Tuesday, May 16, 2017

3 Ideas to End the Year Strong

Raise your hand if you've shown your students a movie towards the end of the school year.

I know lots of teachers who have relied on movies because they just didn't have the energy to do much else.  I get it.  The weather is getting warmer--it's hot inside your classroom.

"My kids are done!" ---I have heard teachers say.  But as teachers, we have this awesome responsibility to educate our students the very best we can in the time that has been given to us.  So, let's make it the best experience all the way til the last bell rings.  End the year strong!

Whether you teach first grade, high school chemistry, or somewhere in between, here are 3 ideas you might try to end your school year as strong is you started it.

#1 Engage Them

When you give up, so do your students.  Show them that you will stay engaged even into June. Engage them with hands-on projects, an end of year project-based learning unit, or an engineering design challenge. Engaging students through Making is one way to keep them thinking, collaborating, and creating throughout the school year.  Check out my book STEAM Makers for more ideas to infuse creativity and innovation into your classroom.


kinesthetic Classrooms .png#2 Get Moving

Do your students get a little antsy this time of year?  Keep them active!  Plan a scavenger hunt around the school.  Take the class for a walk around the building. Get outside and beautify your school grounds.  Try some action-based learning.

Plan regular brain breaks.  There are lots of benefits to using this strategy in the classroom.  Check out this list of brain breaks from Jill Thompson: https://insidetheclassroomoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/incorporating-brain-breaks/

#3 Have Fun!

Are students really having fun watching Finding Nemo or some other Disney classic?  Throwing on a movie might make the day seem a little easier to you, but your students would rather learn about a new tool, play a game, use technology, plan a project, or talk about their interests.  What can you do to have fun and keep kids going until the last bell?

Explore Common Sense Media https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ and let students check out new apps or summer movie releases.  They can blog about a new app they've tried or create their own movie trailers for a summer blockbuster.

Start summer vacation early by trying Google Expeditions https://edu.google.com/expeditions/ . Choose exotic locales or historical hot spots that the class may want to visit.  Check out the amazing experience with Google Cardboard or other virtual reality tools.

Look at some DIY projects to end the school year.  https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/diy-projects-that-will-blow-your-kids-minds?utm_term=.ooVOVylOW#.jiOvebkvq Students will have fun choosing projects that interest them from decorating and building to gardening or hacking.  The end of the year can be filled with engaging, creative, and fun learning opportunities.

So put down that VHS tape that you've shown for the last 10 years.  Make the end of this year memorable.  Use the last few days or weeks left with your students to do something amazing and keep them learning until the last bell.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Press the orange button!

Several months ago I started using Voxer.  I joined a lively group of educators who were reading Innovator's Mindset by George Couros.  The concept of adding voice to the discussion format that I loved on Twitter really intrigued me, so I jumped right in.  Some of the educators were hesitant and only sent out a "vox" after lurking for a while--and that it OK.  At least they did it!

As I listened to my Voxer messages on my way to work one morning, someone said something simple that really struck me--you have to have the courage to press the orange button.  (If you don't know Voxer, there's an orange button that you press to record your voice to send your message out.) The person that said it was encouraging others in the group. Come on.  Press the button.  You can do this!

Since then, I've noticed evidence of metaphorical button pushing all over the place.  One motivated teacher was interested in flexible seating for her classroom.  She knew this was a risk and outside of what her colleagues might consider, but she pressed the button anyways.  She created a plan for seating options in her classroom and went for it, resulting in enthusiastic and engaged students.

Another teacher, a digital immigrant, wanted to find new ways to involve her students in her ELA lessons.  While she was ready to try something different, she wasn't convinced that technology was the way to go.  She collaborated with another colleague and learned a few apps that could infuse technology and increase student participation in class.  She pushed the orange button and even showcased her new learning for her annual classroom observation.

Some teachers are still pretty reluctant to push the button.  Perhaps it's that they don't like the sound of their own voice.  Or maybe it's the fear of stumbling as your speaking.  I get that--I had those same fears at first too.  But, I hope that the reason isn't that they don't think they have anything important to say.  Sharing your ideas is critical to growing as an educator.  So, maybe your vox isn't mind-blowing. That's OK!  It doesn't have to be.  It does, however represent the opportunity for you to connect with other educators--just by pressing that button.

Go ahead . . . you can do it.


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