If you’re like me, you find articles and primary sources all the time that you want to share with your students. Insert Learning is a free Chrome extension that helps you do this and turn it into a quality assignment. Click through to see how it works!

This week is a super quick tip about a free Chrome Extension that will change your life. Literally.

Remember back in the day, when we would clip an article from the newspaper, make copies, and write questions on the board for students to answer?

Well, you can do it all digitally now with insertlearning.com. It's so simple.

1. Find your article.
2. Click on the "IL" extension.
3. Pick a template if you want (all this does is give you questions and directions to copy and paste, which I love because it makes life easier).
4. Highlight, insert questions and sticky notes, and even insert videos!
5. Grab the link to share with your students or share it directly to Google Classroom.
6. Student responses will go to your dashboard.

If you’re like me, you find articles and primary sources all the time that you want to share with your students. Insert Learning is a free Chrome extension that helps you do this and turn it into a quality assignment. Click through to see how it works!

***A couple of things to keep in mind first--your students must have the extension and they must join your IL class (you can create as many as you want). They will join with a pin just like they do in Google Classroom.***

It's so easy and such a great tool to get our students reading and analyzing more current events and primary sources. And, since the internet is at your disposal, it's perfect for any subject.

Check out this video that shows you what it does:


Have you used Insert Learning in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know!

If you’re like me, you find articles and primary sources all the time that you want to share with your students. Insert Learning is a free Chrome extension that helps you do this and turn it into a quality assignment. Click through to see how it works!

And don't forget to check out last week's Tech of The Week: Easily Keep Parents Updated.


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Teachers are insanely busy. One of the purposes of technology in the classroom should be to make our lives easier. In this post, I’ll tell you how I simplify my life by fulfilling administrative obligations and keeping parents in the loop all at the same time with Google Slides. Click through to find out what I do!

Our students aren't the only ones bombarded by information--their parents are swamped, too. And for high school students, it's likely that we as teachers spend more time with them on a week day than their parents do (between clubs, sports, and other extra-curricular activities, family face-to-face time can be sparse).

So parents are busy and students don't always communicate with them about what's going on in class. Many teachers communicate with parents through email blasts and weekly newsletters. But teachers, we're busy, too, and those newsletters can take time we don't have.

If you're like me, you have to turn in weekly lesson plans, anyway, so I simplify my life and keep parents in the loop by creating my lesson plans in Google Slides. Keep in mind that my weekly lesson plans don't have to be insanely detailed because I'm also required to hand in very detailed unit plans. Every system is different.

Here's what you need to do:
1. Save your lesson plan template as an image. 
2. Resize a Google Slide Presentation to whatever size you want.
3. Insert the image into the background of your Slide. Don't forget to select a blank layout.
4. Insert text boxes into the appropriate places on the slide and type your plans.

Teachers are insanely busy. One of the purposes of technology in the classroom should be to make our lives easier. In this post, I’ll tell you how I simplify my life by fulfilling administrative obligations and keeping parents in the loop all at the same time with Google Slides. Click through to find out what I do!
Grab The Cheat Sheet for Free HERE!

5. Publish your slide show to the web.
6. Share the presentation link with the appropriate admin (I set it so the slides do not advance--then they are only looking at the current week's plans). 
7. Every week, copy a new slide to the top and type your plans. Since it's published to the web, it will automatically update--no new link required.
8. Every week, send an email blast to parents (I do this through Infinite Campus, but there are many ways--even creating an old-fashioned email list). I type a short greeting, upcoming due dates, and a link to the plans (the same one every week) so that parents have immediate access to it.

Teachers are insanely busy. One of the purposes of technology in the classroom should be to make our lives easier. In this post, I’ll tell you how I simplify my life by fulfilling administrative obligations and keeping parents in the loop all at the same time with Google Slides. Click through to find out what I do!
Grab The Cheat Sheet for Free HERE!

Tips:
- Place a link at the top of the slide to your class calendar.
- Create an email blast template for each class you teach so you don't have to retype everything (including the link).
- Make cards with a QR Code to this presentation and hand them out on parent/teacher night.

Here's what mine looks like:
Teachers are insanely busy. One of the purposes of technology in the classroom should be to make our lives easier. In this post, I’ll tell you how I simplify my life by fulfilling administrative obligations and keeping parents in the loop all at the same time with Google Slides. Click through to find out what I do!

How do you keep parents updated? Leave a comment and let me know.

