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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At the end of the year, teachers usually need some new ideas to freshen things up in the classroom. This blog post walks you through how to create a classroom simulation, which is a great activity for high school social studies classes. Click through to learn more about implementing class simulations in your secondary classroom!

We are now FOUR weeks away from summer vacation. I find myself tired, irritable, and all around unpleasant. My students obviously feel the same way. They were super angry the other day when I had them for three hours (during end of course testing) and decided to have class as usual. They said we needed a movie--I said we needed content.

At this point in the year, this clip perfectly sums up how my students and I are feeling:


I want to entertain them--I do, and I am really tired myself, but my job is to teach them the history of the world, and we're not finished, so we have to keep going. The trick this time of the year is to find easy to implement activities that engage to keep us all from going crazy. So far this year, I've written about making discussions more engaging and speed drawing.

Here is another way to help you keep your sanity and still teach the content in the weeks leading up to summer break with Simple Spring Engagement #4:

Create a Classroom Simulation in Four Steps

At the end of the year, teachers usually need some new ideas to freshen things up in the classroom. This blog post walks you through how to create a classroom simulation, which is a great activity for high school social studies classes. Click through to learn more about implementing class simulations in your secondary classroom!
Most of us have tried simulations at one point or another. Simulations are basically role-playing in order for students to better understand a concept or an event. At the end of the year, when telling is even less effective than usual, this is an especially useful strategy. 

There are really no rules for simulations, but I've found that most effective simulations have four parts (download the template [for free] to help you plan HERE):

1. A Goal
2. A Situation
3. An Activity
4. A Debrief 

I'll use as an example a very basic simulation I do each year when introducing the Enlightenment in world history. It's a part of my Enlightenment and Revolution Interactive Notebook. And it's super basic.

Goal:
I want my students to understand the difference between reason and logic. We've already discussed how classical scholars used logic to make sense of the world (think Plato and Aristotle).

Situation:
I tell them that it's very important for them to understand the message I am about to send. To raise the stakes, I offer XP (experience points for my gamified classroom, but candy works just as well) to any student who gets the message right.

Activity:
On a miniature whiteboard, I write a message. It can be anything, but it needs to contain some type of
At the end of the year, teachers usually need some new ideas to freshen things up in the classroom. This blog post walks you through how to create a classroom simulation, which is a great activity for high school social studies classes. Click through to learn more about implementing class simulations in your secondary classroom!
error that the mind won't usually catch on a quick read, such as, "1st period id the best," or "1st period is the the best." You get the idea.

I hold the whiteboard up for a second only. Then I ask, "Who knows what the message is?" Several students are generally close. They say, "1st period is the best."

I say, "Nope."

They insist. Sometimes, a random student will get it right--then they get the XP. I then hold the board up for longer and let what it says actually sink in.

They say, "That's stupid," or "That's not fair," or "That doesn't make any sense."

At the end of the year, teachers usually need some new ideas to freshen things up in the classroom. This blog post walks you through how to create a classroom simulation, which is a great activity for high school social studies classes. Click through to learn more about implementing class simulations in your secondary classroom!
Debrief:
We discuss why it's not fair and why it doesn't make sense. I then tell them that that's the difference between reason and logic. 

"People generally have ten toes, so it makes sense that Mary Jane has ten toes, but how can we find out for sure?" I ask.

"Have her take off her shoes," they answer.

"And what if we find out she has nine toes? Logic is what makes sense, ten toes--reason is what is, nine toes. It's not logical that the earth is moving because I'm standing still, but we all know that the earth is moving. We use our reason to test logic."

Then they are ready to discuss the Scientific Method and Revolution and the Enlightenment. 

How do you implement simulations in your classroom? Leave a comment below to let me know. And don't forget to download the planning template. ALSO be sure to check out this free simulation that's ready to go for your classroom:

Social Institutions: Electoral College Simulation and Reflection
Download HERE


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Every secondary teacher looks for ways to avoid lecture, and this speed drawing activity is a great replacement! Break your lesson up into centers and set out reading and butcher block paper at each one. Students rotate from center to center to read and speed draw! Click through to learn more about this high school social studies activity.

I'm still here, counting down to summer break with Simple Spring Engagement Tips. Last week, I talked about a crazy easy way to get students excited about the humble discussion. This week, I'm linking up with an amazing group of teachers to talk about something that, even though it is effective (especially in the heady spring months), is often overlooked in the secondary classroom--MOVEMENT.

Students are already antsy in the weeks leading up to summer break--we may as well channel those ants and use them for the greater good.

So without further ado, here is Simple Spring Engagement #5:

Get Students Moving with Speed Drawing

Every secondary teacher looks for ways to avoid lecture, and this speed drawing activity is a great replacement! Break your lesson up into centers and set out reading and butcher block paper at each one. Students rotate from center to center to read and speed draw! Click through to learn more about this high school social studies activity.The conundrum of the secondary ELA and social studies teacher is the enormous amount of content we have to squeeze into the year. It's often tempting here at the end to stream a documentary and throw warning glares at the talkers and fidgeters (and I'm not saying I haven't done this--no judgement), but what if we could channel all of that energy for good?

