Teachers sometimes can't avoid teaching using lecture or assigned readings in ELA or social studies classrooms, but class can still be engaging for students. This blog post shares three simple ways to encourage active learning. High school students will appreciate these activities that are hands-on and authentic! Click through to read the full post.

In the ELA and social studies classroom, sometimes we simply must lecture or, heaven forbid, assign readings. I used to assign readings, my students would do them, and we'd have a class discussion. When I'd lecture, the students were genuinely interested in the stories I told (or did I imagine these things?).

I've either become more perceptive in my middle years, or my students have become less attentive. Either way, the old ways I did things don't work anymore (or did they ever? Not sure).

I see lots of pained expressions these days, but sometimes, we have to stand up and talk or assign readings. There's no way around it.

I think most educators would agree that an effective way to do it is in short bursts with structured breaks for student reflection and action. After about ten minutes, most secondary students need a few moments of action so that we don't lose them.

I want to discuss three specific methods I use to break up any lecture or reading in order to get students to reflect upon the material, work cooperatively, and hopefully, to retain, analyze, and manipulate the content. I like these methods because I provide students with the framework, and they generate the content (the questions, summaries, etc.).

And yes, they do involve printing (but not a lot). I'm a huge fan of technology--I use it all the time to further my students' learning objectives. The most effective forms of technology for this purpose, I think, anyway, are paper, pencils, scissors, crayons, and glue--the basic stuff. I time each activity because I'm sure you've noticed that students will take as long as we give them. And we do need to get back to that lecture.

Three Simple Ways to Encourage Active Learning

Teachers sometimes can't avoid teaching using lecture or assigned readings in ELA or social studies classrooms, but class can still be engaging for students. This blog post shares three simple ways to encourage active learning. High school students will appreciate these activities that are hands-on and authentic! Click through to read the full post.1. Sorts: Put students in pairs and have them fill out a chart. It can be as simple as placing important
events in chronological order or as complex as identifying events, their causes, and their effects. They can even categorize information. Then students cut out the sections from the chart, shuffle them up, and optionally, place them into an envelope that they label so you can reuse the sorts for review or at stations.

Then they swap their strips with another pair and sort them into the correct order. Each pair checks the other and they use the sorts as a springboard for discussion.

2. Reflection and Peer Review: I give students a handout with a prompt based on our content. In a chart, they must state their opinion, provide an example from the lecture or reading, and explain why that example supports their opinion. 

Then they swap papers with their partner, and their partner offers a guided "peer review" on the right side of the page (see an example below). Partners take a moment to discuss feedback and then make revisions based on the feedback.

3. Jigsaw the Content: In groups of four, assign each student "a part" of the lecture or reading. They should summarize it in their own words or illustrate their part. It's also fun to hide discussion prompts within QR Codes and have the group assign them randomly so they don't know what each person has until they scan them. Then they should put it all together to form a whole and discuss it with their group.

Teachers sometimes can't avoid teaching using lecture or assigned readings in ELA or social studies classrooms, but class can still be engaging for students. This blog post shares three simple ways to encourage active learning. High school students will appreciate these activities that are hands-on and authentic! Click through to read the full post.

Your students' creativity is the limit with these--I love it that they are the ones doing all the work here--from creating to discussing to providing each other with feedback.

You can make your own, but I have a set of 20 available HERE, if you'd like to check them out. They are editable and they come with teacher instructions, plus student instructions in PowerPoint complete with activity timers. You can see a preview below.


How do you encourage active learning in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know!



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Debates can be a really effective instructional tool in the secondary classroom, but they have to be very structured in order to be really effective. In this blog post, I'm sharing detailed information for how to implement structured debate in the classroom. Click through to get these teaching tips!
I have to admit that in the past, I haven't been very good at implementing debate in the classroom. I get the idea in theory, but it always seemed to degenerate into a string of unsupported opinions and logical fallacies. I see that everyday in my Facebook feed.

Debates can be a really effective instructional tool in the secondary classroom, but they have to be very structured in order to be really effective. In this blog post, I'm sharing detailed information for how to implement structured debate in the classroom. Click through to get these teaching tips!And what's the point of that? 
A. That's not what a debate is.
B. Students are exposed to enough fallacies in their social media feeds (though they do not touch Facebook).