Teachers are insanely busy. One of the purposes of technology in the classroom should be to make our lives easier. In this post, I’ll tell you how I simplify my life by fulfilling administrative obligations and keeping parents in the loop all at the same time with Google Slides. Click through to find out what I do!

And don't forget to check out last week's Tech of The Week: Use Learning Apps to Impress.


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This week's Tech of The Week discusses how to use the site learningapps.org to create free and effortless digital puzzles that are bound to impress your students and admin!

Here is a puzzle in one of my digital escape rooms:

This week's Tech of The Week discusses how to use the site learningapps.org to create free and effortless digital puzzles that are bound to impress your students and admin!
Preview The Escape Room HERE.
It looks complicated to make, right? Nope. Puzzles like these are crazy easy to make, thanks to learningapps.org. You can check out this post for a cheat sheet and video tutorial about how to create puzzles and activities using Learning Apps.

Learning Apps is absolutely free and you can create puzzles or search and use one of the many already created by other teachers.

Here are some of the ways I use Learning Apps:

1. In Digital Escape Rooms 

2. On Choice Boards

- As Games for Students to Play

- For Students to Create Their Own Games

This week's Tech of The Week discusses how to use the site learningapps.org to create free and effortless digital puzzles that are bound to impress your students and admin!
I discuss creating these in my Blended Classroom Course.

I reuse these for my gamified classroom. For every unit, I link to puzzles for early finishers to complete to earn extra XP (experience points).

This week's Tech of The Week discusses how to use the site learningapps.org to create free and effortless digital puzzles that are bound to impress your students and admin!


3. As a Partner Challenge to Break Up Lectures

The first pair to solve the puzzle that reinforces a concept wins.

How do/will you use learningapps.org in your classroom? Leave a comment to let me know!

This week's Tech of The Week discusses how to use the site learningapps.org to create free and effortless digital puzzles that are bound to impress your students and admin!

And don't forget to check out last week's Tech of The Week Tip: Making Gifs for Classroom Instruction!


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Every week this summer, I'm giving a quick tech tip for you to use in your classroom. This week, I show you how to make gifs for classroom instruction--they are an easy way to give students visual instructions!

I hope your vacation has begun and you are having a happy summer. If not--it will be here soon! As always, I'm relaxing and spending time with family and friends this summer, but I'm also taking time for a little professional learning.

Every week between now and the end of summer break, I'm going to share one classroom tech tip. It's my goal to make these small bits and easy to implement.

This week I want to talk about using Gifs in the classroom. If you follow my blog, then you know I use them all the time, but for some reason, I've never used them in class. Next year, I plan to use them for short instructions. They are perfect for making short visual demos for students.

I'm going to show you three easy ways to make them:

1. Slide Image Demos:

- In PowerPoint, make a series of slides with your instructions.
- Save them as PNG images.
- Upload the images to a free gif-maker site. My favorite is ezgif.com.
- Follow the prompts and download your gif!

Every week this summer, I'm giving a quick tech tip for you to use in your classroom. This week, I show you how to make gifs for classroom instruction--they are an easy way to give students visual instructions!

2. Video Demos:

- Upload a video (or screen cast) you've made to ezgif.com.
- Select up to a 30 second portion of it.
- Turn it into a gif and download.


Every week this summer, I'm giving a quick tech tip for you to use in your classroom. This week, I show you how to make gifs for classroom instruction--they are an easy way to give students visual instructions!


Every week this summer, I'm giving a quick tech tip for you to use in your classroom. This week, I show you how to make gifs for classroom instruction--they are an easy way to give students visual instructions!

3. Screencastify:

- I pay $24 a year for premium screencastify. It's a Google extension that you can get in the Chrome Store.
- You can record your screen and download directly as a gif with the premium version.

Every week this summer, I'm giving a quick tech tip for you to use in your classroom. This week, I show you how to make gifs for classroom instruction--they are an easy way to give students visual instructions!

Insert your Gifs into PowerPoints or Google Slides as directions and demos for your students. These make excellent visuals!

How do you use Gifs in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know! And don't forget to check back in next week for the next quick Tech of The Week tip.

Every week this summer, I'm giving a quick tech tip for you to use in your classroom. This week, I show you how to make gifs for classroom instruction--they are an easy way to give students visual instructions!


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Most veteran and new teachers alike can tell you the secret to teaching Gen Z. It’s intuitive, but it does take some effort on our part.

