Sunday, October 9, 2011

Active Learning

Tomorrow is my yearly Pre-Evaluation conference with my principal. Last week, he sent out an email asking for our professional goal for this year and suggested that it tie into our high school's goal of "increasing student engagement both in and out of the classroom." I decided that my goal for the year would be using Active Learning strategies on a regular basis.

I wrote about Active Learning last summer in this post. However, since then, I've become even more concerned that "classrooms are a place where students go to watch teachers work." The problem, for me at least, is how to solve this. I have a large collection of games, labs, activities, etc that I like to use, but I want more activities that are quick 5-10 minute activities (like Think-Pair-Share) that could be used during instructional time. Another issue I have is that I teach seniors and so many of the collaborative activities are fairly corny and would not go over well with my students. Yet a third issue I have is that while I have a large classroom, it feels fairly small with 32 bodies, so a lot of "move around activities" are hard to do.

Here are some of my tried and true favorites:

Partner Discussions
My classroom is set up in pairs. Daily, students talk to and work with their partners to discuss problems. I would like to develop some more specific strategies to use with the partners, beyond Think-Pair-Share.

Half Sheets
This strategy was first known as Relay Race and came from an ebay book that I got many many years ago. It is a definitely favorite amongst my students. Students work in pairs (or groups of 4) to work through problems. They get one problem (half sheet) at a time, bring it up to be checked, then get the next one to work on. The kids love this and I really like the individual feedback I can give to each group. This is again more of a review game though.

Gallery Walk
I have used a Gallery Walk with several concepts and I'm always impressed by the discussion that comes out of it. I love this idea and wish I could use it more often, but it's again a "move around" activity and that limits its usability. I have 8 groups of 4, but only whiteboard space for 6 groups, so I really need to invest in some of the "showerboard" whiteboards.

Exit Tickets
I really like the idea of Exit Tickets, but I just can't seem to make them work for me. I would love to hear how they are used in other classrooms.

What are your favorite strategies?


Miranda said...

Some thoughts that came to mind as I was reading: :)

I have several books that have Active Learning strategies - the ones that come to mind are the CRISS ones, Chris Tovani, and Strategies that Work. You're welcome to browse through. I don't know how all of that relates to math, but definately stuff like think-pair-share and more complex stuff.

Gallary Walk - I've never had a lot of whiteboard space all over to have groups. We've often done similar things with white typing paper (mini posters), and then either moved groups, or just as often, passed the papers to add to. Or, used the Elmo to turn it into a presentation after one or more groups commented. Now - with all the online technology - I can really see something like this where you could create separate google docs, let one group have them, and then switch on an announced timer in order to the next one!

I don't know that I have a favorite strategy. I really like as much student activity and thinking as possible, and like to switch it up. I have the best focus with timed events, and activities that we repeat every couple of weeks, so students learn the "rules" and get faster/more proficient. I love the web times that you post on the big screen. But, also fun, are individual small sand timers per group.

Activities with dice - for any reason. If you can work into any activity a reason to roll the dice to choose an option, so much more fun! Especially with fun colored dice.

We love review games, especially our special version of classroom vocabulary taboo! Another new favorite when we have a few minutes to spare - the quizlet vocabulary games. My students get a kick out of trying to beat each other's high score (today a student was almost late leaving class, because he just had to beat someone else's score!).

Another fun activity - using chalk outside or on big paper (or markers on paper). Diagrams, but also just concepts, summaries or problem solving steps.

Team Quizzes - my students get a lot more pumped for a team quiz than if we are doing a review worksheet. Could be the same questions!

Read, Talk, Write - a timed event. Read the problem for a time. Turn and talk - only partner A (B listens only, no words). Switch - B talks and A listens (can repeat exact same thing). Individual writing. Then back again, or group discussions.

Another thought - just to let you know. I have a stack of student whiteboards. Both whiteboard paddles (to take quizzes with and hold up answers) and bigger larger-than-legal sheet ones. Maybe half desk size. You're welcome to borrow.

Other thoughts for active learning.....back when I went to the "data" conference - lots of info on student PDSA's and teacher feedback/student self-evaluations. I had a whole set of worksheets I set up for a trial class and then used in summer school that involved students self-evaluated learning & learning styles....collecting data on their learning.....graphing....having individual teacher checkpoint interviews.....all sorts of stuff. Happy to share.

For Exit Tickets - never worked well for me, but that's partly me because it's hard for me to stop early enough to let them do it. Christina J has this as part of her class routine. Also - I did make a worksheet last year that had spaces for Bellwork & an end-of-class question (I forget what I called it), and students would turn it in on Fridays. Probably if you set up the routine. I have much better luck myself, if I don't teach to the bell, with having multiple review questions, and doing a free or called response period.

miss.calcul8 said...

My favorites are jigsaw, three stay one stray, sorting activities, and index card games.

A good one for vocabulary is where you tape the vocab word to a students back and they show the class but don't know the word themselves. Then they can ask only yes or no questions about the word to figure out what it is. Mix in some funny ones too like celebrities or the principal's name and it's really fun.

Have you tried any of the row games or speed dating games that Kate blogged about?

Also, I'm no good at exit slips so instead I call them summaries. You can do different things:

1. Have them turn to a partner and explain one thing they learned.

2. Each student picks a Scrabble tile and writes a sentence about the lesson that starts with the letter they picked.

3. Students have to write NONSTOP for one minute, everything they remember about the lesson.

4. Students have to make up a problem (based on the lesson) then switch with another and solve each others problems.

5. Show a problem done wrong and students have to write down the error and then solve it correctly.

I love stuff like that that can be done on the fly. It only takes two or three minutes and scrap paper. I'm just not good enough yet to have exit slips already created on a daily basis so these work better for me.