Tuesday, November 29, 2016

6 Reasons and 1 Way to Use Higher-Order Review Games

Six Awesome Reasons to Use Higher-Order Review Games

6. Your midterm (and EOCs) are made up of mostly higher order thinking. Remember, these vassessments are 20-60-20 (20% are Level 1 Questions; 60% are Level Two Questions; 20% are Level Three Questions). So, if kids review with higher-levels of thinking, they will better learn and test at higher order levels of thinking. If they review at recall-levels, they will learn recall-levels.  

5. The person doing the talking is doing the thinking. If YOU (the teacher) are talking about content, YOU are thinking about content. No word on what the students are thinking about while you are talking. Maybe they’re doing the mannequin challenge and just didn’t tell you.  If you want the KIDS to think about content, then the KIDS have to talk about the content.
4.  Engagement makes it stick We remember the stuff that is interesting. We remember the stuff that is fun or engages our brain. We don’t remember the stuff that bores us. So don’t give your kids a review packet or review sheet. They don’t get as much out of that. Engage their brains to make your content stick.

3. Categories help students organize information in their brains. The more students put information into categories, the better they understand it. This goes with schema theory. If an idea or a concept or a term fits into a category, it has a place in the student's world and in the student’s brain. Help them determine how the pieces of their learning fit or don’t fit together.

2. Connections matter. Students need help connecting one concept or chunk of information to another. The more connections made between and among terms and ideas, the stronger the “rooting” of the learning -- which means that the kid learned the concept better AND understands the subtleties of how that idea connects to another idea.

1.The real world is not about lower-level thinking. Think about your life. Whether it is your route to work in the morning or whether you can afford a certain item or who you vote for or how you relate to others -- most of life involves higher-order thinking. The answer to the real world questions is rarely at recall-level (unless you play a lot of trivia). SO, if you move past the testing-focus, it helps to think that these higher-order thinking skills are as useful (shhhh... probably more useful) in the real world.

SOOOooooooo..... ..  How about one strategy to start with?

Higher Order Review: Headbands
  1. Put one vocab term on each sticky note, note card, or paper slip. You will possibly need a different set of sticky notes/cards each period. Choose your terms thoughtfully. You might want to start them with terms from the same unit and maybe try to add more variety in the future.
  2. Sort the terms in a way that will enable you to differentiate for your students.
  3. Give every kid a sticky note or card with a term on it – but DON’T let them look at the term.
  1. Have each kid put his or her Vocab Sticky Note or note card on his or her forehead, with the vocab term facing out. (they may have to hold it up with their hands)
  2. Instruct the kids to keep their sticky notes on their foreheads and walk around the classroom, talking to several other students.
  3. Students will try to guess the terms on their own heads by asking each other ONLY questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.
  4. When students guess their own term correctly, they make take their word off their heads (but hang on to them). They may continue to answer the questions from other students.
  5. You may need to organize the students to help the last few if they get stuck and struggle to guess their terms.
  6. When most kids have guessed their term, they may help the students who have not yet guessed their words.
Benefits of Headbands:
  • Students are active, out of seats.
  • Student collaboration & discussion
  • Students have to make connections between terms
  • Students will discuss relationship between terms
  • Students will examine the multiple facets to the terms
Watch out for:
  • Cheating. It’s easy to cheat, but then the kids don’t learn anything. I give this as a pep talk before we play.
  • Giving up. Kids who get a particularly tough term may want to give up. Build in support by either differentiating (giving tougher terms to kids who are up for the challenge and more common terms to kids who struggle).
  • Kids getting off task. Circulate and “play” along to keep them on task
  • The game taking too long. It’s easy to let those last few kids keep guessing well after the other kids have lost interest. Have the class give them clues if they are the last few so they don’t feel “picked on” or so the game doesn’t drag on too long.
Try it this week or next week ... and let me know how it goes! As always, I love to hear! Happy Headbands-gaming!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful TIME of the Year

Time.  It’s every teacher’s worst enemy.

There is never enough time to do everything you WANT to do -- let alone everything you’re EXPECTED to do.

Feel free to add, but here seems to be a random to do list from a school social studies teacher

  • Plan lessons
  • Make copies
  • Put up Common Board
  • Collaborative planning with colleague
  • Check email
  • Answer email
  • Grade papers
  • Go to IEP meeting
  • Talk to AP about issue with kid
  • Write referral
  • Take referral to office
  • Call parents
  • Check email again
  • Delete 3 emails from Tracy Newman
  • Cover a class
  • Meeting of some sort
  • Chat with kids between class to build relationships
  • Check notebooks
  • Get activity form filled out
  • Uhhhh.... Actually teach, too

Time is a terrible enemy of teachers. Even if we take away all the administrative paperwork stuff, there is still not enough time in the instructional day to do everything -- and even LESS time if you want to actually have a life outside of teaching.  

I know that some of you feel like “the District” or “administration” is asking you to do more and more and more...

And you’re right.

Our profession is ever-changing -- like most other professions, I might add. We have more content, more strategies, more differentiation to do

But we still have the same ol’ 180 days we always have had.

So instead of giving you MORE to do.....
Let me give you less.

Here are four things to spend LESS time on in your classroom, so you can have more time for the “good stuff” -- engagement, collaboration, higher-order thinking ... You don’t have to QUIT these practices. But you might consider minimizing them so you can spend more time getting to the “big payoff” stuff....

  1. Spend less time ... writing the questions.  Writing the questions takes time. You don’t have a lot of instructional time. Why don’t you have the kids spend less time writing the question -- and more time digging into the question, breaking it down, and answering it.
    1. I know, I know ... you want them to study from it. If they actually do study from it, then that is a good time investment. If they don’t (I find that most kids don’t), then skip writing the question. They can use more brain power writing the answer in complete sentences or just writing the answer more completely.
  2. Spend less time ... making everybody wait for those three kids still working. Again, you only have so much time in a class period. Ten minutes of the rest of your class sleeping (high school) or going bananas (middle school) is ten minutes that learning could have occurred. There are a few options on this.
    1. You can give the rest of the class some review/remediation that is flexible to work on while they wait (Good idea: vocab illustrations or review activity. Not-as-good idea: word searches or crossword puzzles).
    2. You can modify the assignment for kids who work slower. Oftentimes, an ESE or ELL student can DO the work, but not as quickly as other kids. Let them skip #4 and 7  (or whatever) so they can really master the other five questions. It’s actually a decent modification for differentiation if you do it judiciously. Have them do more quality, less quantity.
    3. I know, I know ... you want every kids to have the time they need to learn. And you’re right. But if the rest of your class is consistently waiting for a few kids, then that isn’t a good use of everyone’s time -- and it sometimes results in the slower-workers feeling uncomfortable or pressured and rushed. Find a modification that will work for you to gain a little instructional time.
  3. Spend less time ... going over every answer. I know kids need good answers modelled. I also know that kids are smart. And they will learn that if you go over every answer -- that they won’t need to do the work. They can just wait until you tell them the answer and copy that down, without having to think. Go over a couple where you worry about misconceptions. And then, let them figure out some of the rest.
    1. I know, I know ... you want the kids to get the right answers. But those answers don’t mean anything if the kids didn’t do the thinking/reading to get the answers. Give them a couple of answers (particularly tough answers or common errors) to check and see if they’re on the right track. Then, let them be responsible for their work.
  4. Spend less time ... having kids copy stuff. Seriously, y’all. It takes forever. Whether notes or definitions or answers, it takes an eternity for kids to copy things -- and they SO RARELY think about what they’re copying, it’s seldom that it’s worth the time. If you want them to have the info so badly, give it to them. Print it out for them and have them highlight it, text-code it, make questions about it. Have them interact with it, instead of copying it from the board, the book, or the dictionary.
    1. I know, I know ... you want them to have the important information. And you want them quiet and on task. None of those are bad things! But the time it takes to copy isn’t equal to the learning that happens. How many of you have said, “what do you mean you don’t know the answer? It’s right there in front of you!”. This is because they don’t absorb or learn as much from copying as they do from making their own meanings.

I know you have too much to do in your work day. I can’t give you less paperwork or faster grading practices or perfectly behaved students. I wish!. But I can share what I see with many classrooms that are making the best use of the time -- and what drains our instructional time.  You don’t have to quit these practices entirely. Just be mindful of how much time they take VERSUS  how much benefit you get from them...

And please know how thankful I am for such awesome colleagues! Have a wonderful thanksgiving break!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

You Mean Not Everyone Loves Social Studies?