Speed Drawing is an excellent strategy that allows students to move and be creative while you sneak in learning (sort of like kale brownies).

Case in point: I am tasked with teaching the history of the world in one school year. About the time we hit the time period between WWI and WWII, the students are finished. I have this really important lesson about culture between the wars--I mean, it explains a lot of how we intellectually got where we are today. The second part of the lesson is really active and engaging for the students, but in order to get them to that point, I have to lecture a bit up front. 

The students are not amenable to hearing me lecture a bit when pollen's in the air. And quite frankly, I'm not amenable to doing it.

To give you a bit of unnecessary background on the genesis of this idea (which I will backtrack and say is necessary because I think it's important for teachers to get ideas from everywhere, and thinking through the pedagogical process is beneficial). I was cutting through a colleague's classroom, a wonderful ESL teacher at my school, when I noticed decorated butcher paper all over the desks. I had to forego my initial mission (a coveted trip to the restroom--hard to come by) to ask her what it was all about.

Every secondary teacher looks for ways to avoid lecture, and this speed drawing activity is a great replacement! Break your lesson up into centers and set out reading and butcher block paper at each one. Students rotate from center to center to read and speed draw! Click through to learn more about this high school social studies activity.
She was doing a jigsaw reading activity. Her students were assigned a portion of a reading from a novel. They had to read it closely, discuss it, draw a representation of it on the butcher paper, and share it with the class.

I ran and got the fantastic co teacher who works with me two periods a day. "You have to see this!" I said. "I think we can use it."

She and I were discussing the culture between the wars lesson later that day. I mentioned that the part leading up to the student created gallery walk was a reading and a short PowerPoint with video clips that essentially plays out like a lecture. She said, "Why don't we do the butcher paper thing instead?"

And so speed drawing was born.

The students absolutely LOVED it. They keep asking when we'll do it again. Here's how it works:

1. My co teacher took the reading and cut it into sections. She pasted each section onto a piece of butcher paper. She placed each piece of butcher paper onto a table in the media center. She numbered each table. Each table contained a separate topic--for our purposes: introduction, philosophy,
Every secondary teacher looks for ways to avoid lecture, and this speed drawing activity is a great replacement! Break your lesson up into centers and set out reading and butcher block paper at each one. Students rotate from center to center to read and speed draw! Click through to learn more about this high school social studies activity.
literature, technology, art, music, and fashion.

2. I embedded the films from the PowerPoint into Google Slides--one slide for each table (we placed a Chromebook on each table with the slide ready to go).

3. I set up seven groups for each class and a station rotation schedule (I have a free explanatory video and EDITABLE templates HERE--be sure to grab them!). I typed the instructions for students on the instruction schedule (two per sheet to save paper) so they could get started when the bell rang.

And it is important that they get started when the bell rings because I set the timer on classroom screen for 6 minutes per station--that's why it's called "speed drawing." I'm now on traditional schedule, so that gives us three minutes up front for clarification and five minutes at the end for debrief.

Every secondary teacher looks for ways to avoid lecture, and this speed drawing activity is a great replacement! Break your lesson up into centers and set out reading and butcher block paper at each one. Students rotate from center to center to read and speed draw! Click through to learn more about this high school social studies activity.
These images exemplify existentialism, flappers, the assembly line, and the Harlem Renaissance
4. Students start at a station. They read the short snippet and watch the film (three or fewer minutes), and they draw as soon as an idea hits. Their drawings do not have to be perfect--they simply must encapsulate a key idea from the station. I do specify that each student draws on the butcher paper, not just one person in the group. For accountability, I require them to write a caption and sign their name to their picture.

I did add an extra element of fun to this activity. We switched out the butcher paper for each of my classes so that each class had clean paper (but each group within each class used the same paper) and the following day, I asked other teachers to help decide which class had done the best job, and, yes, I had told the students there was a competition among classes, and, yes, deciding was largely subjective. But they did really want to win. The winning class won 50 XP (experience points) for each student. XP has to do with my gamified classroom, but if you don't gamify, there's always candy or extra credit. Are any of us really above bribes at this point? (Wait--don't answer that.) They were way excited to find out who won, though--a major win for this time of year.
Every secondary teacher looks for ways to avoid lecture, and this speed drawing activity is a great replacement! Break your lesson up into centers and set out reading and butcher block paper at each one. Students rotate from center to center to read and speed draw! Click through to learn more about this high school social studies activity.

5. The last thing you should consider is sending the message that their work really matters by "publishing" it (I explained why this is worthwhile HERE). What I mean by this is re-purposing what they've done. Don't just hang up the butcher paper from each class (if you have the space for that, I'm jealous). Mash it up. Cut out the most compelling pictures--not always the best, but a wide variety of thoughtful pics. Tape or glue those on a larger piece of butcher paper, and hang it up--my students were seriously excited to see this hanging in the classroom.

Channeling those student "ants" is key for success this time of year. Sometimes it's just a matter of tweaking assignments we already have so that students can move. "Speed Drawing" enables them to move from station to station, considering content, and responding to it in pictures.

Thanks to Darlene Anne and Pamela Kranz for hosting this link up of fantastic ideas for movement in the classroom--something that we secondary teachers truly need inspiration for this time of year!



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