Pass the Plate is a quick, engaging way to have students generate lots of ideas about a topic.
1.Put students into groups of 3 or 4 and provide each group with a plastic picnic plate and a transparency marker. (Paper plates work, too.)
2. Tell students that they will be given a word to write in the middle of the plate, and then they will pass the plate around their group, adding ideas, for 2 minutes. They will be given points for every idea on the plate, (I usually give 1000) and bonus points for any idea they have that no other group wrote down (5000.)
3. Rules for Pass the Plate - spelling doesnot count, they may not use resources (other than each other), and they may not skip a turn.
This photo is of a group of teachers playing Pass the Plate at one of my workshops. I provided the word "big" and they had to generate synonyms for the word. Teachers, like students, enjoyed the friendly competition and were very engaged with the activity.
When you are finished sharing ideas, simply hold the plate under the water faucet and it will rinse right off!
Years ago I read an article by Alfie Kohn in which he claimed that teachers were ruining students' abilities to think critically. He wrote that the educators tend to prefer students who are compliant (very true) and that by demanding compliance from students, we were squashing their natural inclination to question things. While I didn't fully agree with him, it did get me questioning my own practices. Was there a way that I could encourage students to challenge authority in a respectful, appropriate way?
Out of that reflection grew my Challenge Authority Cards. While I have developed a variety of them, I particularly like these that ask students to challenge or question the text they are reading. This skill is especially important as students read information on unscreened internet sources.
I find this is a great way to engage some of the higher level thinkers in a class - or early finishers. If you keep these handy, you can use them on the spur of the moment. So, just Copy These Questions, cut them up and hand them to students who are ready for a challenge.
The Common Core State Standards in math expect students to be able to explain their thinking and discuss mathematical concepts. This is quite a challenge for most students, but especially for those who struggle with language as English Learners or students with disabilities.
Discussion Poker Chips are something I have used successfully for literature circle discussions. Last week we tried them out in an inclusive, co-taught Algebra 1 class for the first time.
Students were placed in groups of 4 and provided with a Math Discussion Board. This is available for download here. (Modify to fit the level of your students.)
Each student was given 3 poker chips of a single color (1 student had green, 1 student had red, 1 student had blue and 1 student had white.)
My co-teacher and I modeled how to use the chips to have a conversation while working together through a set of problems.
We explained that the goal was to use the vocabulary represented on the board. If a student used the word, he could place his chip on that space. Students were encouraged to cover as many of the spaces as they could – just a hint of competition!
While it took a little while for the conversation to get started, we began to see students who never talk participating in the discussion! I credit three aspects of the activity – the symbols on the board serve as cues for students who can’t think of what to say, the poker chips add a tactile component that heightens alertness and the friendly competition between groups provided some motivation.
Video is a wonderful media for engaging students and providing them close to real-life experiences. However, its effectiveness is maximized if students are given a viewing purpose and a concrete way to capture their ideas.
Today I took yellow sticky notes and cut them to look (a bit) like popcorn. We gave each student one and explained that when you go to the movies, you take time out to munch on popcorn – just like we would stop during the video to make a note on our popcorn stickies.
A specific prompt was provided on the board. In this biology class, we wanted to students to complete an analogy based on ideas in the video, so the prompt was:
After viewing the video students came up to the board and placed their popcorn, on which they had written an analogy, in a large popcorn tub that I had drawn. Discussion followed.
How do you keep students engaged and responsible for learning while watching videos?
Photo by Enokson, Flickr
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a vocabulary webinar by Maria Elena Arguelles. She proposed a simple scaffolding for introducing new vocabulary to students and I decided to use it this week, while adding a few of my own engagement strategies. (The photo above, taken by Paul Baron, is of flexible bamboo scaffolding - reminding me that flexibility is key in a mixed-ability classroom!)
The word for the day, taken from Sprenger's list of critical common core verbs, was "organize." (See post from 8/29 for more info.) Here are the steps we took:Activator:
I searched through my prop bag looking for something and finally just dumped the contents out so students could see how unorganized it was. This grabbed their attention and helped them make connections.
I liked this structure - it was simple, straightforward and provided the support needed by many of our students. Of course, because vocabulary acquisition is an ongoing process, we will be implementing a variety of other vocabulary activities during the semester to reinforce this instruction.
- I introduced the word, the definition, and some synonyms.
- I used the word correctly in a few sentences, having students respond with thumbs up/down.
- I interspersed sentences that used the word incorrectly, having students respond with thumbs up/down.
- I provided a sentence stem for students to complete with a partner - "I will organize ______________ so that ____________________________. We shared these as a whole group.
- I had students individually complete the sentence stem.
- On the following day, students worked individually with Educreations on the iPad to write a sentence, illustrate and record themselves. My co-teacher and I used their recordings as a formative assessment.
Infographics, the newest form of internet wallpaper, are complex representations of information. Because they seem to be popping up everywhere, students will need to be able to read and comprehend them. Yet, the characteristics and layout of infographics are varied - some more readable than others.
To help students approach these complex text forms, we printed out several types for them to explore. Each infographic was placed inside a page protector. Students used dry-erase markers to mark various elements of the info graphics. (You can do something similar with iPads and annotation apps.)
