Monday, May 8, 2017

Small Changes for the Final Stretch of the School Year

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As we enter this final stretch of the school year, spring fever is in the air and everyone is eager for summer vacation. Warm and sunny days make for beautiful weather, but the classroom climate can be quite tempestuous as students are ready for the school year to be over. They slouch in their seats, slack on their work and whine about anything that's remotely rigorous. And those, of course, are the easy problems - other more challenging students may step up their rebellion a tad bit putting discipline issues on the rise. Like a tired runner on her last lap of the race, it's very easy for teachers to lose momentum, but this is a critical time to pick up speed to ensure we finish strong. For many of us, this may mean making a few small changes. The last lap is crucial as it will determine the year's outcome. We may feel tempted to slow down or drop out, but we can't achieve a win unless we persevere until the very end.

As we near the finish line, we want to be creative, spontaneous and engaging, but also consistent and focused. However, we can't disregard the human factor. It's easy to become frustrated at the disengagement, yet in order to win them over, we may need to adjust our own approaches and shift attitudes.  If we are not excited and positive, much less will our students be.

Here are some small changes that I have found help stir up some positivity and brighten up the remaining school days.
  • Increase positive recognition. I'm usually pretty good about pointing out the good in my students, but I've been trying to dig a little deeper.  And I don't want to just tell them individually, I want to make sure the entire class knows about the treasures I find.
  • Ignore the small stuff.  I'm picking my battles carefully and so I can stay focused on the learning targets.
  • Share myself.  Be open and honest, willing to share joys, successes, and setbacks.  As I tell students about my own stumbling blocks and how I turn them into stepping stones, many may find connections and hopefully be encouraged. 
  • Take time to laugh.  A little amusement can do a lot of good. Happy teachers will make happy students.  Learning and laughing are not mutually exclusive.
  • End the class with a joke.  I try to end my class periods on a positive note by sharing a little motivation or encouragement as they are launched from my room.  This last quarter I'm ending the class period with a riddle or joke.
I believe these small changes, can reap great rewards. Bottom line, kids won't care about learning, if they don't know that we care about them, the learner.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Kahoot as a Presentation Tool

It all started when one of my classes read an article on titled "Ten Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr." As a follow-up, students were asked to present "Ten Things You May Not Know" on the topic of their choice using the presentation tool of their choice. Topics ranged from themselves, their native country, favorite sport or a popular celebrity. Most of them used presentation tools such as Google Slides, Keynote or Emaze. Interestingly, one of my learners asked if he could create a Kahoot game in order to make his presentation more engaging and it was a hit! That's when I discovered that Kahoot was not just a formative assessment tool, but it was also a very effective presentation tool for students.

Now that I am at a different high school, I decided to recycle the idea with my current group of English learners, but instead of asking them to just make a presentation, I asked them to present using a Kahoot game as a presentation tool. While I'm all about "voice and choice", this particular group of learners had never used Kahoot as a presentation tool - actually most of them had never created a Kahoot game at all - so I seized the opportunity to teach them a new way to present.

But how is it a presentation when it's simply a game you may ask?  Using a Kahoot as a student presentation tool is similar to a teacher using a Blind Kahoot to introduce a new concept. However, after every question students are expected to expand on the answer by giving an explanation prior to moving on to the next question. Therefore, students must prepare just as they would using any other presentation format.

It's about much more than competition, engagement, and wow-factor. Rather than a sit-and-get slide show of facts that are often uninteresting to both the audience and the presenter, the game-style presentation requires the audience to be alert and engaged. And that engagement is invaluable to the presenter. The more attentive the audience, the more confident, relaxed will the presenters be and they will generally much more effective.  It's a win-win situation.

I used this primarily to help my students develop their English speaking skills, yet there are numerous ways this can be implemented to cover our state standards. Moreover, while I used this for individual presentations, they are ideal for group presentations as well.

If you haven't used Kahoot in this way, I highly encourage you to try it - especially in this last stretch of the school year. It just may be what you need to add a little fun and ensure a strong finish.

Below are links to some of the games my students created last week.  I welcome your feedback or suggestions.

Ecuador -
Italy -
Dominican Republic -