I always felt like we should be doing better. After all, students need to be able to recognize poor arguments in order to be discerning citizens (think election cycle commercials or the abyss of social media "debates"). And what better way to do that than to ask them to construct logical arguments?

But students need to learn this skill in a variety of ways--first, through direct instruction, and next, through trial, error, and reflection. In other words, practice.

I'm going to show you how I implement....

Structured Debate in The Classroom

This method isn't perfect (I don't believe any method is). It involves practice and lots of reflection and feedback, but here are the steps I take:

1. Teach the students about the debate structure. You can find classical structures online. I created a modified one for my classroom. It looks like this:
Debates can be a really effective instructional tool in the secondary classroom, but they have to be very structured in order to be really effective. In this blog post, I'm sharing detailed information for how to implement structured debate in the classroom. Click through to get these teaching tips!
2. Teach students about logical fallacies with examples (I use film clips). Then use a series of film clips, and have students decide which fallacy(ies) each clip exemplifies. 

3. Then give students a topic with two clear sides. I like to initiate this with a simulation or a short film or podcast. For example, in sociology or economics, if students will debate the idea of Universal Basic Income, I begin the lesson with a Freakonomics podcast about the topic. As students listen, I have them construct a pro/con chart (or if it's economics, opportunity cost/ benefits).

Have the students briefly research each side and reflect. Then ask students to write a short paragraph explaining which side they agree with. 

4. The next day in class, hang a sign in one corner that says, "Agree," and one that says, "Disagree." Instruct students to go to the side that represents their opinion. Allow students to explain why they chose the side they did. If nobody goes to one side, the teacher should play "devil's advocate," and explain the opposing side.

5. And then (this is very important), have students randomly draw which side they will be on in the class debate. This exercise is not about students expressing their opinions--it's about them constructing a structured and LOGICAL argument.

6. Once students are in teams, give them a chart that assigns a specific role to each student. The roles I use are Recorder/Team Leader (writes everything down and gets the final say), Head Researcher, and the rest of the students are each responsible for one role in the debate, such as Argument Summary, Argument 1, Rebuttal, Closing, and Closing Rebuttal. I set the timer for five minutes while students agree upon their roles (note that the recorder gets the final say--I assign that role). This is what my chart looks like:
Debates can be a really effective instructional tool in the secondary classroom, but they have to be very structured in order to be really effective. In this blog post, I'm sharing detailed information for how to implement structured debate in the classroom. Click through to get these teaching tips!
If you have a large class, divide students into four groups and have two separate debates. If you are filming, they can happen simultaneously. 

I give them one class period to prepare, so they have to work quickly to construct an argument and anticipate counter-arguments. This is a great exercise in reasoning, and really, the first time, it probably won't be perfect, but they will improve with practice (and practice is often painful).

7. On debate day, either appoint a time-keeper or be the time-keeper yourself (this works well if you are filming). Have the Debate Structure in front of you and either have a timer set on your screen, use one on your phone, or use a stopwatch to keep track of time. Again, my structure looks like the one above (but there are many structures out there).

8. After the debate, reflection is key. Have students reflect by writing or by filling out a group and self reflective rubric. I fill out one rubric, and have students fill out another. Here's what mine look like:
Debates can be a really effective instructional tool in the secondary classroom, but they have to be very structured in order to be really effective. In this blog post, I'm sharing detailed information for how to implement structured debate in the classroom. Click through to get these teaching tips!
It is not easy to implement classroom debates, but I believe it is vital. Students learn to reason. They learn to argue logically. In the process, they learn to recognize the noise of social media and election season for what it is--noise. 

Hopefully, they learn to seek out (and recognize) the actual issues.

Search the web, and search your own creativity to come up with something that works for your classroom. You can preview my resource for this here. It's editable, so you can customize it for your own classroom needs.

Check it out here.

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Current events have an important place in social studies instruction because they're great for comparing to historical events. This blog post shares five ways to bring current events into your classroom - and they're easy! Click through to read more.
Every Teacher New Year, I have a classroom resolution. The first year I taught it was to survive. The second year, it was to make it another year. I don't remember what it was the third year, but I do remember being confident enough my fifth year to make the resolution something about pedagogy, even though I don't recall what it was. Last year, I worked to up my gamification skills.

