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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Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!

Spring is in the air (despite the need for sweaters in mid April), and the students are feeling it. They may be feeling it a bit more this year because of our lack of an actual spring. Something magically happens to their already abbreviated attention spans after spring break come rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine.
Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!

But we still have six weeks until summer break. Six weeks that can be long and excruciating, or six weeks that can be engaging and productive. Each year, I count down to summer break by looking for strategies in an attempt to steer my classroom along the second route.

My past series have focused mainly on tech tips. This year, I'm looking into simple, engaging strategies that may or may not involve tech. But hopefully, these are ideas that will be easy for you to implement and will help hold your students' interest until the bitter end.

So here is Simple Spring Engagement # 6:

Use Your Smartphone to Make Discussions Count

Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!This is an insanely simple strategy to implement in the age of Smartphones. Seriously, if I wanted to take pictures in class, I used to have to check a camera out from the media center. Now, I always have one in my pocket.

Our students are native documenters--they are constantly snapping selfies and posting to social media. So when having a simple classroom discussion, a great way to get students engaged and to give an otherwise mundane activity a sense of importance is by documenting it (almost) just like they document every aspect of their lives.

What you need to make this happen:

1. An optional homework assignment to provide students with background knowledge for the discussion.

I am using a lesson my student teacher implemented as an example here. We were going to discuss Machiavelli's ideas about leaders the next day in class, so he assigned students an excerpt from The Prince and an APPARTS (primary source analysis graphic organizer). There is a social media activity that accompanies this activity that he assigned for homework AFTER the class discussion. You can preview the assignment here.

2. A discussion topic with an "activator," such as a KWL chart to get the conversation going.

My student teacher wanted to have a discussion over Machiavelli's ideas about leadership. He drew a chart on the board asking for types of leaders, characteristics of good leaders, and ways for leaders to get things done. Students could approach the board and write their answers. Conversely, they could "shout out" their answers, and he would write them on the board.
Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!
Wishing I had taken a minute to clean the board....
3. A Guiding Presentation so that the discussion doesn't wander out into the springtime courtyard.

He created a PowerPoint Presentation with selected quotes from The Prince. He also put each quote into his own words (to make them easy for students to understand). He put students into pairs, and they were instructed to discuss the quote and decide whether they agreed or disagreed with Machiavelli's assertion about leadership, and to explain why or why not.

4. Mini whiteboards, scratch paper, or 1:1 devices with a whiteboard app (I discuss a free site here that can be used on any device). Employ the Think-Pair-Share strategy:

He gave students a couple of minutes to individually write their responses on their mini whiteboard. Then they had to discuss their opinions with their partner, come to a consensus, and write their consensus on one of their whiteboards. Then each pair shared their response with the class.

5. The camera on your Smartphone to "make it count."

My student teacher and I decided which response was the most well-thought-out and clearly explained. I snapped a picture of that pair holding up their whiteboard. This immediately grabbed their attention. They loved posing for the picture. We added an extra dimension to this by awarding XP (experience points for my gamified classroom). If you don't gamify, extra credit or candy has a similar motivating effect.
Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!
An added benefit of the camera is that it offers paperless reinforcement and accountability.
Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!
Preview them HERE.
6. An Exit Activity, such as an exit ticket or poll, to encourage students to reflect over the activity.

Classroomscreen.com has a basic exit poll (here's my tutorial). Also, Poll Everywhere has an add in for PowerPoint. We just pulled one of my digital exit tickets from here.


7. Butcher Paper to "publish" your photos.

On planning the next day, I got a piece of butcher paper from the media center. I uploaded the pictures I had taken to my computer. I opened PowerPoint and inserted the pictures to make a collage. Then I pulled a speech bubble in from the "shapes" feature in the "insert" toolbar.

Looking for new ways to grab students' attention in the classroom? Use your smartphone to snap pictures of parts of the discussion as part of the documentation! This is a simple way to make discussions count and to make lessons more engaging. Click through to get more information about this teaching technique!I copied and pasted Machiavelli's quotes from my student teacher's PowerPoint into speech bubbles. I then typed snippets from my students' whiteboard pictures into speech bubbles with their pictures next to their quotes.

It took about thirty minutes to put together, but the students loved seeing it hanging in the room. It added a sense of importance to an otherwise normal classroom discussion.

How do you make discussions count in your classroom? Leave a comment below to let us know! And I'll see you next week for another Simple Spring Engagement idea.






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