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How To Make Vocabulary More Engaging in the Classroom

 Teaching vocabulary is vital for the secondary content-area classroom, but the task can also be the most boring activity students must endure.  Change that up with this simple how-to!

  1. Make learning vocabulary an event in your classroom rather than a start-of-unit menial task.  Allow adequate time for the event, and give it the same emphasis as any other activity in your class lessons.
    • Do a scavenger hunt, allowing students to find and define terms.
    • Play a matching game with terms and definitions, creating some competition in the task.
    • Set up an archeology dig where students gather the information to fit the lesson. 
  2. Allow students choice in how they will learn or process vocabulary.  Working in pairs or small groups can help students define and examine the connotation of terms, while also discussing the terms for reinforcement.
    • Use Think-Research-Share activities to step students through the vocabulary process.
    • Hold "salon" gatherings or connotation readings for added engagement.
    • Add an element of controversy to prompt discussion of critical events.  
  3. Provide graphic organizers or other handouts to help students record definitions.  Add a visual element to help students imprint the content in their brains for later reference. 
  4. Encourage creativity in the process and application stage of vocabulary learning.  This requires additional thinking and builds retention.
    • Let students write poems, draw pictures, or sing songs to learn vocabulary or to learn its appropriate application.  
  5. Make the review of vocabulary a whole class activity and make it fun.  Allow students to perform skits, play Pictionary, or play charades for added practice and added fun.
Teaching vocabulary does not have to be a boring task.  It can be as engaging and fun as you take the time to make it!  Just remember, the more time you take to make the activity engaging and fun, the more your students will process and retain!

*My Age of Exploration Sunken Ship Activity is shown in this post.  Students gather vocabulary cards from the sunken ship to collect information on the Age of Exploration and the changes leading into modern times.

Happy Teaching!

How-To Do a Scavenger Hunt in Your Classroom

Scavenger Hunts come in a variety of formats and can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom.  Unfortunately, this often means we are overwhelmed with how to use them most effectively in our classrooms with our students.

Here's a simple how-to for doing a scavenger hunt:
  1. Gather Scavenger Hunt Sets or Resources.  Keep in mind that some sets only include the task or question cards, while others will provide the readings and content, as well.  Choose what will work best for your students.  If readings or content is needed, gather the resources and place them around the room.
  2. Print and laminate all materials for repeated year-to-year use.  Hole punch your materials and place them on a ring to easily store them when not in use.
  3. Place reading cards or resources all around the classroom (or school).  Hide them in places where students can search, including in other resources!
  4. Assign students partners or into small groups.
  5. Give our a graphic organizer for the activity, or simply have students number their papers for the number of cards/questions in the activity.
  6. Provide each group one question card at a time.  Set a time limit for each card, and use to keep students on task.
  7. Review all questions at the end of class to check for accuracy and student completion. 
  8. Encourage discussion and always wrap-up the lesson with an exit slip or formative assessment task!   
Keep in mind, you can always expand on a scavenger hunt activity. Hunt cards can turn into research projects, reading cards can lead to writing prompts, and whole activities can lead to class bulletin boards or topic walls!  Your and your student's imagination can take you far with any Scavenger Hunt set!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons! Here's my Scavenger Hunt Series!

Happy Teaching!

How-To Make Archeology Digs Content-Strong

Many engaging classroom activities are fun, but are they content-strong?  Do they encourage skills practice that will help students learn at a higher level?  Can they involve critical thinking or analysis skills that will foster continued growth in the student's academic career?

Here's my simple How-To for making an Archeology Dig content-strong!

First off, you must create and set up the archeology dig!  Here's a how-to for that easy task!

Next, you need to make sure it has the content and the depth of learning for your students.