This year, I want to enrich my curriculum with activities that foster critical thinking. One way I plan to do this is to bring more current events into the curriculum. I think current events are a good way to do this for a couple of reasons:

1. I want for my students to know what's going on in the world--not just what shows up in their social media feed--so that they can be informed citizens.
2. I want for my students to understand bias and to learn how to recognize it so that they can read the news intelligently, realizing that getting their information from one source is not always a good idea.

When bringing current events into your classroom or asking your students to, a good place to start is mediabiasfactcheck.com. This site ranks news sources according to bias (evinced in loaded language and omissions) and factual reporting. When you go to the homepage, type in the media source you want to check in the search engine. When search results appear, click on the name of the news source for information about the publication's veracity.

A reliable site for fact-checking is factcheck.org.

So here it is...

5 Ways to Bring Current Events into Your Classroom

1. Current Event Bulletin Board

My department head does this, and it's really cool. Hang a laminated world map at the center of the board. Have students bring in a current event and draw an arrow from the place on the map where the event took place to the article. The class can discuss these articles, or early finishers can get up and read them.

2. Current Event Retelling

Current events have an important place in social studies instruction because they're great for comparing to historical events. This blog post shares five ways to bring current events into your classroom - and they're easy! Click through to read more.As an ELA teacher, I loved doing this with novels, but this would work with historical figures, too.
Select a major news event or events, and have students retell it with a twist--they will cast people from history or characters in novels as the "who" in the articles. How would these characters behave in a similar situation? They should add interviews from the characters' perspectives. Have students put all of their stories together into a class newspaper.

*For this one, I would caution against local news and tragedies--you don't want to make light of someone's suffering. Stick to culture, business, and politics--there's tons of material there.

3. Same Story, Different Source

My co-teacher did something like this with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year, and it worked really well. She pulled articles from pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian newspapers. But you can do it for any topic.

Discuss a current event with your class. Have students find it covered in various sources. They should note how it is told differently from one source to the next by identifying loaded language and omissions. Ask students what the effects of these things are. Use this as a catalyst to discuss bias.

4. Current Event Journal

My AP U.S. History teacher did this when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed it as a jaded 11th grader. Have students keep a Current Event Journal over the year or the semester in which they will describe and respond to major news stories each week. They can focus on events that are directly related to the course (business for economics, politics for civics, everything for history and literature :)).

At the end of the year or semester, have students decide what the "top stories" are and create a newscast in which they report them. They can partner up and film them to share with the class.

5. Current Event Paragraph

I have been doing this activity with my students for a decade, and it's been a valuable way to bring current events into a content-heavy course by asking students to make connections between the past and the present.

Have students bring in articles related to events, topics, or themes that you are studying. Discuss how the current event connects to your unit of study. Then have students write a paragraph that summarizes the article, explains its significance, and connects it to your current unit or topic of study. You can preview my handout here.

How do you bring current events into your curriculum? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

I don't want to say it. I mean, I really don't want to say it. Saying it somehow makes it true, and as much as I love my job, I have to confess that I don't want it to be. I want to keep staying up late and sleeping later. I want to keep not constantly having papers to grade. And most of all, I want to keep having longer than 10 minutes to eat lunch.

But I guess I have to face the reality that summer break is almost over, and a new school year is about to begin.

I truly am excited to meet my new students--I just wish I could do it at 11 A.M.

Every new school year brings new considerations and a chance to start fresh. I thought about it a lot this summer over leisurely lunches and in between Netflix binges. And I thought I'd share some of my ideas with you.

This week, I am considering classroom structure and community and simple tweaks I can make to simplify my life throughout the year. Next week, I will be considering skills that I think my students need and how I plan to build them into the curriculum.

Both weeks, I will discuss three ways to help us do this. So here's week one--

Three Ways to Make Back to School Better

Way 1: How I Will Set Up My Classroom

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!If you've known me for a bit, then you know that I LOVE tables in the classroom. I took a job in a new school system last year, and I no longer have tables (sad day, but they are harder to come by than I ever knew). 

