Monday, September 21, 2015

Using the Short Discussion to Teach Reasoning

Reasoning is a skill that I worry might be shoved in the background a little too often. In our current educational climate of standardized testing, multiple choice, and "drill-and-kill," how can we teach reasoning? In this post I describe how I use short discussions on a consistent basis to teach reasoning and thinking skills.
I am definitely not anti multiple choice. It's easy to grade, and sometimes students simply need to recognize information. When you want students to identify, multiple choice is fine.

I just worry that in this day of overcrowded classrooms and standardized testing, many of us are over-using multiple choice at the expense of asking our students to reason. I am invested in the future of our nation as a citizen, obviously, so I am happy to pay school taxes long after my son graduates, but I want the free and public education that his children and their children receive to be a quality one. We're all paying for it, after all ;).

We are the present, but the students that we teach today are the future, and I have every hope that our future will be a bright one. We obviously have to comply with the current bureaucratic, kill and drill, multiple choice climate of public education if we'd like to remain a part of it (and I feel a need to). So how do we work around it and teach our students to think, anyway? How do we do that and maintain our own family lives when we see upwards of 100 students everyday?

Reasoning is a skill that I worry might be shoved in the background a little too often. In our current educational climate of standardized testing, multiple choice, and "drill-and-kill," how can we teach reasoning? In this post I describe how I use short discussions on a consistent basis to teach reasoning and thinking skills.It is imperative that students develop the ability to reason and explain their reasoning. A strategy that I use with my struggling students (and it can be modified for students of various ability levels) is a short discussion question that students have to answer at the end of a brief lecture or introduction to a topic.

The key to making these short discussions manageable (for me, anyway, on a consistent basis) is to require that they only be a paragraph. A paragraph isn't much to read, but it's enough space to allow students practice developing one idea and providing examples from the content to support their idea.

The question for the short discussion should ask the students to use the class content to reason, compare, analyze, discuss, connect, or argue. Here's a graphic organizer that I give students to help them organize their ideas and to encourage them to provide examples from the content they have learned in class.
Reasoning is a skill that I worry might be shoved in the background a little too often. In our current educational climate of standardized testing, multiple choice, and "drill-and-kill," how can we teach reasoning? In this post I describe how I use short discussions on a consistent basis to teach reasoning and thinking skills.


When students write their first short discussion, I read through them using this rubric. I assign a score to each one. Then I copy a 5, 4, 3, 2, and a 1 as examples (leaving out names and scores).

I put students in groups of three, and have them read through the paragraphs, assign a score using the rubric for each, and explain in writing why they assigned each score.
Reasoning is a skill that I worry might be shoved in the background a little too often. In our current educational climate of standardized testing, multiple choice, and "drill-and-kill," how can we teach reasoning? In this post I describe how I use short discussions on a consistent basis to teach reasoning and thinking skills.
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As a large group, we discuss the score each small group assigned each paragraph and they explain their reasoning. Amazingly enough, each score is remarkably similar to the one that I assigned the paragraphs.

They then know what to expect the next time, and they are prepared to peer-edit (which I require them to do in pairs before they hand in each short discussion response).

It's not a lot, and it doesn't take much class time, but the short discussion approach does help students to step outside of the multiple choice box and practice reasoning. It is vital that they do this.

How do you help your students reason through the content? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Monday, September 14, 2015

These are a Few of My Favorite Games--5 Easy Games for the Classroom

Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post!
I love Jeopardy for review in my classroom--who doesn't? But I also like to mix things up. And let's face it, Jeopardy for every unit can get redundant. But I've had the PowerPoint template for years, and I happen to have a Jeopardy game for each of my units in several subjects.

Does anybody else remember the poster board with pockets filled with index cards? "Those were the days." Sigh....

I'm a huge fan of jeopardy as a review game, but this year, I'm on a mission to mix things up. And so I have, for better or for worse. Here are some review games you'll find my classes playing this year:

Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post!

Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post! Okay, this is a simple twist on Jeopardy for the teacher who has Jeopardy games already made, but wants to try something different. Students really get into it, and it's informal--like trivia night at a pizza joint. Here's how I do it:


-Put the students in groups of 4.
-Have them tear a piece of paper into scraps, and place their group number on each scrap.
-Project one question at a time.
-Set a timer for between 30 and 60 seconds.
-In that amount of time, students must agree on an answer in their groups, write it on a scrap piece of paper with their number on it, and send a group member to hand it to me.
-If they get it to me with the correct answer before time is up, their group gets a point.

-When the board is complete, the group with the most points wins (extra credit, a treat, etc…).

Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post! This one requires almost no prep. You just need two flyswatters (I like the fun ones you can buy at dollar stores, bees, ladybugs, hands, and such) and to write a list of words, spread out, on your whiteboard. Here's How to Play


-Divide the class into two teams.
-Write vocabulary words on the board.
-1 student from each team comes to the board.
-Teacher reads a definition.
-The first student to hit the correct word with the flyswatter wins a point for their team (be sure to give them a limit for the number of swats they can take [I make it two] or they will just start randomly swatting words).
-The team with the most points after everyone has had a turn wins (candy, extra credit…).

Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post! Hectic day? Need a little peace but also need to review? Talking during this game would defeat the purpose. Give it a try:

-Divide the class into two teams.
-Number the students (have them write their number down so that they don't forget!).
-Say, "person 5 against person 5," and read a question.
-The fives from each team should run to the board, and write what they think is the correct answer.
-The first to write the correct answer wins a point for their team.
-If neither get it right, call a different set up (for example, person 10 against person 10).

They should not talk during this game, and once you've read all of the cards, and each one has been given a correct answer, the team with the most points wins. If they insist on being rowdy and shouting out answers, just stop the game, and have them make up a practice test with an answer key based on their notes....tee-hee.

Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post! This is an amazing Kagan Structure that provides valuable review and has saved my tail on more than one occasion when I've either not had enough time for a full review game or have just had a few extra minutes in class that aren't filled. I always keep a couple of sets of my vocabulary flash cards printed from quizlet.com on hand just in case. Here's how it goes:

-    -Each student gets a flash card.
     -Set the timer for 5 minutes.
     -Students circulate the room.
     -Students turn to a partner.
     -Partner 1 shows the word on her card to partner 2.
     -Partner 2 gives the definition (if he doesn’t know it, partner 1 reads the definition [don’t waste time trying to remember it; this is a quick review]).
     -Partner 2 shows his word to partner 1.
     -Partner 1 gives the definitions. 
     -Partners 1 &2 swap cards.
     -They seek out new partners and repeat until the timer goes off.
   
Classroom games are a fun way to extend learning and review material. As much as I love the ol' Jeopardy standby, I've started implementing five other classroom games into my instruction. These five include Trivia, the Fly Swatter Game, Face-Off, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and Roll and Know. Read how to play each one in this post!     This one take some up-front planning, but once the students "get it," you can relax and facilitate. Ahhhh...you're not the leader of this game. This game uses dice, a card deck, and a round card for each player or team. 
   
     You can make it all yourself--just watch the video below. Or you can get my version HERE. The card deck is editable, so that you can easily add your own questions and answers. Check out the video here:
     
     Have fun, and keep 'em learning! What are some of your favorite review games? leave a comment below, and let me know. Until next week,

Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Easy Alternatives to Lecture

Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing.
So, I don't know about you, but the new school year is in full swing, and things are crazy around here (stacks of papers to grade, keeping my son on track with his new homework load, planning for a new course, and cooking dinner, oh, my).

But something has been at the forefront of my mind as I plan for this year--how to make my classroom more interactive. I've always found this easy to do in an English class, but it's more challenging in certain courses.

In world history, in particular, we don't have textbooks, and it's a content heavy course (the history of the world in 18 weeks), so I do rely on lecture. I try never to lecture for longer than 10 minutes without transitioning to a reinforcement activity, or a get-out-of-your-seats review, but I have students this semester whose attention spans can't even handle 10 minutes, so I've been brainstorming for new ways to deliver content without lecturing.

Keep in mind that the students I teach in world history tend to be struggling and have a difficult time self-starting. It tends to be the opposite end of the spectrum in psychology and sociology. Of course, in some classes students fall everywhere on the spectrum.

Here are five ideas I've come up with so far:

Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing.


Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing. Turn Your Notes Into a Gallery Walk: Strapped for time? Need students to get specific information, but lecture's no good for them? This one's easy.

Print the slides of your PowerPoint, and post them around the room. Give students a copy of a guided notes handout and put them in groups of three or four. Play some music, and have groups rotate clockwise around the room. I ring a bell when it's time to rotate.

When they are finished, give students a handout with a question or two about each section of the notes that encourage them to reflect on the notes in terms of cause and effect and analysis.

Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing. Have Students Create the Gallery Walk: If you have a little more time, this is the better option. Give each group a handout with a specific topic and specific guidelines and information to include. Have them create their own gallery display. You can get an example for free HERE.

Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing. Picture Notes: Give students a copy of notes already filled in, and have groups of two or three, have them transform the notes into a series of pictures. Here's a handout I made for this that you can download now:
Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing.
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Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing. Video Webquest: Find a series of short videos that relate to your topic, make a handout with reflection questions, activities, and QR codes to the videos. Instruct students to bring earbuds (never a problem for mine :)). Students tend to really like this, plus (bonus) the classroom is really quiet. I have a WWI trenches video webquest that you can see HERE.

Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing.Simulations: Be on the look out for concepts that can just as easily be taught with simulations. When I teach imperialism in world history, for example, I have an administrator come in and "take over" my classroom. They make all kinds of changes--it's very disorienting.

I've been having a lot of fun with simulations in psychology. An example is teaching the difference between sensation and perception. I led the students on a walk around campus, and they had to record the different sensations they experienced. Back in the classroom, they compared their observations and discovered that, even though everyone experienced the same things, what they recorded was different. We then discussed that this is because we all perceive (or organize our sensations) differently.

You can download the handouts for the simulation right now by clicking the link below the picture. It's part of a larger package that you can preview HERE.
Lectures are a traditional stand-by teaching method, especially in social studies. However, there are lots of ways to make class more interactive and engaging for students. I share five instructional methods I've started using in my classroom that make my teaching more interactive and that provide an alternative to lecturing.
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Every so often this school year, I'll post alternatives to lecture that I'm experimenting with. What are some alternatives to lecture that you use in your classroom? Leave a comment below to let me know!


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