Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Read, DRAW, and Discuss: A New, Easy Classroom Discussion Starter

I thought I'd write this up because I've had great success in both Latin I and II with this and I honestly made it up on the fly one day when I simply wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my classes, didn't feel like I had enough planned, wanted to stretch the lesson out a bit, AND wanted to make sure we got more repetitions in without it feeling too forced.

So instead of doing a basic Read, Discuss, and Draw (you can see a quick overview of that activity here), I did choral reading (I read a sentence or clause in Latin, then we translate together as a class) with students over small sections of the stories we were focusing on. Then I had them draw on white boards to represent the scenes. The goal was to have them show the entire section of the story in one scene, throwing in as much detail as possible. If they were too stressed by this, of course, I allowed students to break up their drawings into multiple panels.

Then I asked students to volunteer to let me show their pictures to the class. You'd be surprised how many students are willing to do this, and which students are willing to do this. I accept any and all pictures, and do my best to interpret them well. I point at the images and use this as a means of getting more repetitions. Students are eager to see each others' art, so the activity is naturally compelling (as long as you don't do it too often) and so if I show 3 or so pictures with each section of the story, I can easily get a good amount of repetition in without sounding repetitious, which is important, because sounding repetitious is death to student attention spans.

After showing the pictures and discussing them, we move on to the next section of the story!

This keeps everything broken down and comprehensible to the students as well. It's a great way to find out who knows the story, via the reading out loud and by then watching what they draw and whether they capture the entire section of the story. It also lets you focus in on anything they struggled with afterward when you are discussing the drawings.

So, tl/dr:
1. Read a section of story together
2. Students draw the section
3. You use some student drawings to spark discussion and repetition

One of the best things is that this activity doesn't require any preparation and has a fairly high yield in terms of engagement and repetitions!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The New Kid in Town: Gimkit instead of Kahoot

This is really not the post I was planning to write this week--hopefully I'll write that one later--but I was inspired because of something Miriam did yesterday to try the same thing today, and it's gone over really well with my students, so I thought I'd write it up and share it. It's especially good this time of year when we and the kids are all exhausted and maybe just need a low-energy activity that the kids can enjoy and we can run without tiring ourselves even further.

Gimkit is produced by the same people as Kahoot, but it brings a lot more to the table. Many thanks to Keith Toda (@silvius_toda) for introducing us to this new and amazing resource, because Kahoot is played out. The kids have played it with all of their teachers in all of their classes, and it's not new anymore.

Plus it takes forever to write a Kahoot game. It's tedious.

Thank you, Gimkit, for solving both of those problems! Gimkit is awesome in that it allows you to upload a .cvs file (which you can turn any excel or spreadsheet file into) of questions and answers and it will create the game from that file. That means that something that used to take 30-45 min to make now takes me around 5 min!

It also has changed the way quiz games are played. Students earn "money" when they answer questions right. Once they earn enough ($10), they can buy their first enhancement, which improves how much money they earn per question. There are multiple enhancements as well as attacks students can buy (though if you are worried about negative feelings, you can turn off the ability to use attacks). So players can work their way up to earning $200,000 per question or more, from a beginning of $1 per question. When they first play, you'll have to help them see this option, because they'll go into automatic question-answering mode and not look at the button that says "shop," but once they see there's strategy involved, they really get into it. This has enhanced online quiz play in my classes in a huge way and students are much more interested than they have been in almost three years.

Additionally, you can input classes and assign the quizzes as homework, just like you can in other online quiz programs.

So yay, Gimkit, in general! if you are interested.

The only con I have is that you are only allowed five trial "kits," or must pay the annual fee of $60.00. It's worth it in my opinion. Not only does this have less stress on kids to be the quickest (because often it's more about the strategy), but the questions are on students' phones instead of on the board, so there are less mistakes, and those students who struggle are often able to interface with this a lot better than even paper and pencil. Miriam has even had success using Gimkit in a very controlled manner to test a student with severe test anxiety.

So.... on to the actual thing she did yesterday and I did today with Gimkit!

Taking it to the next level
Once in a while on Kahoot I like to join in just to mess with students. The problem is that aside from speed there is nothing to keep me from winning the game. However, in Gimkit, there are several ways to attack other players, and this makes it much more fun to join in, because students have a fighting chance to take me out.

So Miriam upped the ante yesterday, and I followed suit. After doing a warm-up round to give students a chance to settle into the the questions on the game, we both offered a trade: if students could keep us out of the top five of the leaderboard then we would give them a 100% on an equivalent assignment. Otherwise, they would have to do the assignment for the grade.

Students really got into the idea. And it was a fight. And I got "pied" a lot (pies take you out of the game for 15 seconds). And they got 100%!

This was a great, fun break for them and me to beat the doldrums that always set in right before Thanksgiving break, when most teachers are testing like crazy and they are usually really stressed out. We all had a good time, and they loved it when I groaned about a "reducer" or a pie and had to work harder to try to keep up on the leaderboard.

Even if you're not ready to challenge your students yourself, I recommend Gimkit as a new and much improved online quizzing option!