Project Based Learning Article

For all you who went to the Flip Class presentation last week here is a great article about Project Based Learning. I think I went over most of these but like the author I too know that adopting this approach to teaching takes time to nail down. Be patient with yourself!!  PBL Edutopia article

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Don’t Push…LEAD

As I sit here and reflect about the start of the year a rush of emotions hit me.  Changing jobs is stressful for anyone, regardless of your desire and intention, and for me downshifting to middle school has been just that.  I am not sure I was mentally and emotionally ready for what this uniquely wonderful, disastrous, energetic, lethargic, eager, cautious population would need from me.  The last time I taught middle schoolers I was 22, young, energetic, single, child free, and inexperienced, and before I started this year, I always looked back and said that I really enjoyed them.  12 years, 1 husband, 2 kids, 5 years teaching high schoolers, and many achy bones later my life has changed.  My experiences have changed me, my knowledge has increased, my expectations have been raised,  and therefore my approach to teaching has changed.  I would like to say that the transition has been EAAASSSY, but it hasn’t.

I found that I was quickly becoming the type of teacher I disliked the most.  You know, the one that always looked at the negative instead of the positive?  Yeah, I know the beginning of the year is hard, setting expectations and getting kids on board is hard, but the manner in which I was doing it was NOT working, nor was it making me a better teacher or person.  I found myself burning inside every time a student came in not dressed or late, and worrying about it at home instead of enjoying my  time with my boys or watching our favorite tv show with my husband.  Yeah, I knew things had to change, but I found myself trapped in this whirlpool constantly pulling me down.

Now in the 2nd 6 Weeks, I have made adjustments to my teaching and class structure, I met with the parents of those students who continued to be disruptive or defiant, and I’ve begun focusing on how I am going to create a culture of excellence versus a culture of mediocrity.  I have seen a change in my classes already, but I was still struggling with this “Negative Nancy” attitude that kept me from really seeing the growth of my students.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with our district dance and theatre coordinator who came in to talk about redefining our department culture by first understanding our students’ culture.  She was here for 3 hours  and we discussed a lot but it was one of the first things she said that stuck with me the most, “You cannot push, you can only lead.”  Everything else we discussed was great but this by far had the greatest impact on how I was feeling.  So, for all you out there struggling with a handful of students remember that we have to celebrate our successes as teachers as well.  Out of 167 students I have about 10 who haven’t jumped onto the dance train, and that’s not too bad!  I have set the expectations, and although I will not push back I will stand strong because I know they can achieve greatness!  It’s my job to lead them to see their greatness and to help them see how their choices have natural consequences (good or bad).  Let’s focus on all the good we are achieving in our classes and celebrate the little victories on the way!!

Reve up in class reviews and activities!

So I attempted to use some new, exciting ways to review all the things I taught this first six weeks of school. Thanks to my friend, Meagan, I created review tools using Kahoot!, Plickers, Charades, and Jeopardy.

Overall I feel like every activity was effective and that my students had a good time reviewing this way.

1.Plickers (www.plickers.com) is a great review tool.  I used it to review dance history we went over during this first 6 weeks.  Plickers works a lot like class clickers but without the hassle of clickers.  All teachers have to do is create their classes, assign students their unique card number, create their assessment, print out cards, present to the class, and scan cards for immediate results.

Technology Needed: This is perfect for those classes with limited technology accessibility.  Teacher’s need one computer, projector, and their cell phone with Plickers app (needed to scan student cards).

Outcome: My students loved this activity.  They loved the whole scanning process for some reason, and loved seeing if they got the answer correct.  LOL.   It was funny really.  I was able to see what questions students did well on and the ones I needed to review at the end of class.  This also helped students know what questions they needed to go back and review before the test.  This review tool was by far the most successful because students did best on this set of questions.  It was easy to use in every class!  I may even try to use it as more formal assessment in the future.

2. Kahoot! is a free online site that is easy to sign up for and easy to use. I used this site to create a review for vocabulary words. What is really great about this site is that you can add images and videos to your questions. Sometimes I asked a straight vocabulary question and other times I added a picture and had students identify the movements.

Technology Needed: Students will need either a phone, tablet, or computer to answer questions.  If someone doesn’t have their own device, I team them up with another student who does.   https:/getkahoot.com/

Outcome: Students really enjoyed this activity.  They liked coming up with their player name, they liked seeing their rank at the end of each round, and they had a lot of fun on the Rapid Fire Round, where they only had 5 seconds to answer the questions.

3.Whiteboard Jeopardy game that helped review body alignment principals.  After reviewing parts of the body and alignment principals students were broken into teams.  Members rotated answering various body alignment questions using the whiteboards.   Those with the correct answer got the points.

Technology Needed: This is another if you have tablets then it is easier to use because you don’t have to worry about dry erase boards, markers and erasers, but if you don’t then all you need are 5-6 dry erase boards (if working in teams), markers and erasers.

Outcome:  This was by far the quietest game we played during our review week.  Even though they were in teams, students were not allowed to talk to each other or help their peers out in any way or else their team would lose a point.  LOL.  It’s funny to reflect on it because they had been so loud in the other games and to see them sitting in a straight line, quietly with ants in their pants because they knew the answer was pretty entertaining.  =)

4. Charades (iPad app) to review vocabulary we went over the day before.

Technology Needed:  Tablets if available.  I broke the students into teams of 5 because I had 5 iPads, but if you don’t have tablets then really you can recreate this same thing on index cards.

Outcome: Some classes got it, but it was probably the least successful activity because most of my students had never played charades before.  They didn’t quite understand how it went and I found that they did a lot of talking instead of acting.  I have a high ESL population and I took it for granted that they would be able to play after a brief explanation.  By 4th period I knew I needed to give a more detailed description of how to play and begun demonstrating how to play the game with volunteers.  For my classes that are bit more rambunctious I had to be much more active in terms of monitoring.

Rewards

Instead of giving away candy for the winners I give Free Dress Passes and Performance Passes.  I find that students like these because they all forget their clothes at one point, and the Performance Pass allows them to sit out of an informal performance or perform only in front of me if it’s a formal assessment.  I don’t give them out too often so they are highly sought after.  =)

Give some of these a try.  It was a bit time consuming learning to set up each activity, but now that I’ve done it I will definitely try to use them again…just maybe not all in the same week.