My count-down to summer series this year is all about teaching those unfamiliar beings in our classrooms popularly referred to as Generation Z. Four weeks ago, I discussed how I make lecture work for them. The week after was all about research. Then, I addressed creating a sense of urgency surrounding assignments so that our students, well, do them. Last week, I discussed ways to get them to take action on feedback. This week, I'm going to discuss the timeless secret to teaching these elusive creatures effectively.

In the introduction to this series, I identified five traits Gen Z collectively shares (give or take):

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations.
2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one).
3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies.
4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be.
5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs.

I'm going to take these sweeping traits and use them to attempt to explain one timeless secret about teaching Gen Z.

I want to talk about the most important way we can reach Gen Z. And this has always been true, but it seems more important now than ever. It could be the busy world they grew up in, the bombardment of information from every direction, the increasing lack of face-to-face personal connections in their lives. But whatever the reason, these timeless secrets to teaching are vital today:

Most veteran and new teachers alike can tell you the secret to teaching Gen Z. It’s intuitive, but it does take some effort on our part.We must get to know our students. We must believe in them. We must care about them.

And we cannot fake it. They know if we're faking it. They have a radar.

I have one response to most typical teenage questions in my class:

"Why did you change our seats?"

"Love."

"Why are you making us do this project?

"Love."

"Why do you keep making us do all this work?"

"We hate it."

"It's not fun."

"LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE."

Sure, there's a part of my response that's tongue-in-cheek. Over-explaining is a pitfall with teenagers, and the idea that we always need to explain why we do everything that we do is misguided. They want us to over-explain. It wastes time and gives them a chance to argue.

So my response to why I do most things is simple, a bit sarcastic, but also true.

I do it for love.

I love them and I care about their futures. I want them to grow emotionally and intellectually. I want them to learn my subject, but I want them to learn reasoning, skepticism, independence, and confidence more.

The reasons I make them learn how to judge whether a source is reliable, create an annotated bibliography, understand where they come from, participate in community politics, etc., is not always easily explained. Further, lengthy explanations can be counter productive, detracting from the task at hand. They often learn the reasons in doing the task--we often cannot understand the big picture until we've put all of the pieces together. There are times when, "Because I said so" is the most expedient way to achieve our goals.

But if our students know that we care about them--that we care about their futures and have their best interests at heart--they might not like what we are doing, but they will be more likely to accept it because they trust us.

And this has nothing to do with Gen Z. This is human nature.

I go back to my 12 year-old self as a reference. I was always strong-willed, and I don't think that's a bad thing. But I remember the first time it dawned on me that I could simply tell my parents, "No," and there was not much they could do about it. I reveled in my free will.

But they stood firm and punished me. I could endure it, and still win--I knew this.

But as I was defying them, as I was telling them, "No," I saw the hurt on their faces and the love behind it. My defiance melted away. I knew at that moment that they were doing what they did (even though I didn't understand and wholeheartedly disagreed) because they genuinely cared about me. They didn't have to explain. I could see it on their faces. I capitulated.

Holding our students to high standards and holding them accountable is a similar thing to my 12 year-old epiphany with my parents.

Most veteran and new teachers alike can tell you the secret to teaching Gen Z. It’s intuitive, but it does take some effort on our part.
It is imperative to build relationships with them and to make it clear that we care. They are our future. They are individuals deserving of respect and, yes, love. This is why we assess and work and work. This is why we get to know them. This is why we don't over-explain, but allow them to discover. This is why we teach.

So how do we build these relationships? I know so many teachers who do these things naturally, and through years of talking to them and just being in the classroom, I've identified eight concrete actions that can help us build relationships and get Gen Z's attention:

1. We talk to them. Greet them at the door. Smile at them. Let them know we're happy they're there (even when all of us would rather be somewhere else). If they have a crazy excuse for something--listen at the appropriate time (it could be valid, provide insight into who they are, or just make them feel heard, which we all need).

On the first day of school, I have students fill out an index card with their name and interests. I make a game out of going around the room, making eye-contact with each student, and having a short conversation about one of their interests with them. This is how I learn their names and something about them right away. I wrote about this several years ago.

During the first week of school, we create avatars. Students get into it. They go online and create an avatar that represents them. Then they explain to the class what each component of their avatar means. This is a great way to let students express themselves and explain their creativity and who they are to the class.