Here is why I love them:
1. Tables are ideal for collaboration. I put four to five students around a table and partnering up and discussion come without a second thought.
2. It's so much easier for me to maneuver around the room--desks just get in the way (they are so easy to trip over).
3. Desks send a psychological message to students that tables don't--school, desks, rows, isolation, "SHHHH".... 

This is how I compensate for not having them:
1. I clump desks into groups of four, all facing the front. Desks on the left front get the label on the left (Group 1, Seat 1). Desks on the right front get the label on the right front (Group 1, Seat 2).
2. Behind Seat 1, I put Group 1, Seat 4 (Label on the Right). Behind Seat 2, I put Group 1, Set 3 (Label on Left).

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!
Grab the free labels HERE!
I do this so that I can implement Kagan Structures--amazing for the collaborative, interactive classroom. But instead of wasting time doing cute things like "Person with a summer birthday, go first," I can save time by saying, "Work with your shoulder partner. Even person go first." Or, "Work with your face partner, odd person go first." It's all about that number.



Grab my free labels HERE.

Way 2: Getting to Know Each Other with Avatars

Secondary teachers have probably noticed that our students are largely over traditional "getting to know you" games and activities. But they do still need to get to know each other. It builds community and validates them as individuals. It gets them used to the idea of collaborating with each other (in our information-based, post-industrial economy, collaboration is WAY more important a skill than competition).

I took a note from Google and other largely millennial-driven corporations, and decided to let my students get to know each other by creating avatars. Here's how I did it last year (and it worked well, so I plan on doing it again):

1. Share a Google Slides template with students, set so that everyone can edit. 
2. Send them to a free website like this one to build an Avatar.
3. Have them share their Avatars with the class.

How to Implement:

I start with a directions slide:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

Then I show them my example:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!
Slight embellishment on the writing talent--we don't want students to feel shy about sharing their talents, so set modesty aside.

Then I give them about 15 or 20 minutes to create theirs. Finally, they share them with the class. Since they have all been editing the same presentation (I copy as many template slides as I have students into the presentation), I just project the one presentation. Here are two student examples:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

It's a super fun and engaging way to get to know each other. If you are gamifying, wow, you have Avatars for your students' profiles.

This is a part of my gamifying system. Check it out HERE.

Way 3: Being Ready for Emergencies 

We all have to be out from time to time. Sometimes those times are completely unexpected. The best thing you can do is to set up an emergency sub folder at the beginning of the year. Make sure you keep an updated seating chart and your classroom rules in it (super important). Then put activities in it that will keep your class moving ahead--NOT wasting their time. The worst thing we can give subs is busy work. I know I don't want to return from an unexpected absence to spend my planning period calling parents and assigning detention.

My department's major focus this year is on writing. So here's what I did to make sub work count:
1. I created a three-columned chart. On it, I listed all of my units in one column and the textbook chapters that align with them in the next. If you don't have a textbook, you can link to online readings (a pain to do, but worth it in the long-run). I also found films on YouTube that go with each chapter and linked to them in the third column.
2. Then I have a week's worth of activities that will enable students to keep on track with the content and to work on their writing skills. (Picture this in an email to the school secretary: copy handouts 1, 2, and 3, and use the accompanying reading and video for unit 5--DONE!) It goes like this:

    - Students will read any chapter in any textbook or an online reading and complete activities that are more relevant and engaging than the questions at the end of the section. 
    - Then they will narrow a topic, generate a thesis statement, plan an essay, write a rough draft, engage in relevant peer editing, and finally compose a final essay draft.
    - Students will watch a film and complete a film guide over their topic and create a test.
    - Students will reflect upon their own performance with a self-guided work rubric. There is also an editable rubric for the essay final draft.
    - When you return, take questions from the tests they created and make quiz to use as formative assessment. This way you will get a better idea of what content to revisit.

This takes some time on the front end, but once you have it, it's done and unplanned absences are so much less stressful. These are the ones I made:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!
Check them out HERE!
How are you getting ready to go back? Leave a comment and let me know. And come back next week to check out vital skills I am finding ways to integrate into my curriculum for the upcoming school year.


