Tuesday, March 29, 2011

20 Suggestions for Teaching in the Block

The following list of ideas have been developed over a dozen years of teaching in the block.   These hints and tips are meant to be utilized across the curriculum in any discipline. These activities are designed to make the student an active participant in the learning process. These are described only in brief fashion, so that you to can adapt them and make them your own.  Take on those that fit your own teaching style as they must be authentic to both you and your students.

1.  Take a professional leave day to visit or talk to friends who are elementary school teachers--observe how they keep kids actively involved--many ideas can be adapted to the high school and the older kids still love hands on activities.

2.  Keep a supply of scissors, glue sticks, poster boards, rulers and colored pencils available for any spur-of-the-moment idea that might arise as you are stopped at the traffic light on the way to work some

3.  Teach the students games such as Balderdash, Jeopardy, Wheel of  Fortune, Tribond (word association in threes) as you want them played in the class at the beginning of the course as part of warm up activities so the kids can get to know each other.  Then when you want to review material at a later date have the students plan and carry out one of these reviews themselves.  (Might also have them prepare crossword and word search puzzles, bingo reviews, or sports review as well)

4.  Instead of handing things out to the students such as papers to return or readings and worksheets, plan for when you want these to go back and have them come and get them.  Even if it only takes 30 seconds (dream on!), it allows some movement by giving the students an opportunity to get out of their chairs to pick something up.

5.  Allow students time to be creative--alone, in pairs, or in groups have them develop and illustrate a poem, draw a cartoon, complete a scale drawing, create math problems or a science experiment for others to solve, develop a new sports game complete with the rules.

6.  Develop mini-hall passes for students for each term which they can use to go to their locker or the bathroom--decide how many of these you want to give them--if students don't use them, they can be turned back at the end of the term for 5 points of extra credit apiece. (Eliminates the constant interruption, "Can I go...")

7.  Plan various warm up activities at the beginning of a new term so that students can get to know each other and you in a more informal way so that they will feel more comfortable in the classroom.

8.  Role dice to decide if homework is to be collected on certain assignments--1 or 2, collect it----3 or 4, quiz over it----5 or 6 you're home free, nothing happens.  If this is considered gambling, just write the numbers on separate pieces of paper and have a student choose one--also use this to decide which problem(s) to grade on homework.

9.  Type or word process a quiz over certain material you are working on--run two copies only--keep one as a key on which you put the answers--cut up the other into individual questions that you spread out on the table--call one student at a time up to pick a question and read it to the whole class--everyone (including the reader) then writes down the answer, then go on to another student and another question.  Quizzes can be as long, or short as you like---questions can be added each year and used again or some may be taken out if material is taught differently---eliminates cheating from one class to another as students may or may not get the same questions.

10. Complete a progressive assignment--each row is a team--1st student does so much and then passes off to the next student in the row--this can be based on time or completion of a task--competition between rows can add excitement.

11. Use cooperative grouping techniques such as jig sawing to complete lengthy tasks and place responsibility on the students shoulders for each other getting the job done teacher must be involved as well, walking around answering questions, playing the devil's advocate, encouraging group members.

12. Plan on guest speakers, bring in senior citizens, arrange for short 90 minute field trips to tie the students in with the community.  With 90 minutes there is time to have speakers, ask questions and debrief after their departure.

13. Arrange lessons in which the students can teach material to each other--have them research to become mini-experts (or maybe they already are experts in certain areas--remember, most students know how to use the computer far better than we do!)  Have upper level students come in to help with concepts being taught to younger or less experienced students.

14. Conduct a classroom scavenger hunt in which prearranged questions or problems are answered somewhere in the room--students just have to figure out what answers what--timed competition adds fun to this--this activity is good to use either to introduce or review material.

15. Arrange desks differently or hold class in a different location if possible to add variety to the classroom--change seating charts every couple of weeks--notify front office in advance so class can be found if necessary.

16. Establish a bank of questions of material learned during the term--have an oral semester exam--call one student at a time out into the hall and ask him/her 8 to 10 questions--5 correct is an "A", 4 is a "B" and so on--have each student 1st choose a number between 1 and 10--if student says "4", ask every fourth question--next student starts from where previous student left off--give, grade, and record semester exam all at the same time  (Saves one's sanity especially when there is no special final exam schedule!!)

17. Tell students from the start that you might intentionally mislead them on certain information--force them to look things up--teach them to use resource information  (No, carpe diem does NOT mean "the fish are dying!")

18. Tie in and reinforce information being taught in other disciplines whenever possible--the concern of "Can I cover as much on the block system?" can be minimized if we all help each other--students can write well organized papers in science; math can find its way into the P.E curriculum; and history does have a place in an art or music class.

19. Role play situations for better understanding and teaching others--have students pick a topic and create their own mini-play about it to present to the class--(The drama teacher might do a short in service for the staff on improvisation to aid in this technique.)

20. Arrange for part of your class to be in the library working on a specific task while you work with an even smaller group in your classroom--switch every 30 or 45 minutes depending on the group size you want and the tasks students are working on.

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