2. We play music. Music speaks to the soul. It creates memories and bonds us, even if it is (gasp!) my music. Music creates an ambiance in our classrooms, just like it does in a night club (yes, please, a different kind). Getting rid of the institutionalized feel of school is imperative for Gen Z. Most of them won't work in institutionalized feeling jobs (the economy has changed). Let's make school pleasant.

I create a play list on Spotify for my classroom. I add to it based on my interests and theirs. There's energetic music, relaxing music, inspiring music....

3. We build a community. We do this in many different ways. We do this through meaningful group work and collaboration. We do this with competition among classes. However we build a community, we construct it so that our classroom becomes a safe place for collaboration, achievement, and mistakes.

I have done this for the past few years by gamifying. Students are on a quest and they level-up with individual accomplishments and accomplishments as a class.

4. We hold fast to our rules, but we also make room for "do-overs." We understand that everybody needs to follow the rules. This builds citizenship and prevents chaos. But we also recognize that everybody has bad days and makes mistakes. We do not classify them by how they've messed up, but by how they are trying to do better.

I use a Google Form to have students reflect when they misbehave. It asks them what they've done and what they will do instead in the future. Even though teenagers will not always take this seriously (and this is timeless, as well...), I have a digital record of behaviors and they have the opportunity to think through a better reaction. You can read about it and grab the form here.

5. We recognize that they have talents outside of our classes. The teachers I know who develop the best relationships with their students recognize that their students are multi-faceted. We celebrate their soccer goals and their placement as third chair in band. We ask them about their video games and social media business endeavors. We encourage them to start a Dungeons and Dragons Club or to join Mock Trial.

6. We find the humor. We know that this job is many things, but never, ever boring. We see the humor in our own and our students quirks. We make time to laugh in class.

I have written before about finding the humor in your classroom, so I won't go into great detail here. But I will say that one vital thing is to embrace your own flaws. When you make mistakes, own it, and let the students laugh. I have been on the end of this many times, as with my natural grace, I have gone to sit down and missed my chair or tripped over a chord and landed flat on my face.

7. We keep their parents and guardians in the loop. We take advantage of email blasts and class newsletters. We let parents know when behavior needs to improve and when it has. Generally speaking, parents of Gen Z will not automatically be on our side. We need to keep them updated so that they know what's going on, can help motivate their student, and can hear our side when something goes wrong.

8. We remember that they are our future. We understand that we are teaching our future leaders. We take that seriously, and try to give each of them the best education possible. We want them to have research skills so they can be discerning. We want them to know their history so they can be skeptical. We want them to have math skills so they navigate their world and think abstractly. We want them to understand the scientific method so that they can think logically and rationally and recognize "bad" science.

Here is how relationship-building speaks to Gen Z:

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations. They are more likely to pay attention if it's coming from someone they care about and they know cares about them.

2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one). Again, if they know we care, it's not the noise of constant ads they are bombarded with. It's information specifically for them.

3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies. Building a classroom community creates a real-life microcosm of what they are looking for on social media--connection and fellowship.

4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be. Relationships are not boring. As a matter of fact, they are the most exciting thing out there, even in the world of video games and social media.

5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs. If we see this in them, they appreciate it. They may not feel like they are "good" at our subjects. If that's the only way we evaluate them, they may feel like we see them as failures. 

How are you reaching Gen Z in the classroom? Leave a comment and let me know.

Be sure to check out all of the posts in this series on teaching Gen Z for helpful tips and tricks: 



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It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!

My count-down to summer series this year is all about teaching those unfamiliar beings in our classrooms popularly referred to as Generation Z. Three weeks ago, I discussed how I make lecture work for them. The week before was all about research. Last week, I addressed creating a sense of urgency surrounding assignments so that our students, well, do them. This week, I'm going to discuss giving these elusive creatures effective feedback.

In the introduction to this series, I identified five traits Gen Z collectively shares (give or take):

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations.
2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one).
3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies.
4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be.
5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs.

I'm going to take these sweeping traits and attempt to explain how I frame feedback to get Gen Z to, well, listen to it and then take action.

We've already discussed how there's a lot of noise in our students' lives and they are adept at tuning it out. I think one way to prevent this is to tailor feedback to them and require them to reflect upon it.

It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!
This sounds like a lot of work, though, right?

It can be, but there are a couple of things I want to point out. The first is to distinguish between differentiation and personalized learning. Personalized learning seems like a new way to spin differentiation, another "buzz word" in education, but there is a key difference: differentiation is reactive and personalized learning is proactive.

