Sometimes I hear kids say they’re “soooo bored” or “school is boring.” I often reply jokingly with, “I’m not here to entertain you. This isn’t Vegas. If you want to be entertained, go to Vegas.”
Side-note: That doesn’t mean I don’t try to razzle dazzle them on a regular basis. Believe me, I do. One time we were eating breakfast during first period and I was doing a lesson and a girl commented that they were getting “dinner and a show.”
Many teachers like to use the learning game/formative assessment “Four Corners” in which students move to a corner in the room to designate their answer.
This activity is particularly good for multiple choice. However, I have noticed that my kids move like a flock of sheep….following the person they think is right.
So I decided to try Four Corners with a twist… I hung my A, B, C, D signs up in the corners of my room.
Students were then asked to go to the corner of their choice.
“But what’s the question????? they all shouted.
I then revealed the first multiple choice question (only) on the SMART Board. I used the screen shade to hide the four choices.
I asked them to find the verb (still without choices).
I then revealed the four options.
Those students standing in the correct corner earned a point.
Now you might think that this does not require them to do much thinking. However, everyone has time to process and determine an answer and then, upon the reveal, you hear a chattering of “Yessssssss!!!” and “Aw man!!!” as they learn their fate.
This game keeps kids moving and keeps them engaged. It also eliminates embarrassment for the kid who is always wrong. The game appears to be left up to chance. It becomes a risk for everyone.
One way to assess students is through rubrics. Rubrics tell students exactly how they will be graded and therefore, exactly what they need to do. Rubrics can also be used by the teacher to evaluate student growth or achievement on a particular skill. If a teacher wanted to assess their teaching or lesson planning, there are rubrics for that too.
Rubrics are about quality: quality learning and quality teaching.
You can use Rubistar to create rubrics. This is a great starting place and the tool I normally use. Rubistar has over 50 customizable rubrics. The process is quick and easy. Below are a few screen shots with captions the explain the features.
Once you are familiar with the content and layout of a rubric, making one in Word may be just as easy, especially if you are just changing a few things. I have included a few sample rubrics below for you to download and tinker with.
- Consider the weight of each category. (Should neatness be worth the same as content?)
- The rubric should be passed out with the assignment.
- Explain the rubric to your students.
- Read through each category with the students. Give them hypothetical situations (If Jeff includes only 3 examples what score will he receive? How long does the paper have to be in order to earn 4 points?)
- Ideally, students need to hang onto the rubric and turn it in with the final product. Be prepared: have extra copies on hand.
- Have students evaluate their work with the rubric before turning it in.
As we are in garage sale season, now is a great time to pick up some cheap board games. These games don’t even have to be in great shape or complete. The random playing pieces (like dice, chips, board markers, or checkers from a partial set) can be used in a variety of ways with your students.
The pieces of the games, boards included, can be modified for classroom use and incorporated into student projects (one of the choices for our Earth Science project is to make a review game).
An idea I recently read about in Differentiated Assessment Strategies: One Tool Doesn’t Fit All, by Carolyn Chapman and Rita King, is to have students place the red monopoly houses on the main idea and green houses on supporting details.
- Students can place a red house on a math problem they are stuck on and as the teacher comes around the room, they will be able to stop and help them.
- Students can lay a red, yellow, or green playing piece on the corner of their paper to show their comfort level with the concept being taught.
- Use a deck of cards to create random groups. (All the 4’s are in a group, all the hearts are on a team, the Aces are team captains, etc.)
- Give a sand timer to a student who easily gets distracted or who needs limits. They can try to complete a certain number of problems in 2 minutes.
- Use play money as part of your reward system or to practice money skills.
- Use colored marbles or chips for a lesson in probability.
Here is a shopping list for your next garage sale outing. You may have to think outside the box and look inside game boxes to find these goodies:
- checkers or chess pieces
- game boards
- play money
- place markers
- letter tiles
- sand timers
Because my cat, Ellie, is an indoor cat she can’t go to garage sales. But, she does like to play good old-fashioned board games!
One of the learning tools I love to use the most is also one of my students’ favorites: dry erase boards.
Three years ago I bought a large 4′ x 8′ sheet of hardboard at Lowe’s for around $11.00. For a minimal fee they cut the board into 32 12″x 12″ boards. I think the total bill was less than $15.00. I purchased economy packs of wash cloths at Dollar General. While dry erase markers can be pricey, our team has them on the supply list (1 pack of 4 for each student). We put these markers in a huge basket and they are for general use in the classroom.
We use these boards almost every day in some capacity.
Any paper/pencil activity that can be put on the SMART Board can be done on a dry erase board. (Especially good for grammar, math problems, multiple choice activities, and fill in the blank type worksheets)
I have my students write an occasional short answer/extended response/journal entry on a dry erase board. I love when students ask if they can get another board because they don’t have room for everything they want to say.
I use them with our online textbook. It’s not very easy to get computer time in our building but by using the SMART Board and the dry erase markers, I can easily use tutorials, review activities, and vocabulary lessons with the whole class.
Dry erase boards are also a great way to do formative assessment. It’s very easy to get an overview of how well the students grasped the daily lesson.
So let me sum it up:
Pros of dry erase boards
+ Less paper/pencil tasks
+ Less photo copying and less waste
+ Allows for movement around the room (Sometimes they can sit on the back counter, the floor, away from their desks)
+ Accountability (“Everybody, boards UP!”)
+ Engaging (Everyone can answer every question, not just one student)
+ Forgiving (It’s easy to erase mistakes and try again)
Cons of dry erase boards
– Not practical for graded assignments
– Kids love to doodle. (I admit I am a “doodler”. You should see my decorated notes from staff meetings!)
– The markers stink! (I strongly recommend specifically putting low-odor markers on your supply list
The last few days of school and the natives are restless. Today in my Resource Language Arts class we did a fun culminating activity.
To begin, we looked at a worksheet about evaluating a piece of writing. We discussed what it means to evaluate, completed the worksheet, and then the students became the evaluators.
Students lined up along the back of the room with small dry erase boards. Their job was to rate/evaluate each piece of literature that we read this year. I started at the beginning of the year and went sequentially. Students would write a number 1-10 (1 being the lowest) and then arrange themselves in a number line from lowest to highest.
As we went through our stories, I showed them the title pages or covers of each selection. This helped spark their memory. (Note to self: Next year, put these on the SMART Board rather than awkwardly flip through the text book.)
To keep the activity educational, I did the following things at random:
I asked individual students to provide a reason for their rating. What made you rate this selection so low? What made this a perfect 10 for you?
I quizzed them over the plot, characters, and some of the literary terms we used when we read that piece of literature. What was the setting of The Tell-Tale Heart? Which character was the protagonist in The Outsiders? What was Leo’s internal conflict in Stargirl?
I helped students find and explain the patterns of their ratings. Some things we noticed: The boys preferred science fiction and horror stories. Those who hate to read out loud rated the plays lower than the other types of literature. Overall, students rated our novels (The Outsiders, Stargirl, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) higher than our short stories out of our literature book.
Allowing the students to stand and move was a great way to direct their energy at this crazy time of year. I know some people use a number line already posted in their room, but the use of dry erase boards made everyone accountable and honestly, what student doesn’t love dry erase boards?
This activity was beneficial to me as well, as it served as a kind of formative assessment. What did they learn? What do they remember? What did they enjoy? What did they dislike? This will help me in my planning and instruction next year.
Do you do any end of the year surveys or review games?
How would you change this activity to fit your class?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your year?