It’s getting to be that time of year that every teacher dreads. The time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Students are all anxiously awaiting the winter holidays and are not thinking about school. Teachers are looking for a chance to relax and recharge. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do. We must fight the good fight and continue to teach. What are some of the best practices to keep our sanity while engaging the students? Check out these strategies that you can use in your own classroom to help.
Vary Your Teaching Style:
Changing up your normal activities and teaching style will perk up student engagement. Instead of using the same review activity before an assessment, consider finding something new. Review is a great time to turn to your digital devices. There are many different websites that are free and appeal to students from Kindergarten to High School. I learned early on that using the same website over and over will bore my students. I have a handful that I use that varies how the students will review which helps keep them on their toes. Two sites that I enjoy and further break down are Kahoot and Quizizz. Click here to determine which site best matches your teaching style.
Another way to include digital in your classroom is through Nearpod. In minutes you can turn boring Powerpoint or PDF lessons into interactive engaging activities using this site. Nearpod gives you instant data and feedback. There is a free and paid version that you can learn more about here. Check out to Facebook Live I did with Danielle Knight from Study All Knight to really get to know the website.
Digital Assessments are another way to incorporate a different methodology into your classroom. Instead of the normal paper and pencil test, try out one of these ways to assess what they know. Flipgrid, Padlet, and Podcasts are very easy to implement and will engage your students. Kids like variety and technology and these different assessments will give you just that. They also allow you to appeal to different student learning styles. Find out how to easily implement them in your classroom here.
Motivate with Different Activities:
Before holiday breaks or testing season are normally times to review the different concepts you have been learning. Starting a new unit this time of year usually doesn’t yield good results. How does this look in your classroom? If you have access to technology, the activities above could work well in your classroom, however, using technology every day isn’t a reality for most people. I prefer to blend different learning styles in my classroom so, in addition to digital learning, students will also color and use more traditional methods.
One of my favorite activities is using sketch notes in my grade 6, 7 and 8 classrooms. Yes, students are coloring in middle school. Why? Simple. Studies have been done and prove that students who draw and color while they are learning will retain the information better than those that don’t. Why? Taking in information in the traditional way only utilizes one side of our brain. When we add drawing or coloring, that is now accessing another side of the brain. When both sides of the brain are working, more connections are being made, therefore students will better understand the information. In addition to the whole comprehension piece, coloring also reduces stress and anxiety, so it is great to calm the emotions in your classroom. Aside from all this, I love color. I love visuals, so I have been a big supporter of taking some class time to color.
There are different ways to implement this strategy in your classroom. You can have students create their own sketch notes to demonstrate their knowledge of a skill or distribute ones that are premade. I use premade ones in my classroom but welcome and encourage students to create their own. Check out some examples here.
Flipbooks are also great to demonstrate knowledge of a topic. Today’s flipbooks are more advanced and appealing to students. I love flipbooks because they are versatile. They provide for a great review but can also be used as an assessment. In addition, I encourage my students to color theirs in so that they are still getting some of those benefits of using both sides of the brain and calming stress and anxiety. Read all about flipbooks here.
Extreme Classroom Makeover:
Ok, don’t go extreme but why not change up your classroom a little bit. You probably haven’t done much with it since prepping it for back to school season. Sometimes you need to change things a bit to help change up how you (and the students) feel. Consider making new anchor charts to attract visual learners, change up your desk arrangement or add a small flexible seating area. Rearranging your room, no matter how big or small can really make a difference for you and your students.
I hope you read something that you implement in your classroom. Did it work? Flop? Let me know in the comments below.
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Check out these other ideas to survive this season:
Jean from Flamingo Math is writing all about how to keep your students motivated mid-year! Read her tips here!
Carolyn from Engaging Science Labs shares a super hands-on activity for making a periodic table! As a science teacher, I got a bunch of ideas from her post about how I could apply it to my own classroom!
Audrey from Math by the Mountain has fun ideas to incorporate in your math classroom to keep students engaged on those last days before a break. Check it out here.
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