TGIO!! Meaning, Thank Goodness It’s Over! While I love teaching elections, this one was particularly rough. Can we get back to real life, please?

Face it. We social studies teachers have a bit of an image problem. Even before students begin our classes, they come to us with the prejudice of a parent or older friend who “hated” our class and “hated” history (or Civics or Geography or Economics...).  

The recent election didn’t exactly shine history or government in the best light, did it?

Here’s why we have an image problem:

Part of the problem is that WE-THE-TEACHERS think that EVERYTHING we teach is inherently interesting to everyone. I mean, biology teachers think that the parts of a cell are interesting. Math teachers think binomials are interesting. English/Language Arts teachers think poetry is interesting.

And social studies teachers think that the three branches of government are interesting (especially this week!). And so is the Progressive Era and Thomas Jefferson and the Russian Revolution.

The truth is, not every person is inherently interested in every topic. They might even (gasp!) dislike our content!!!

And that’s okay. Different strokes for different folks, right?

So if our kids don’t come to us with a natural, intrinsic love of the social sciences, what do we do?

We have to engage them. They don’t have to go home obsessively singing Hamilton lyrics, but they do have to engage with the material. There are plenty of ways to do this, but I want to share the 8-Cs of Engagement.

I hope you can start looking at your lessons with these “Cs” in mind and find at least one “C” each day. No, no one is asking you to do one more thing with your lesson plans. But it might help as you review your lessons to see if you can “spot the C” in each day’s lesson.

  1. C is for Competition: Competition is motivating. Mild and friendly competition can help kids stay engaged. Kahoots, Jeopardy, Quizlet, Cube Game -- all of these can help kids get and stay engaged!
  2. C is for Challenge: Despite the tendency toward “this is too hard” argument, kids do like challenges, when framed right. “I wonder if you guys can handle ______” may give them the impetus to rise to the challenge. Try “I wonder if you all can handle this really impressive assignment -- like arguing against a historical figure”.
  3. C is for Curiosity: Kids do enjoy mysteries and puzzles (and so do grown-ups). As Aaron Burr sings, “How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower, somehow defeat a global superpower?” Or, as DBQ asks, “How Revolutionary Was the American Revolution?” Or “Why would America outlaw alcohol -- for the whole country?”. Or “How can/would the other two branches stop the president if he or she oversteps?”
  4. C is for Controversy: Social Studies Teachers, this is here we rock!  Other subject areas might be less comfortable with this, but controversy is part of what makes history, this current election aside (it’s a little too recent and a little NSFW). But ask kids who they would have voted for in 1800 or whether Alexander the Great was really Great. Have them play four corners with which compromise in the constitution was most important. Have them take a stand for or against the League of Nations. Have them debate the influence of yellow journalism.
  5. C is for Choice: Kids do better with choice. Let them decide if they write the questions and short answers -- or if they just write the answers in complete sentences that include the important part of the question. Let them decide if they will write Venn Diagrams or T-Charts. Let them decide if they will write a short paragraph or draw a four-panel cartoon or make a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the Revolution. Let them choose if they will answer the even questions or the odd questions. Give ‘em a choice and they will more likely engage since they will have a little power over their learning.
  6. C is for Creativity: We know this. When students get to make a poster for a political party or draw the Boston Massacre the way the primary sources said it happened -- they are more engaged. Let them make a skit, a rap, a poster, an illustration, a song. Whatever gets the creativity flowing, will help kids engage with content.
  7. C is for Cooperation: Students learn better -- and are more engaged -- when they cooperate. Teachers know this and often let kids “work together”. I encourage you to move past “working together” (that’s SOOOO 1996!) and toward real collaborative structures. It can be as simple as a turn and talk or as elaborate as a structured cooperative learning project.
  8. C is for Connections: By connections, I mean connections to the student’s real-world, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and lives. When is rebellion ever justified? What would you think if this event happened today? How does propaganda affect us in elections? In advertisements?

Of course, you can’t do all of these every day. But you can probably use one on most days.

Think of how to increase your engagement. You don’t need elaborate simulations or flashy videos every day. Check out your 8 Cs and increase your level of engagement.

How do you engage your kids? As always, I love to hear from you!
Email me at newmantr@pcsb.org