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You've made it to the last week of school, but you're seriously burned out. What to do?! Read this blog post, of course - it rounds up 10 activities that are perfect for secondary grades during the last week of school! We're all tired at the end of the year, so these activities will help you and your high school students stay sane. Read more here!

We're finally in the last week of school--that long-awaited moment in time that feels more like an eternity. Some classes have exams the final week, and others do not. So here, in this final post before summer break, I want to discuss ways to keep students engaged (and yourself sane) whether your course has a final exam or not.

There is nothing new in this final post. It is rather a compilation of strategies I've written about over the years that I hope will help you in the last week of school.

So here is Simple Spring Engagement #1:

10 Activities for the Last Week of School

If You Are Testing:

1. Have a QR Code Scavenger Hunt. This is an amazing activity to encourage students to review while moving (and getting out nervous energy of impending exams). Post QR Codes around the school that contain questions. Have students find, scan, and answer the questions in teams. The first team to find and answer all questions wins! HERE are instructions and a printable cheat sheet for creating a QR Code Scavenger Hunt of your own.

2. Use Google Slides to Have a Collaborative Review. Have students create their own cumulative review to share with the class. Create student groups and assign each group a unit to teach. Their instructive slide will be a part of a whole class presentation that will serve as study guide for the exam. Be sure to read all about how to implement this and download the student rubric HERE.

3. Use Quizlet for Quick Vocabulary Reviews. If you've already built Quizlet sets for your units, then this requires no prep on your part. Of course, you can play the engaging collaborative game, Quizlet Live, but there's so much more you can do with Quizlet. Learn about some quick reviews HERE

4. Have a Cooperative Review. Students will make their own tests in groups and then answer each other's questions. Pull some of their questions into your exam for added engagement. Find out how to implement this and download the free resource HERE.

You've made it to the last week of school, but you're seriously burned out. What to do?! Read this blog post, of course - it rounds up 10 activities that are perfect for secondary grades during the last week of school! We're all tired at the end of the year, so these activities will help you and your high school students stay sane. Read more here!5. Review for Exams in 15 Minutes or Less. My school has short study sessions during final exam week. Find suggestions for mini exam reviews HERE.

If You Are Not Testing:

6. Have Students Create The Guidelines for a Final Project. Lead a class discussion about what students have learned in the course. Ask them what an ideal final project would be (nothing is not an option :)). As a class, construct a rubric. For an example, click HERE. Then have students work on the project.

7. Students Will Love Speed Drawing Their Year. The day before, ask students to reflect on their year in writing, and then have a class discussion. See if you can come up with topics as a class based on the discussion (possible topics may be "Classes," "Changes," "Friends," "Clubs," "Sports," "Discoveries," "Milestones," etc.). Set up a station for each topic. Place a piece of butcher paper at each station. Set a timer, and have students rotate through each station, drawing and writing a caption for whatever comes to mind. HERE are instructions for implementing Speed Drawing.

8. Have a Real-World Problem Solving Challenge. Follow the steps HERE to encourage students to think of a social problem and a possible solution. End the lesson with a discussion on ideas on how they can get involved in helping to see change through this summer.

9. Have Students Create a Top 10 List. Ask students to discuss the past school year with a partner. They should brainstorm and come up with a theme that encapsulates the year for them. It could be funny, cathartic, academic, social, etc. They should then list 10 examples from the past year that support that theme, counting down to example number 1. HERE's one I made about absurd teaching moments.  

10. Get Feedback for Next Year. This is not for the faint-hearted--but it is for those who truly want to grow. Create a survey for your students to complete that asks them to reflect over your course. Ask them what they enjoyed and what they didn't, what they thought was effective and what wasn't. Ask for suggestions for improvement. Use the more thoughtful feedback to update your plans over the summer.

I hope this year's Spring Countdown series has helped you--what are some ways you keep your students engaged until the end? Leave a comment and let me know. And remember--we're almost there!


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Make differentiating your lessons a breeze with the help of AutoMastery! AutoMastery is a free add-on for use with Google Forms, and it helps teachers differentiate instruction in a snap. Learn more about how this add-on works and how you can use it to make leveled assignments in your secondary classroom in this blog post!