This means that if you're differentiating, you're constantly modifying for students, but if you're personalizing, you already have systems in place to reach diverse students.

With some upfront planning and the assistance of meaningful technology (AKA tech that will save you time), this can actually make your life easier in the long-run.

Here's How I Give Gen Z Meaningful Feedback:

1. Address Issues One-to-One Or in Small Groups
The key to making feedback meaningful to them is to have a one-to-one or small group conversation with them. They are experts at tuning out noise and a teacher addressing a full class can register as noise with them. Finding the time for conferences depends on making the class less teacher and more student-focused.

In a secondary setting, that can be easier said than done. Some of the methods I've discussed in previous weeks, such as bite-sized lectures and stations will help you do this.

Ways to Group Students for Conferences:
If students have, for instance, written a paper, and you need to see small groups about specific things, stations are a good opportunity to group them in this way. You would have one station that you lead and address specific concerns with each group.

Or you could give a formative assessment in Google Forms and group students based on score. You can export scores to a spreadsheet and set the grade column to color-code based on score so that it's easy for you to visually group them (see cheat sheet for details).

It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!

Another easy way to keep track of everything is to use Google Keep as you grade. Create a virtual sticky note for each class. As you are grading, have the sticky note pulled up. Make categories for specific things you notice students need to work on. List student names beneath that category (see cheat sheet for details).

You can also use Keep to share virtual sticky notes with students. If they are using Docs or Slides to complete or revise an assignment, they can pull up the sticky on the side and check off boxes as they complete a task (see cheat sheet for details).

It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!

2. Personalize Learning
This can take many forms, but I recommend using technology to your advantage here. There's an add-on called Automastery for Google Forms that will enable you to set three different levels of mastery for a formative assessment. You can set a different assignment for each level of mastery and it will be emailed to your students (see cheat sheet for details).

It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!


For beginning level, the assignment could be a reading or a video to relearn the content and then retake the quiz. The middle level could be additional practice with the content or concept, and the mastery level could be an extension assignment.

You can use Google Slides or Nearpod to teach a topic and then link (for Slides) or embed (for Nearpod) a Google Form. You can set the form so that if a student misses a question, they are taken to a section of the Form for immediate feedback and instruction--I use screen snippings from their reading to reteach (see cheat sheet for details).

It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!

3. Require Students to Reflect
This is key. They have so many distractions in their lives that if they don't take time to reflect on feedback and what they've learned, it will make no difference to them. One way to do this would be with a Google Slides presentation. For each virtual sticky note that you give them, they should take a minute to drag it into their slideshow, add a text box, and write a short reflection about how they will implement it (see cheat sheet for details).

It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!

A no-tech option is to require students to keep a reflection journal (it can stay in the classroom). For every conference, they can write a brief reflection and plan for implementation. Throughout the year, they can look back over it to see how they've grown.

Here is how personal feedback speaks to Gen Z:

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations. Frequent formative assessment, conferences, and Keep Notes help to focus and redirect them.

2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one). A Keep Note that they immediately must take action on forces them not to tune us out. A conversation has the same effect.
It’s so frustrating to give our students feedback and then see no follow-through. Often, they’re not dismissing us on purpose—they’re simply not paying attention. Gen Z has learned this little trick for their own sanity. They are bombarded by so much on a daily basis. Click through to find out how to offer feedback they’re likely to remember, and don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet!
Grab The Cheat Sheet HERE!

3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies. Again, talking to them individually or in small groups gives them the real interaction that they crave from social media.

4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be. Personal connection, conversation, and being part of a group is not boring for most people. The sense of belonging that working toward a specific goal with others (and being held accountable to it) creates may not be thrilling, but it's meaningful. They will pay attention to that.

5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs. With this, we should be striving to help them understand that they are ultimately working toward self-improvement--a vital step in the entrepreneurial process.

How are you reaching Gen Z in the classroom? Leave a comment and let me know.

Be sure to check out all of the posts in this series on teaching Gen Z for helpful tips and tricks: 








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Often, our students are lackadaisical about their assignments. We don't have to change our assignments to change this mindset--we just have to reframe how we present them. Click through this post to learn three tricks I use to create a sense of urgency about schoolwork, and don't forget to download the free Symbaloo Learning Paths Cheat Sheet!

We all remember sitting in class, reading textbooks, and answering a ton of questions. This was no fun for any of us, but it was our assignment, so we did it.

