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How I Use Highlighters in the Secondary Classroom

Color is important!  In my classroom, we color coded everything. And to do that, highlighters became a very important tool!  I'm sure your students already use highlighters in your classes, but do they use them in the most effective ways?  Check out these quick tips to see what will work best for your students.
Quick tips and ideas for using highlighters effectively in the secondary classroom.

Categorization & Organization
Almost every post I write talks about the need for categorization and organization. I often encourage the use of graphic organizers and suggest tools to help your students record and recall content. Highlighters can be one of the most those effective tools for your visual learners.  Whether you establish set criteria for each color, or you simply use the highlighters for keeping track of important facts, these versatile tools will keep your students focused and help them to "see" the content on the page.

Primary Source Analysis
The skill of primary source analysis should #1 in the Social Studies classroom. Primary sources help us to identify bias, to ascertain multiple perspectives, and to examine the key features of a particular time period.   Highlighters can be used to identify each of those aspects and to pick through the rhetoric often included in documented sources.

Comparison
One of the most challenging tasks in the Social Studies is that of comparison. While T-Charts and Venn Diagrams can help with larger tasks, highlighters can be the quick go-to for easy alignment for later attention.

Fun!
Why should learning be boring? Sometimes, putting a little color onto our pages helps our brains awaken for better focus.  Have students highlight as they read, highlight around sections of reading, or highlight the borders of the page to brighten the subject matter!

However you choose to use highlighters in your classroom, they should be a tool that is always available for your students. Remember that we each learn in different ways; what works for one may not work for others.  Making highlighters or markers, or even crayons, available to your students simply gives them more visual and kinesthetic ways in which to process your classroom content!

Happy Teaching!

The Many Uses for Index Cards

In the old days, Index Cards were one of the most valuable resources for a research-based classroom. But with the introduction of Interactive Notebooks and then technology tools, the index card became a thing of the past. That shouldn't be the case. After all, index cards have many uses, and all of them can help students to learn skills vital for academic development.
 There are many ways to use index cards in the classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning.

Tried and True Uses for Index Cards
If you ever took an advanced or AP course in high school, you most likely learned to gather, record, and organize facts onto practical, white index cards. Think about the skills associated with that task...
  1. Fact Collection - keep in mind that processing information for retention is a multi-step process. Using index cards for basic fact collection helps students learn the skills of analysis and decision-making.
  2. Chronological Thinking - learning before and after or cause and effect can be challenging tasks in the Social Studies classroom. Writing out dates with simple annotations on index cards and allowing students to place the events in chronological order can help them to identify those changes.
  3. Categorization - using varied colors of index cards, or simply adding identification markers (stars, hearts, crosses...) to cards can help students learn to group like terms, facts, or characteristics. As students practice this skill, they will learn to evaluate information at a more in-depth level, increasing their knowledge and analytical skills.
  4. Vocabulary Development - students have long written terms and definitions onto index cards for memorization. Take that a few steps more to have students apply context, unit significance, and appropriate categorization of terms. 
  5. Game Play - practice does make perfect, and playing memory games can not only help to practice the terms or the content of study, but it also stretches the muscles in the brain and sparks activity to help enrich the brains capacity for learning. Use index cards to create a number of different game formats with your content.
  6. Thought Organization - while thinking maps have become all the rage, so can index card maps. Use them to jot down thoughts or opinions and create a web on the board or on the floor, aligning common thoughts or comparing the opposites.
  7. Reading Cards - as students read, index cards can be the easiest way to jot down significant plot events, character developments, and theme concepts. Keep the cards stored in the book pages to help chart reading development and book analysis.
  8. Research - for classes where Genius Hour has become a way of life, index cards can help students from the brainstorming stage to product completion. Start with ideas, eliminate down to common thread, use cards to develop ideas, record facts and additional content through research, and then organize for product development. 
  9. Think-Pair-Share - read through this post for 10 different ways to implement THINK-PAIR-SHARE activities in your classroom and then use the index cards to allow students to record the activity development. 
  10. Assessment - for daily formative assessment, index cards can be the quickest, easiest to handle, and easiest to grade way to go! Give each students a card each week, and have them add their exit response to the card at the end of each class period. Collect the cards as students leave the room. Grade. Repeat!  At the end of the week, hole-punch the cards and give them to students to keep in their notebooks for assessment prompt review (and text preparation)!
There are many ways to use index cards in the classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning.
There are probably hundreds of other ideas for using index cards in the classroom. This is just the tip of the iceberg!  What are your ideas?

Happy Teaching!