As educators we know that there are a myriad of strategies out there to help with engagement, active learning, critical thinking and problem-solving. There isn't a teacher out there who would not like to incorporate tools to enhance these skills into their classroom. Educators are willing to adapt and change with the times, yet with an often over-crowded curriculum and classroom, using them just falls to the wayside. Educators have one main constraint. One thing that prevents more mobility and student-interaction and collaboration to take place - Time.
However, there is a cornucopia of tools and practices that are not time-consuming and very realistic approaches, to use in any sized classroom. They are easy to incorporate into any classroom design. They are universal and adaptable. They are also fast-paced and interactive allowing for students to not only feel the pressure to commit, to the time-frame, but also to collaborate to get things done. Here are six that I use frequently. I also had a #stucentclass chat about integrating these strategies into the classroom and teachers in other content areas added their ideas, in which to use them as well. Hopefully they are options you can use to help shape your student-centered classroom.
1. What's Missing- show students a list of content vocabulary, set of pictures, diagram, or a series of steps related to the course content, but omit a piece of information. Challenge students to predict what is missing from the list or picture.
ELA- Retrieval practice of vocabulary, looking for literary devices or elements in a text. The "what's missing" will encourage them to look deeper.
SCIENCE- Marine animal anatomy, leave steps out of processes such as generating electricity from a fuel source, formation of acid rain, etc.
MATH- steps of a problem, Math problem, scientific diagram, flow chart. Up challenge and opportunity as appropriate: students create these challenges for each other or have them ‘fill-in’ unexpected/provocative steps. Simple e.g. instead of 2+blank=6 being 4, its 3 + 1.
SOCIAL STUDIES- capitals and major land-forms, a See, Think, Wonder VT routine. Looking at a picture and only show a small par, to get them looking at details and then enlarge what the part they can see and have them explain the process.
2. "AHA" walls incorporated with a Graffiti wall- As students watch a video, participate in a lecture, or read an article, encourage them to pay attention to the 'a-ha' moments. Ask them to post their "a-ha" moments on the class 'graffiti wall.' Review the wall in class and integrate their ideas into the lecture or let students choose posts from the wall to start new discussions.
ELA- Use this strategy to help students with characterization. We can learn a lot about characters by what they say and by what other characters say about them or - as in a movie - how they respond with facial expressions or body language
SCIENCE- anchoring phenomena to introduce a new topic, I had a celebration or a success wall that students could write their successes and if they were struggling with a concept they could check the wall to see if there was anyone that could support them. I also have used a Wonder Wall for adults and students.
MATH- compare & contrast ideas/thoughts/questions! Student-generated questions (Wonder Wall) is the perfect stepping stone to a Genius Hour Project or Innovation Day. They also get students thinking and wondering, bringing back that inquisitive nature that is so important for the future.
SOCIAL STUDIES- I like the idea of doing this as a warm up! That way students can also incorporate any questions they have initially! Seems like the older students get the less they like to participate so openly. I think if we start doing it right off...this would be a pretty awesome way to learn. They do seem to enjoy when I do the graffiti during the 'ah ha's.'
3. Brainstorm Challenge-If you want students to brainstorm a list of ideas or possible solutions, challenge them to generate more ideas by giving them two six sided dice. Ask them to roll the two dice and then the total roll is how many more strategies and ideas they need to come up with for the activity. Then you can encourage them to analyze, sort, or prioritize their lists based on a set of criteria. Then adding the pressure of a ten-minute time clock adds pressure and engagement.
ELA-Having a closed time deadline fires them up to generate ideas quickly love the idea of random number of ideas required, Love debating. My students are currently studying Social Issues and Argumentative Essay Writing, so we have been doing ‘Speed Debating’ in class...
SCIENCE-This would be a great approach to making predictions before a science experiment, video or classroom activity, use this when kids are gearing up for their coral bleaching essays. This would be really helpful for them to generate useful search terms.
MATH- That would help them decide which path to take when the calculations come around. If they can list all the possible "happenings" during each step, they'll likely pick up on which will happen and how they can minimize measurement error.
SOCIAL STUDIES- This would be fun for students to plan a group project. Or, once they've chosen a project, deciding what needs to be done and in what order.
4. Show not Tell- students are given envelopes (any size) they cut off the top and bottom to create a 4-sided cube that stands up like a tent. Then on each side, have students draw or create a diagram about one aspect of the concept being addressed. For instance, have each class period add a side: why, how, when, who or what. OR they could draw the stages of ecological succession, 1 per side, catastrophic events etc. Then for 5 minutes they walk around from table to table and write feedback on sticky notes, to at least 5 different tents.
ELA-In Language - story events, characters or interesting words Love this one too, For ELA, this might work with a study on plot elements.
SCIENCE-The tents would be a great way for kids to explore processes such the formation of acid rain and photo-chemical smog. I love this idea!! I have students setting up their own designed soil’s ability to buffer acid rain labs, this would be an engaging way to have them give each other feedback
MATH- Have students on each side of the cube give a different way to solve the equation.
SOCIAL STUDIES-This would be would be great for inquiry-based projects or projects in which students are exploring slightly different topics! This allows for students to show what they are working on and also learn about what others are doing/learning!
5. "No, you Do it"- Students are each provided a note-card with a question about the content. They read their question and then decide to keep it to share the answer with the class or trade it, pass it along to someone else- with the statement "No, you do it." The card can be passed only once- this should take 1 minute and then you have students answer their questions aloud to the class. You could allow more passing time if you like, then have students answer in 1 minute or less.
ELA-This would be a great way to initiate some interesting class debate topics! The cards could have a topic and the student could be responsible for picking a side and defending it!
SCIENCE- A creative way to review. My marine biology students are currently studying mollusks. They could each write a review question and then we could do this activity with the deck they create.
MATH-This also seems like it would be extremely fun for the students! It would be interesting to see them strategize, deliberate, and make their trades!
SOCIAL STUDIES-I’ve used a similar strategy with retells or recaps. Keeps students focused, you never know when you have to continue the thought/process.
6. 30 seconds or less- students are given a simple content- weathering, erosion or deposition for example. Each student gets one of the three (W.E.D.) It needs to be a topic that can be demonstrated with action, no words. Then students group themselves 1 per topic (depending on the content) and they have 1 minute to plan a skit (no sound) to demonstrate the concept to the class. Then student’s present, rapid fire, to keep engagement up. This should take less than 5 minutes total for the entire activity.
ELA-This is such a great idea that can be applied in so many areas! What a great way to promote collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity! The added pressure of the time crunch could also prove to bring another element of excitement
SCIENCE-AP Environmental students could use this to review the causes of biodiversity loss.
MATH- geometry angles and shapes, properties and theories
SOCIAL STUDIES- battles of WWII, famous speeches (just the speaker stance and characteristics of speaker), events throughout history
All six of these activities can be implemented and completed within 10 minutes. But they can also be extended with a quick write, closure activity. They can be used as warm-ups, purposeful talk introduction and even exit-tickets. They are meant to be a brain break in the sense of breaking up a longer lecture or activity with some mobility and purposeful interaction. I hope they are something you will think about trying soon. Students really do like them because they break up the class routine a little bit, they are fast and furious and they are a great way to make connections and review content in a fun way.
Thank you to my #stucentclass family for all of your amazing ideas: @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @