As state testing (for some this year and for most or all of us in a normal non pandemic year) looms in the near future, days get warmer, and the school year winds down, many educators are thinking towards next year. Sure, a lot of thoughts are also aimed at the summer and vacation plans, but some thoughts are focused on the next school year. We have almost completed what might very well be the toughest school year of all time. One for the record books for sure, so naturally we need a summer break, but thoughts of next year still linger.
Life has been busy, as you may have noted from the fact my last post was from the middle of February. As I pondered how to bring some fun into my classroom for my students in my last hour Spanish class (I teach English II, Mythology, Yearbook, and Multimedia Communications the rest of the day), I thought about making a game. Then I recalled how much fun my students in other classes have had creating their own games to help them learn the content, and that settled it for me. I would have my students create the game or games.
Reaching the deeper levels of rigor and getting students to think critically while learning a world language can seem difficult. A lot of what students have to learn initially is that surface-level knowledge, but using pictures without words is one way you can get students swimming in the deep end of the thinking pool. At this point, those of you who aren't language teachers are now thinking of jumping off my post and dusting your hands of it since it clearly doesn't apply to what you teach. But wait! There's more! This gem can actually be used with any content and at any level. It is presented as an world language activity, but it is easily adapted to whatever you teach.
Right now, you are thinking I could be a bit off center or right on target for talking about blogging with littles, but hear me out. Even if your students can't write or type yet, they can respond to a prompt with visuals, clipart, or drawings. You can do that without any setup or prep when using Buncee, but if you don't have an account, then Slides or Powerpoint make good free options with a bit of work up front. Whichever tool you choose to use, giving students another way to share their voice and ideas is always the right thing to do
I have written two previous posts where I talk about how to use Google Classroom as the hub for student blogging and authentic feedback in a safe place. My original post, Blogging with Google Sites? Google Classroom to the Rescue! Let the Commenting Begin! focused on using Google Sites with Classroom to connect students and give them a platform for authentic feedback. More recently, I updated this idea in Google Classroom STILL to the Rescue: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting! where I broadened the scope of how students can express themselves through the various tools now available. Continuing to broaden my own horizons, I explored Microsoft Teams as a hub for students to receive authentic feedback from peers and am very excited about the amazing potential that it has.
Yes, I do mean the card game, UNO, and no, I don't intend for you to play UNO in your classroom instead of teaching your content. However, my high school students did figure out a way to leverage it within our activity. Here's how we did it.
Teaching during a pandemic presents a lot of problems for educators to face and solve daily, and clearly I haven't solved the problem of posting regularly since the 2020-21 school year began. However, as we ended the week before the holiday break, I realized that there was something I could share that would benefit teachers both online and those teaching face to face. Something that wouldn't be overwhelming because we already have it in our toolboxes, although it occasionally falls behind other tools and is temporarily forgotten.
I haven't written in a while, and I totally blame COVID-19 for my lapse. The additional workload that comes with pandemic teaching can be overwhelming, and then when you realize you have the virus, productivity takes another dive. However, right before I became sick, I had the opportunity to create videos for the new app, Zigazoo, and I discovered that not only did I love making short instructional videos for students, but this app has a really wide range of appeal for students of all ages.
I am always watching to see how I can incorporate them, and this past week, with the help of other educators and my students, I figured out how incorporate Among Us-Google style! Please note right now that I have never actually played this game. I have observed students become obsessed with it, and from there I just asked a lot of questions, which my 14 year-old son can verify. If you are not a Google school, then using the collaborative features of other programs, like Wakelet and Powerpoint, will function similarly for you. As we rolled it out this week, I took notes, and the students helped me revise the game elements as needed, so the following is what we came up with, and it includes how to do this if you are teaching virtually or face to face. Get ready for some fun with a collaborative or gallery-style lesson.
Back in the days where conferences were in full bloom, I attended one of my favorites, Innovation Institute in Springdale, Arkansas, where I was also presenting. The keynote that year was Alice Keeler, and I also attended one of her sessions on Google Sheets. Yes, she is the Queen of Sheets, and for all of you English teachers out there, my content brothers and sisters, I know it seems weird to use spreadsheets in the English classroom, but you should. Here are a few ways I use spreadsheets that can be done whether you are teaching virtual or face to face in this year of craziness and uncertainty.