I've been counting down to summer break with simple spring engagement tips. It's hard to believe that there are only two weeks left in the 2017-2018 school year, but our goal is to finish strong (even though most of us [ahem...me] aren't feeling strong). In the words of one of my former admins, "We need to outlast them."

And SO... I've been cataloging simple strategies to keep the students engaged to the bitter end--Use Your Smart Phone to Make Discussions Count, Get Students Moving with Speed Drawing, Create a Classroom Simulation in Four Steps, and Five Ways to Make Test Week Manageable (When You're Not Testing)

Make differentiating your lessons a breeze with the help of AutoMastery! AutoMastery is a free add-on for use with Google Forms, and it helps teachers differentiate instruction in a snap. Learn more about how this add-on works and how you can use it to make leveled assignments in your secondary classroom in this blog post!
This week, I want to talk about an INSANELY simple way to differentiate. In this end of the year context, I'm using it for exam review. But that doesn't do it justice...not at all. We can use this tool to differentiate all year. With MINIMAL effort.

Think pretests and other formative assessments having leveled assignments pushed out to students based on their scores. AUTOMATICALLY. Thank you, MaryEllen West, my hero, for creating this astoundingly useful differentiation tool. Scroll to the end of this post for a video tutorial and downloadable Cheat Sheet for using the free Add-On AutoMastery.

How to Differentiate with AutoMastery

AutoMastery is a free Google Forms Add-On that enables you to give students a diagnostic quiz, and based on their scores, to sort students into three groups—beginning, intermediate, and mastery. AutoMastery then emails your students assignments appropriate to their score. 

Of course, you set up assignments and assign the links--just remember to change the link to force a copy if you are using Google Docs or Slides so that the students can edit without messing up your originals. 
Make differentiating your lessons a breeze with the help of AutoMastery! AutoMastery is a free add-on for use with Google Forms, and it helps teachers differentiate instruction in a snap. Learn more about how this add-on works and how you can use it to make leveled assignments in your secondary classroom in this blog post!
Thanks to Natasha Rachell for the time-saving Force Copy tip!

How I Used AutoMastery to Differentiate Exam Review

Exams are the Bane of Spring, especially in content-heavy courses where we have to work right up to exam time to finish. AutoMastery can save the day here.

1. Create a diagnostic quiz in Google Forms that encompasses major ideas from each unit the exam will cover. I did 25 questions and explained to the students that it was not comprehensive, but diagnostic.

2. Set three levels for the score. I did below 70 for Beginner and above 90 for Mastery. AutoMastery then makes the Intermediate level between 70 and 89 automatically.

3. Force a copy link for the three different assignments and paste the links into the levels in AutoMastery.

4. Instruct students to check their email when they finish the quiz and to complete the review assignment.

Make differentiating your lessons a breeze with the help of AutoMastery! AutoMastery is a free add-on for use with Google Forms, and it helps teachers differentiate instruction in a snap. Learn more about how this add-on works and how you can use it to make leveled assignments in your secondary classroom in this blog post!
Be sure to check out the video tutorial and download the Cheat Sheet:


Make differentiating your lessons a breeze with the help of AutoMastery! AutoMastery is a free add-on for use with Google Forms, and it helps teachers differentiate instruction in a snap. Learn more about how this add-on works and how you can use it to make leveled assignments in your secondary classroom in this blog post!
Download It Now
How do you differentiate in your classroom? Leave a comment to let me know, and don't forget to check back next week for the final Simple Spring Engagement Tip--Two more week 'til summer break! :)


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Testing week is never fun for anyone, and sometimes we end up with classes of students for long periods of time while other groups test. How can we work through that with high school students? In this post, I'm sharing five ways to make test week manageable for secondary students and teachers. Click through to learn the five tips!

Three weeks until summer break, and it's finally here, what we've been waiting for since the beginning--state mandated standardized testing.

I don't need to elaborate on the particular joys of the season as we are all aware of them, but there is
Testing week is never fun for anyone, and sometimes we end up with classes of students for long periods of time while other groups test. How can we work through that with high school students? In this post, I'm sharing five ways to make test week manageable for secondary students and teachers. Click through to learn the five tips!
one particular joy I'm trying to dampen just a bit. That's having a non-testing class for three hours straight while some of the students are not there because they are, in fact, testing.