Here's how to:
  1. Start off with resources that encourage critical thinking or analysis.
  2. Do not allow students to simply copy facts or not what they see.  Require further analysis on all materials examined. 
  3. Encourage the use of a graphic organizer to categorize content or prioritize information.
  4. Allow student discussion of topics and provide additional resources or tools for further investigation.
  5. Tie content back to previous lessons and require students reference those lessons in current tasks, restating content.
  6. Include wrap-up questions and review the dig activity with a whole-class discussion.
  7. Assign application activities that require higher-order thinking and the deeper use of the content collected in the activity.
  8. Encourage student review and reporting of information collected.  Reinforce the content through quizzes or other assessments that utilize the activity materials.
Any activity can be content-strong if the right skills are practiced in its use.  Never rely on any resource to be the teacher in the classroom.  While resources can provide the basic information, you are the one that brings the learning home for your students!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons! **My Chinese Dynasties Archeology Dig Activity seen in the photos!

Happy Teaching!

How-To Use Topic Cards in Your Classroom

Are you working toward giving students more autonomy and independence in your classroom?  

Have you used Topic Cards for your Genius Hour projects?
Or are you stumped on how to use generic resources for complex learning?

Here's a simple how-to for using Topic Cards that can spark incredible learning!
  1. Create or find Topic Cards that best fit your classroom or your topic of study.
  2. Print and laminate cards for year-to year use.
  3. Display cards for student selection or randomly distribute cards.
  4. Encourages students to start with 2 cards and begin project-based study and research by comparing the two (related) topics.
  5. Begin by having students create or utilize a graphic organizer or comparison chart.Visit my store for a free SPRITE Organizer for Social Studies topics or my BRAGS Organizer for any lesson!
  6. Allow time for students to further investigate topic and to research for details.
  7. Assign writing prompts comparing topics as students develop their knowledge on the topics.
  8. Encourage project development and application using topic content or skills.
  9. At the end of the project period, have students draw new cards to review or quiz for content knowledge and concept understanding!
  10. As topics are covered, display the topic card and the project on a classroom wall for student recognition and content reinforcement.
This is just one suggestion for using Topic Cards in your classroom.  Take a look at my U.S. History Topic Cards for even more ideas to make your classroom engaging, content-strong, and FUN!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons!

Happy Teaching!

How-to Create a Walking Tour in Your Classroom

Want to make your classroom more interactive, but don't know how?

Start with Walking Tours!  

Walking Tours get your students up moving around the classroom, provide them all the content on a topic in a visually appealing manner and encourage discussion of the content to help with retention and application.

Here's the simple how-to:
  1. Create or purchase ready-made Walking Tour resources.   Collect vibrant images, interesting quotes, thorough content, and engaging questions that will foster discussion.  Place the information on printable cards that can be arranged in your classroom setting.
  2. Print (in color when possible) and laminate the cards for year-to-year use.  
  3. Organize the tour in a chronological or thematic manner around your classroom.  Add other media to enhance skills and learning process.  Consider atlases, maps, almanacs, books, bookmarked novels, additional images, etc. 
  4. Assign students in small groups (2-4) to travel in as they collect information from each location or time period on the tour.
  5. Go over the rules for your classroom regarding voice levels, walking standards, and collaboration basics!
  6. Provide students a graphic organizer or tour worksheets for completion and note-taking as they move around the room. 
  7. Circulate from location to location with students.  Ask additional questions or point out interesting content as you engage with groups.  Clarify student confusion or answer questions as needed.  DO NOT answer the student questions provided at each tour location, but direct students to the materials for consideration!
  8. Set a timer or use to keep students focused and on task.  Remind students of time demands as you circulate.
  9. Assess students as you circulate.  Consider participation, skills practice, or reading for content as assessment criteria. 
  10. Allow students time after completing all locations to answer wrap-up or comparison questions.  Encourage group discussion for completion.
  11. Review the key content as a whole class.  Discuss interesting parts of the activity and answer student questions.  
  12. Refer back to the activity in later lessons and use activity clues in unit tests.
Allowing students to get up and move around for content-strong lessons will teach them that learning can be fun.  More importantly, they will be practicing skills of reading, content collection, and analysis that are so vital for learning in the 21st century!

***My Walking Tour of the Industrial Revolution was used in this activity description.  Find it and others in my TpT Store!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons!

Happy Touring!

How-To Use Quiz Cards for More Interactive Assessments

Need new, creative ways to assess student learning?

Try using a Quiz Card Activity!

Here's the simple how-to:
  1. Select questions to provide a complete assessment on the content taught. 
  2. Create quiz cards or purchase them ready-made.  If cards are not already numbered, write numbers on the back or add number stickers.  Visit my TpT store for great Scavenger Hunt Sets that work very well with this activity.
  3. Laminate cards to protect them from year to year.  Hole-punch card sets to place them on a ring for easy storage.
  4. Place students in small groups.  Mixed ability grouping works well to help all students in this type of activity.
  5. Arrange the cards in a random method on each group table.  Randomization helps to guarantee students KNOW the content and have not simply memorized an ordered arrangement. 
  6. Have students number their paper for quiz.  This may be an assessment you collect, or could be for students to keep in their notebook for further review.
  7. Allow students to pick from quiz cards, completing questions in a random order.  Have students answer in simple wording or require full sentences to help reinforce ideas. 
  8. Give students the option of discussing questions with group for more interactivity.
  9. Grade as a whole class for added review.
Using quiz cards and allowing student discussion not only assesses student understanding and content knowledge, but it works to review the content for added reinforcement.

***My Presidents Scavenger Hunt is shown in this activity how-to.

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons!

Happy Teaching!

Student Importance and Significance

Throughout the year, we teach our students about the important places, events, and people of our world.  While these are all valuable lessons, it is also importance to teach them of their own importance and significance in our world.  Many may be thinking that I am referencing elementary aged students and the lessons they learn in the early grades as they adapt to the classroom.  Instead, I think the responsibility falls to the upper grades.  It is in these years that we can teach the students the costly lessons in life, and how to avoid the mistakes made by others throughout history.

What should we teach?

Start with the history or the literature or any other content.  Teach them about those people who have made our world what it is.  The heroes, the activists, the ground-breakers.  And then teach them their place in the world, and how they are responsible for making it a different place than it is today.
  • Lead students to identify their areas of interest.
  • Discuss with students the wrongs of the past.
  • Identify the problems of today.
  • Ask students what they can do to make a difference.
  • Challenge students to change the status-quo.
  • Encourage students to stand up for their beliefs.
  • Allow students to be individuals and to think for themselves.
  • Teach them that they are responsible for their world, and that by-standers are never positively significant.
Teach about today.  Talk about the hot topics that are on the news, and challenge students to think about what they would do differently.  And push them to think through topics, and to step away from the generic responses of generations past.  Today is a different world - and they should be different citizens of that world.  It is up to them to make it change!

Some of my suggested topics or activities to spur discussion:
  • Review Important People and identify what made them important.  What could they have done differently?  How could they have changed the world or the future?  What lessons do they teach us about the world we live in now?
  • Talk about the recent news story of terror.  Ask your students what they would have done?  Would they have run from the scene?  Run to help the injured?  Are they angry at the terrorists?  How can we prevent these events in the future?
  • Discuss the latest school shooting.  What would prompt someone to do this type of thing?  How would they deal with a situation like this in our community? Do they understand how someone could do something like this?  Is there any explanation?
  • Refer to a local shooting.   How would they respond in such a situation?  What about their friends or family with them?  Are they sympathetic/empathetic to the shooter?  Can they explain why these things happen?  What would they change to prevent these shootings?
  • Examine the Events of 9/11.  Is this really a battle over religion?  Were the terrorists bad people?  Were they following the tenants of their religion or acting as individuals?  How should individuals or nations respond to an attack such as this one?  Should we have gone to war?  Against who?  Are the people of the nations where the terrorists are from responsible for these attacks?
Challenge students to investigate other current events or Significant People in our World.  What is their role?  What is our responsibility as individuals?  What should our nation do in response?  How do they see the future? 

And then, ask your students to evaluate.  What type of person am I now?  What do I do on a small scale that impacts others?  How can I help my community?  How can I influence the people around me in a positive way EVERY day?  What can they do to make positive change?
  •  A fun way to allow students to self-evaluate is to have them Create Paper Dolls of themselves.  Just as they would evaluate a character from a book or an historic figure, they can detail the characteristics of their own personality and identify their own contributions.
As the school year comes to an end, challenge your students to become better people for their futures.  Challenge yourself to do the same!

Happy Teaching!