A few years ago, I began to notice a shift. I heard many teachers discussing the same observation over jammed copiers and tepid coffee. It was no small shift and the implications for our classrooms were enormous....

Students were no longer doing assignments just because we assigned them.

We were all having variations of the same conversation:

"You need to get to work, Janice. This is due tomorrow."

"I know. I'm going to do it tonight."

And then we found ourselves having conversations like this the next day:

"Where's your assignment, Janice?"

"I had a lot of work last night. Can I turn it in tomorrow?"

This is a recurring theme in our classrooms and somewhat baffling to us Gen Xers and Millennials. Janice had class time to complete her assignment. If she didn't have time to finish it that evening, that's on her--she chose to put it off. She'll have to take a zero and learn her lesson.

The trouble is, Janice doesn't see it that way, and the very same thing happens again. And again. And again. No lesson learned.

So what's going on?

Janice is a member of an all new generation with completely different norms and expectations. Janice is a member of Gen Z.

My count-down to summer series this year is all about teaching those unfamiliar beings in our classrooms popularly referred to as Generation Z. Two weeks ago, I discussed how I make lecture work for them. Last week was all about research. This week, I'm going to attempt to address a much more complex issue. It's more complex because it is entirely about mindset.

In the introduction to this series, I identified five traits Gen Z collectively shares (give or take):

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations.
2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one).
3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies.
4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be.
5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs.

I'm going to take these sweeping traits and attempt to explain how I frame assignments to get Gen Z to, well, do them.

The majority of these students won't do an assignment just because we assign it. They're not playing
the same game we did in school, so when we throw the old rules at them, they simply do not care.

We can shake our fists at the heavens. We can exhort that they need to learn. We can dole out zeros. They still don't care. You see, these are the old rules.

Often, our students are lackadaisical about their assignments. We don't have to change our assignments to change this mindset--we just have to reframe how we present them. Click through this post to learn three tricks I use to create a sense of urgency about schoolwork, and don't forget to download the free Symbaloo Learning Paths Cheat Sheet!To understand their mindsets better, we need to take a look at some of the role models of success they've grown up with: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Kim Kardashian, and Larry Page, to name a very few.

All of these people are highly successful entrepreneurs, which many of our students aspire to be. None of these people have a traditional college degree. They all played by their own rules...and won.

I don't believe our students are apathetic. There's evidence that Gen Z is a highly caring, socially conscious generation. It's that many of them do not buy the narrative of education as the main path to success like we did.

They have access to far more information than we ever did at their age. By necessity, they have become adept at filtering. They find themselves targeted as consumers at every turn, and they are naturally skeptical of what we as teachers are "selling."

So how do we reach them? How do we cut through the constant noise and create a sense of urgency about their work? I believe that small tweaks in the way we present assignments to our students make all the difference. So, here are some crazy simple ones that have worked in my classroom.

Three Tricks to Create a Sense of Urgency about Schoolwork

1. This Is Your Only Chance!
Marketers do this because it works--"buy now at a one-time low price," "last chance sale," "free for today only," "only 12 left in stock...." You get the idea.

We don't like to think of education this way, but it's how most of our students live. I have a much
higher engagement rate in class when I break lengthy assignments into bits. Let's say I want my students to read a chapter and answer questions. Instead of giving it to them all at once, I do this:

-Break the assignment into parts. If it's a 10 page reading with 14 questions, I would break it into two five page readings with two sets of seven questions.
-Assign students the first part and say that they must be finished in 15 minutes.
-Set a timer.
-As they finish, have them raise their hands. Walk around with a self-inking stamp and stamp their paper. My students are generally writing in their ISNs, so this serves a two-fold purpose. First, when I take up their notebooks, I'll know they completed the assignment on time. Second, students love to get "stamped." It gives them a sense of accomplishment.
Often, our students are lackadaisical about their assignments. We don't have to change our assignments to change this mindset--we just have to reframe how we present them. Click through this post to learn three tricks I use to create a sense of urgency about schoolwork, and don't forget to download the free Symbaloo Learning Paths Cheat Sheet!-Discuss the reading section and questions.
-Then repeat with the second section.

Giving students small bits at a time with a clear-cut time limit truly creates a sense of urgency. They get to work right away and keep going until they get their stamp.

Modifications:
We all have students with 504s and IEPs who need extended time. This method would violate their accommodations. In collaborative classrooms, it's often necessary for different students to be doing different things. That's a reality--we're not calling them out. We're giving them what they need.