What do you do with that time? It's hard to move on because some of your students are testing. The students you still have are basically zombies from testing earlier in the day or week. All they want to do is stare at their phones, but they do enough of that every other second of their lives.

So here it is, Simple Spring Engagement #3:

Five Ways to Make Test Week Manageable (When You're Not Testing)

1. Play Games

Testing week is never fun for anyone, and sometimes we end up with classes of students for long periods of time while other groups test. How can we work through that with high school students? In this post, I'm sharing five ways to make test week manageable for secondary students and teachers. Click through to learn the five tips!
No matter how old you are, games are fun (ever seen Game Night? Don't show it to your students, but it's a fun watch). Plus, they foster community and collaboration and competition, and they get students' noses out of a screen and force socialization. All of these soft skills are important.

When I go to thrift stores, I pick up games. Great ones for the classroom are UNO, Life, Monopoly, Jenga, and various versions of Trivial Pursuit. Jigsaw puzzles are relaxing and great for collaboration.

If you want to bring your content into it, you can write vocabulary, people, events, and concepts on a strips of paper and play Charades or Pictionary. I'll sometimes type vocabulary for the entire year, one word per slide, and play "Face the Class"--a Head's Up style game in which a student has to stand with her back to the word while classmates shout out hints without saying the word. This is easy to make yourself, but here's a good-looking template with a timer and scoreboard ready to go.

2. Color (Seriously)

Testing week is never fun for anyone, and sometimes we end up with classes of students for long periods of time while other groups test. How can we work through that with high school students? In this post, I'm sharing five ways to make test week manageable for secondary students and teachers. Click through to learn the five tips!
Students are often stressed during test week, and coloring is relaxing. If I'm having a game day, I'll often print out coloring sheets for students who just want to sit quietly and color. Crayola has some you can print for free here.

If there's a content-related movie I want to show, I always have a coloring film guide (especially during testing week) to keep students focused and relaxed. The added bonus is that they're still learning. You can check out my Color-Fill Film Guides here.

3. Have Creative Mini Reviews

Testing week is never fun for anyone, and sometimes we end up with classes of students for long periods of time while other groups test. How can we work through that with high school students? In this post, I'm sharing five ways to make test week manageable for secondary students and teachers. Click through to learn the five tips!
Grab This Free Handout
Task Cards are great for this. If you are unfamiliar with task cards, they are bite-sized tasks written on
cards. Students can draw one task from a hat to complete or complete all of them. I like them because I laminate them to store in index card boxes to use again and again.

I have a set of free early finisher task cards here that are perfect for mini reviews.

I also love to have students represent what they've learned in pictures. A fun strategy is to ask each student to create "film" storyboards of a unit or topic you have covered over the school year. Download a free handout for this here.

4. Reflect on the Year

I also use task cards for this. I like to ask students to either draw a couple randomly or complete all 12 task cards. They give tips to future students, reflect on activities, and set future goals. You can also download these task cards for free here.

5. Have Students Make (Productive) Summer Plans

No, I'm not talking about scoring Play Station trophies--I'm talking about encouraging students to get to know their hometowns.

What makes your town/city unique? Does it have a rich history? An aquarium? Interesting people to talk to? Plan a short presentation on local (educational) things for students to do over the summer. Discuss your town's history briefly. Get your students interested in being tourists in their hometowns this summer. Here's a free activity you can give them to reinforce this.

And finally, what if you find yourself giving a test like I often do--locked in a stuffy room with students for three hours at a time with no digital devices, reading, or grading allowed? There's not much you can do at that point, but if you've ever found yourself testing Algebra I students in a French classroom with a window view of a parking lot, then this poem (penciled on sticky notes) is for you:

Testing week is never fun for anyone, and sometimes we end up with classes of students for long periods of time while other groups test. How can we work through that with high school students? In this post, I'm sharing five ways to make test week manageable for secondary students and teachers. Click through to learn the five tips!

How do you keep yourself sane during testing? Leave a comment and let me know. And don't forget to check out the tips in my other Simple Spring Engagement series: Week 6, Week 5, Week 4.

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