which is really important!  Here’s my favorite:

Flocabulary  has videos about lots of different topics.  To get the whole library you have to have a paid subscription to their website, but they do offer quite a bit for free on YouTube.  They describe their website as being, “an online library of songs, videos and activities for grades K-12. Hundreds of thousands of teachers use Flocabulary to supplement their instruction and engage students. Our team of artists and educators is not only committed to raising test scores, but also to fostering a love of learning in every child.”  I enjoyed this one:

Individual Videos

Here are some individual videos that I have used with success in the classroom, or plan on using soon!

I like how this covers many devices with real world examples.  I wish there was a slightly different one for Personification though.

This is the History of English in 10 minutes.  It’s awesome, but definitely high school or college level.  VERY informative though.

Cute video that discusses some of my pet peeve grammar issues!

And, last but certainly not least, Kid President’s Pep Talk for teachers and students!  I love this kid, and all his videos are great but this one is extra special.

Thanks for reading!

TPT ProfileSara Fuller is a 5 year veteran English teacher with an MA in literature who has experience teaching students ranging from the middle school to college level. She blogs about her teaching adventures at Ms. F’s Teaching Adventures and young adult books at YA Lit, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly!
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Ellen Weber’s Educator Journey

A little bit about Ellen Weber and her journey as an educator! 

Mike-Nicole-300x168 Grades and subjects currently or most recently taught?

After a lifetime teaching secondary and higher ed. I teach mostly university students currently. I also facilitate secondary and university faculty as well as leaders to use brain based practices for leading and learning in brain-friendly settings.

 

What started you on the journey to become a teacher/ educator?

I became a teacher to make a difference, and one of my favorite schools was my first – an inner city school. Recently I was speaking at a leadership conference in Seattle and I stayed with a former student from my first year out.

Video-4-0-00-00-12-300x168I encouraged this student and her class to dream big and step in the direction of their dreams. She’s now in charge of accounts at a very successful technology firm.

 

Anything else that has made your journey special or noteworthy?

I started a debate club with a few inner city teens and when they saw the potential of their insights — the teams grew into a potent group. So I joined forces with another group and watched membership blossom to 40,000. I have a debate product in my store build off cool debate ideas that started with a few inner city teens and later became the Ellen Weber debate Trophy after I moved on.

 

What special thing do you do for your students?Video-2-0-00-03-02-300x168

My students are facilitated to speak up and feel heard in every aspect of their learning and assessment. They leave my class with brain based tools for developing strengths beyond anything I teach them.

I developed a unique form of teaching, assessing and leading in brain friendly ways (called Mita Brain Renewal approach) which is illustrated at http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/change/mita-brain-manifesto/ . This model has won awards in several countries — but it makes teaching fun and beneficial for both students and faculty.

 

The photos are from Ellen’s current course, “Lead Innovation with the Brain in Mind” and she explains, “In these photos students are engaging the wider community in their proposed innovations – which is also their final exam for the course. The field has been more than good to me for a lifetime — which is why I am still active and still learn daily from folks like writers and editors of this blog!”

 

EllenBrain7 (1)Ellen Weber is a whole brain curriculum specialist at secondary and higher education. She works in secondary and college learning renewal where she has won awards internationally for her practical brain based Mita model to engage both sides of students’ brains.
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