Here's what I do for students who need extended time:
-If there are two teachers in the room, I send them with the collaborative teacher to complete the assignment in a separate room. This could involve reading it aloud and finishing questions for homework if necessary.
-If there is no collaborative teacher in the room, I would either send a small group to the media center to work together or speak to these students ahead of time and quietly let them know they will have additional time. If this is the case, I would discuss the reading at the end of the 15 minutes but hold off on going over the questions until the next day. Time is always an issue, but I look at it this way--if I can't make the time to go over an assignment in class, is the assignment truly necessary? This is one of my busy work calibrators (Gen Zers can smell busy work a mile away).

2. First to finish!
Nothing motivates my students to get started like a competition. Even if it's just a minor thing, like "be the first group to answer questions 15-20 on your study guide correctly and win (XP, extra credit, candy, a prize card...)."

Symbaloo is an excellent free program that enables you to turn a series of assignments into a game path. I've got a free cheat sheet for you to help with getting started.

Often, our students are lackadaisical about their assignments. We don't have to change our assignments to change this mindset--we just have to reframe how we present them. Click through this post to learn three tricks I use to create a sense of urgency about schoolwork, and don't forget to download the free Symbaloo Learning Paths Cheat Sheet!
Each tile contains an assignment. Students cannot advance to the next until they've completed the previous.
Each tile on the path contains a learning task. You can take tasks you already have and put them on the board. I link to websites, videos, Nearpods, etc. As students complete the task, their piece advances on the board. The first student or group to finish, wins. I do second and third place prizes for this, as well. My stragglers will generally continue working to the end--the trick is to get them motivated to start and to not waste their time. "And, yes Janice, it's for a grade...."
Often, our students are lackadaisical about their assignments. We don't have to change our assignments to change this mindset--we just have to reframe how we present them. Click through this post to learn three tricks I use to create a sense of urgency about schoolwork, and don't forget to download the free Symbaloo Learning Paths Cheat Sheet!
I like to put questions at the end of each assignment to review concepts learned before they can advance to the next tile.
Often, our students are lackadaisical about their assignments. We don't have to change our assignments to change this mindset--we just have to reframe how we present them. Click through this post to learn three tricks I use to create a sense of urgency about schoolwork, and don't forget to download the free Symbaloo Learning Paths Cheat Sheet!
Want to make one? Grab the Cheat Sheet HERE!

3. Class Competition
We want to encourage our students to collaborate, but I've found that one way to build a positive classroom community is to build up a certain amount of competition among my classes.

If I have three world history classes, for example, when I'm assigning creative projects, I might say, "the class with the best overall projects wins." Then I get outsiders to judge (media staff, technology specialists, office staff, my department). I don't use the same judges over and over, though, because I don't want to take up too much of anybody's time.

The students will work hard and encourage their classmates to work hard to win. I give out extra XP to everyone in the class that wins. If you don't gamify, extra credit is free and highly motivating. And donuts. They love donuts. But they're not free.

Creating a sense of urgency about schoolwork in Gen Z is largely a matter of reframing what we already do. Until they develop intrinsic motivation (the ultimate goal, which they may never achieve for our particular subjects), these simple tricks can be highly effective motivators. Like it or not, these aren't our mothers' students and we have to find new ways to reach them where they are--idealism takes up a lot of space in the trenches, and if we let it take over, we lose the battle.

Here is how this spin on assignments speaks to Gen Z:

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations. Breaking assignments into smaller components with a clear end and goal helps them retain focus.

2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one). They are experts at tuning the noise out. They have to be for their own sanity. That stamp or prize is just for them--they see you look at their responses. They love it when you point to one and say, "that's good insight." Recognition and reward given for actual achievement gets their attention and makes them feel validated.

3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies. Active discussion, collaboration, and competition encourage the connection and community in real life that they crave when they visit social media platforms.

4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be. There's no time to be bored when you are engaged in your work because you are rushing to meet a deadline, trying to be the first to finish, or trying to create the highest quality project.

5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs. This is one reason that grades often don't motivate them. Many successful entrepreneurs have taken nontraditional paths to get where they are. For better or for worse, Gen Z needs validation outside of grades.

How are you reaching Gen Z in the classroom? Leave a comment and let me know.

Be sure to check out all of the posts in this series on teaching Gen Z for helpful tips and tricks: 








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