- Place a star next to the very first thing that catches your eye.
- Place a circle around the one word that best describes the topic.
- Place a square around important quantitative information
- Draw an arrow to point out the best graphic that helped you to understand the topic.
- Put a smiley face next to the data source.
- Draw an arrow showing the best pathway to follow to read all of the important information.
Students were able to realize that not all infographics read from left to right, top to bottom; not all infographics have sources listed and therefore may not be reliable; some infographics use much more effective visuals to make a point, and some have too much information! At the end of the lesson, students had to choose which infographic they are thought was the best and If you would like to use some of the infographics we used in the lesson, you can find them at this weebly site.
After more than a year in development, my Reading Comprehension Booster iPad app is now available on the App Store! Many of my regular readers have attended my workshops and seen the app in the early stages. I welcomed your input and changed the design to include your suggested features. Testing with children of various ages also improved our design to the point where I believe it will be an asset to any literacy program.
What makes my app different? I have reviewed many apps tagged as reading comprehension apps. What I found was that most of these provide students with text to read and then answer questions. It seems to me that this assesses reading comprehension but doesn’t work on the skills needed to improve reading comprehension! Reading Comprehension Booster targets the foundational elements of understanding fiction and non-fiction and engages students in interactive responses to these. The app is also fully accessible - children can respond with audio recordings, drawings, text and drag and drop.
Click here for a video overview of the app, or read below for the specific details. If you feel that it is worthwhile, I would appreciate you spreading the word for me through your contacts, blogs and other networks. I will also welcome your feedback as we work on updates. I already have ideas for adding more non-fiction features in a future release.
Boost reading comprehension with this set of interactive tools! Based on the idea of paper bookmarks, each booster encourages the child to record responses, while they are reading, based on a specific reading focus. No more wondering if your child or student was actually paying attention while s/he was reading!
Booster bookmarks were designed by an expert in the field of differentiated instruction, and are based on essential instructional elements identified in literacy, brain and learning research. Each booster has a variety of interactive options to tap into different ability levels and interests. Users can read or listen to directions, draw, type, drag or record responses, and much more. Children can choose from Characters, Connections, Story Seeds and other bookmarks, or use several simultaneously. Children can easily email their work to a parent or teacher for review and discussion.
• Interactive tools to increase reading engagement and comprehension
• Each bookmark provides cues to prompt thinking
• For beginning readers through early teens
• Allows for multiple users for classrooms sharing iPads
• A range of response options increases accessibility
• Data can be emailed to parents, teachers, RtI specialists, IEP team members
One of the resources shared at the Douglas County Geek Camp last week was an article by Dan Pink, which references a book called “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” a collection of 6 word memoirs. Pink asked readers to share their sentences, and then compiled them into a thought provoking video. A wide range of responses, many learning and teaching related, provoked some great conversations. What a fabulous language arts activity this can be for students!With all of this great inspiration, the Geek Camp counselors encouraged participants to write their own 6 word sentence and use their photo booth to save it. Here’s mine. What’s yours?
Memory researchers tell us that in order for learners to move information from short term to long term memory, they must recode the information into their own words.
Today, after teaching new math terms, we asked students to develop definitions in their own words. Students then worked together in small groups to share definitions and choose one that they felt was the best.
I then introduced students to an iPad app called MailVU or video mail (FREE). This app is a very simple, intuitive way to take a brief video and email it to someone. We used the app to video students reading the chosen definitions, and then emailed them to the school principal. Students loved chanting,"You just got sent to the principal's office!"
This app has some great features - the sender can choose to be notified when the email has been read, and can choose to have the video self-destruct after a chosen number of viewings. Students especially liked the self-destruct feature.
Here are some other great ideas for using this app in your classroom:
- When a student forgets something again (a signed permission slip, homework, etc.) he could use MailVU to send an video email reminder to his parent.
- If a student accomplishes something special in class, send a video mail to celebrate the accomplishment.
- Capture the student demonstrating an intermittent, inappropriate behavior and email it to the behavior specialist.
For the last few years I have been collaborating with a Nebraska school district to improve their co-teaching practices. Through a series of workshops, observations and job-embedded modeling, teachers have engaged in analysis and reflection. I am excited to see so many teachers embracing new ideas for engagement and hands-on learning!
Last week I visited co-taught classrooms at two different middle schools, both teaching author’s purpose using the RIPE acronym (Reflect, Inform, Persuade, Entertain.)
In one class, the co-teachers used a novel approach to activate student thinking. They began class by putting on banana necklaces! Students immediately wondered what was happening, and started making predictions. What a creative, novel way to activate learning! (For more ideas about novelty, download a Novelty Schedule on this website's downloadables page.)
In the other class, the co-teachers chose to use “cootie catchers” (also known as fortune tellers) to increase their students’ motivation. The teachers made the largest cootie catcher I have ever seen and used it as a model. What I loved about this was that it was impossible for one person to manipulate – it had to be collaborative. Students then made smaller versions and paired up to practice their knowledge of the four author purposes. Watch this video clip from the BER video Making Inclusion More Successful.