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Month: August 2017

Simple and Easy Way to Encourage Student Participation During Class

Simple and Easy Way to Encourage Student Participation During Class

Facilitating student collaboration and getting students to share their ideas with the class can be like pulling teeth. We’ve all stood in front of the class listening to the crickets chirp, waiting for a volunteer.

You see, students are like everybody else, they’re terrified of being wrong. The last thing most students want to do is share their “half-baked” ideas in front of the entire class.

Here’s a simple solution to get them talking. I call it “Pair Share, Quad Share, Class Share”. Put your students’ desks in groups of four, like in the illustration below:

You can use this technique with any homework assignment, classroom activity, or come see any of the engaging reading and writing resources available in our store. The arrows in the image illustrate a progression to get the students talking to each other and build their confidence in their ideas and work.
1. Begin by having them do an exercise independently.
2. After they have completed their work, have them “pair share” their ideas with the person next to them and make additions or edits.
3. When they have completed their “pair share”, have them participate in a “quad share”, and make further additions and/or edits to their work.
4. Ask for a volunteer to share their work with the class. Make them the “teacher”. This works best if you can use an ELMO or some technology to project their work on the screen.

This progression of sharing moves from small to large, and should give them enough feedback and affirmation to feel confident in their work, breaking down the barriers holding them back from sharing with the larger class.

Using Monty Python To Teach Students The Fundamentals OF Argument

Using Monty Python To Teach Students The Fundamentals OF Argument

We all remember some of the classic Monty Python lines:

Hilarious stuff, but fans know that so much of their material was incredibly intelligent and possibly over our heads. This particular video is a perfect way to introduce some of the fundamental principles of argument into the classroom.

To facilitate classroom discussion and activity, I have created this worksheet. You can download it for free, in either PDF or as a Google Digital resource with the links at the bottom of this entry.

This fun introduction to argument is part of a larger resource, Argument Evaluation and Analysis, available at our store.

I use this video as an in class activity or a homework assignment. Click on the links below for a free worksheet to use for either activity. The downloads are available as pdf or a paperless, fillable Google Digital resource. You can also go into more depth with your students with Argument Evaluation and Analysis

“Don’t Laugh Challenge”: A Fun Classroom Activity To Shake Things Up

“Don’t Laugh Challenge”: A Fun Classroom Activity To Shake Things Up

Remember the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? It originated as a proverb but found its mark in contemporary culture from this famous scene in the movie “The Shining”:

I’m not a huge fan of horror movies and I don’t mean to creep you out, but the film and the proverb present an important lesson to learn. No teacher wants their classroom to become a scene out of “The Shining”: to become dull, dull to the point their students check out. Long story short, sometimes our students can benefit from playing in the classroom. A little break from work can go a long way with generating student buy in.

Here’s a great idea that you can use as an icebreaker, something to help the students take a quick break, an on going event, or even an incentive/reward for a week of hard work. The “Don’t Laugh Challenge” is simple, but I have to admit, IT’S A HOMERUN WITH THE STUDENTS!!.

Here’s the basic concept: Two people sit facing each other in the front of the class with a list of jokes. In succession, they deliver the jokes to each other. If either person laughs while listening to the joke, delivering the joke, or after the joke is delivered; their opponent receives a point. It’s that simple, but the results are hilarious.

Here are a few ways you can incorporate it into the year.
***Very important that the teacher controls the joke pool. This ensures clean humor and avoids any cultural, racial or identity insensitivities***

1. Simple One On One Challenge: Have two students volunteer or even one student calls out another student for the challenge
2. On going one side of the room versus the other side of the room contest. Have different students represent each side of the room for a challenge that can last for a part of a class or ongoing for the semester.
3. Teacher Student Challenge: Teacher takes on any challengers (maybe on a weekly basis or as an incentive for students to work for.
4. Tap Out Challenge: Two teams of students challenge each other and can “tap out” to another team member, like in wrestling.
4. Champions Challenge: Have the best from each class compete at lunch.

Below are a few links to help you build a database of jokes. You could also have students submit jokes for the challenge. Just make sure you review the jokes for appropriateness.

Teachers need to “sell” their subject to their students.

Teachers need to “sell” their subject to their students.

It’s the last week of summer and as I’m joining my teenage nephew for a plate of my favorite carnitas for lunch, I think, “What a different experience, me as a teacher, and he as a student, have in anticipating our return to the classroom.” Him, possibly dread of homework and the pressure of studies. Me, a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

We all know how crucial the beginning week of school can be. First impressions can only happen once. That’s what makes them “first”. One element that I have come to value is the idea of “selling” my subject or curriculum to the students. Winston Churchill once said, “Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” Which in the sales world translates, people don’t buy what they don’t like being sold. So, at the beginning of each year, I take it upon myself to “sell” my product or my subject (which is English Language Arts) to my students.

Here’s irony for you, as English teachers, we teach students how to evaluate literature or stories, but often we forget how compelling and powerful story telling can be as a tool for our purposes. When it comes to “selling” students on the value of our class and curriculum, story telling can be key. Consider this video:

It tells a story, a story about the power of language.

One way I get “buy in” from my students at the beginning of the year is to show this video. It’s short but compelling, and it tells a strong story: that language is powerful and meaningful. Just the slight change to the blind man’s sign had a dramatic impact.

The pitch is: learning to use language effectively is a life-changing skill. Without a command of language, opportunities will be missed. My course is designed to help students harness the power of words, and let that skill give them influence over their future.

Now that’s a pitch. That’s “selling” my subject and class to the students.