Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Treat For Teachers--Using Holidays For Learning Fun

Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.
This week, I'm linking up with the teachers at Secondary Smorgasbord to offer treats for teachers.Thanks to ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting!

When I was a grad student, I remember saying, "I don't think it's right to give the students candy. Knowledge should be the reward, and sugar's bad. Motivation should be intrinsic."

I know--at 22, I had ideals.

So what changed? I feel like I do still have ideals, but the classroom trenches give me a new perspective, and I realize something extraordinarily important--students LOVE candy.

Case in point. I have an exchange student from Kazakhstan who does not approve of the American diet. Everything is unhealthy. But she LOVES the jolly ranchers that I keep in a jar on my desk. As a matter of fact, she asks for one (or five) everyday.

Who doesn't love a treat?

Not a soul in my most difficult class is failing so far this semester, and because of it, they are getting a "Colombian Exchange" party this Friday. We're having pizza, cookies, and chips, oh my! (My 22 year-old self is shaking her head in indignation--at least it's connected to our current unit.)

But the students are happy, and their hard work is rewarded. And my life is made easier (small [k, HUGE] bonus).

Little treats add fun to life, and why should that be a bad thing? Everything in moderation--both sugar and hard work. But life needs some of each. So why not embrace the holidays instead of ignoring them? The students are excited, anyway. Why not channel that excitement into learning opportunities?

So for Halloween, instead of keeping calm, I'm embracing the festivity. I'm making pumpkin lattes, crock pot-style. We're going to play Halloween games (content-based, of course--learning Mary Poppins-style with "a spoonful of sugar"). I have some content-based Halloween activities for world history and sociology, and I'm working on one for psychology that should be a lot of fun (check them out here).

But here is a treat for you this Halloween--a free game that can be used with content for any subject:
Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.
Grab it HERE!
And here's that pumpkin latte recipe--it's vital that you top it with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.
Picture this in fine paper cups....
-9 cups milk (I use 2%)
-7 cups coffee (brewed double-strength)
-1 cup sugar
-1 & 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
-2 tablespoons vanilla
-1 cup canned pumpkin

Mix it all together in a large crock pot, cook on high for 2 hours, and then set to "keep warm."





Looking for more teacher-treats this Halloween? Check out these great posts from the Secondary Smorgasbord teachers. Be sure to let me know how you'll handle Halloween in the comments below!

Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Monday, October 5, 2015

Difficult Class? Try a Cooperative Review

Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
I love playing games. My husband and I enjoy everything from Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble to more esoteric resource and strategy games like Seven Wonders and Game of Thrones.

I bring a lot of games into my classroom. I've written about some of them here. I love it when classes can learn and review that way because it truly is fun.

But I, like many of you, I'm sure, spend August through May embedded in the trenches of the secondary classroom. From that perspective, what works always trumps the ideal. There are some classes that don't handle games very well. We've all been there.

Right? (Please tell me that it's not just me). Does any of this sound familiar?

- Student A attacks student B for missing an answer.
- Student C tells Student D to "Shut the *@## up!" because you said the game would have to stop if they couldn't play nice.
- Student F refuses to play because he doesn't care.
- Student G refuses to play because she's afraid of looking stupid.
Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
This is what it looks like.
There are multiple reasons games may not work. So how do you provide effective and engaging review without engaging in competition for students who just can't seem to handle it?

One strategy that I've found useful is to have the students create their own test using their unit materials.

Remember way back when we were students? Our teachers had no idea what study guides were. A strategy some of us would use to try to guess what might show up on that elusive entity called "the test" was to create our own test. That always worked very well for me.
Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
How I got to school....
I don't see many of my students doing this on their own at my suggestion, so sometimes, I devote class time for it.

I'll divide the class into small groups of two or three, divide the unit into chunks (if it's a big unit), and make each group responsible for test questions for their section.

I give them a template that they can write their questions on so that there is no mistake about what I expect, and an answer key template for the same reason. They label their test and answer key--"Test 1," "Test 2," "Test 3," etc.... I find that students will take as long on a task as you give them, so I limit them to around 30 minutes to create their tests.
Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
Get the template for free HERE


The next day, I set up as many stations around the room as I have tests. The students rotate in their groups, answering the questions on an answer sheet provided at each station. They may collaborate on answers in their small groups (Here's how that works). They should put their answer sheets in a folder at the station when they finish and rotate to the next station.

When everybody's finished, the group that created each test will take the folder of answer sheets from their station and use their key to grade them. Then each group should go over the answers with the class.

I even pull a question or two from each group test to use on our unit test--the students love seeing their questions validated in that way.

Roll with the punches and keep heart. The students are watching. :)

How do you review without competition? Leave a comment below to let me know!