My last post described how to use vocabulary task cards. You might be wondering why you should use them. So, here are my top five reasons to start using vocabulary task cards for vocabulary instruction with your students right away...
1) They are interactive.
2) Physically touching and moving the cards around the table into different combinations with different connections is great for both kinestetic and visual learners.
3) Students develop effective communication skills when they debate, discuss and finally decide where each card should go in relation to the others.
4) Moving the cards, talking in class and playing vocabulary games with the vocabulary task cards is fun! When students are having fun in class, they engage and learn far better than when bored.
My fifth reason is maybe the most important, they work! This past year on vocabulary days, I gave my students informal (ungraded) pre and post tests. The average pre-test scores were typically 10-15% while their post-test scores averaged above 80% for the entire year across all the units! So, if you are interested in using Vocabulary Task Cards for your vocabulary instruction, please click the picture below and check them out. You can also look at this free resource to see three great vocabulary games that can be used with them!
Aah! Summer's almost over! Sorry, but it is. If you're like me, you're just starting to gear up for another great year of teaching with a new group of students. You might also be looking back fondly on last year's group of students and wondering how the new ones can possibly stack up. Or, maybe you're grateful to be done with last year's group and hopeful that this year's bunch will be much better. Either way, that first day is coming and it's coming fast!
So, what do you do with a new class of 30 or so strangers whose names you probably don't know? Here are my four favorite first day activities to get the school year off to a great start!
1) Getting to Know You Cards. This is a task card activity that gives your new students specific prompts and rules for how to talk with each other. This activity also works well for when you re-group your students and they have to get used to working with a different group of people.
2) Two Truths and a Lie. In this game, a student tells their table partners three things about themselves, but one of the things isn't true. The partners then guess which one is the lie and rotate turns.
3) Wheel of You. Students are given a handout of a circle divided into a bunch of sections with questions like, "What's your favorite color?" or "What's your favorite class?" or "What's your biggest strength?" on it. The students fill them out and turn them in, or use them as group discussion prompts.
4) Hashtag Game. Ask for volunteers to share hashtags about good or bad things about summer or school like #sleepingin or #sunburns or #homework or #newfriends. You record them on the board and ask follow up questions as necessary.
Click the picture below for these great activities. Try some out and let me know how it went in the comments section, or share your own favorites. Good luck, and have a great year!
"Copy these words and their definitions. Test on Friday."
Sound familiar? That's how my middle school teachers taught vocabulary, and that's how I used to too. Rote memorization can be a useful tool, but it only makes one connection (word to definition) in your brain and doesn't help much if you have to go from the definition to the word or if the definition is even slightly different on a test or quiz.
Vocabulary cards are far better. A good set of vocabulary task cards should include a card for each word, a card for each definition and a card with an image or illustration for each. With a set of cards like this, students are able to complete several interactive, cooperative learning activities in small groups.
Your students are able to create a large KIM chart with the cards, or make connections by grouping the words into teacher-given categories, or make different connections by grouping them into group discussed and created categories (named groups). Your students can even play several fun vocabulary games with them! Click here for a link to 3 free vocabulary card games you can use with any set of vocabulary cards, or click the picture below to check out task cards for World History.
CHAPMS is a classroom management system that is used a lot in elementary schools. I know, I know, this is a blog for secondary teachers. But trust me, this stuff is great for students of any age or socio-economic background.
Basically, CHAMPS is a way to quickly let your students know what you expect from them for whatever activity they are about to do. There are a lot of great resources out there - the book, numerous websites, CHAMPS posters and charts for display and use in your classroom like this FREE one below, and lots more. You can also click on the picture for a FREE copy!
I will continue to examine CHAMPS letter by letter beginning with my last post about "C" or conversation. It focused on managing voice levels. The next one, "H" is about how students are to ask for help. After that, "A" is about overtly explaining the activity. "M" will be about types and amounts of movement that will be expected and accepted. Finally, "P" will be about participation. If done properly, your students will get to experience the "S" of CHAMPS more easily - Student Success!
Clicking on the free CHAMPS poster will also get you the CHAMPS lesson planning worksheet seen below!
Okay, so before I discovered CHAMPS, I would hear the "magic" teachers talk about the awesome group work their students were doing while smiling and picturing the utter loud chaotic mess my room would become if I let my students talk to each other. I could see Andre and Drew at table three continually one-upping each other in loudness while the quiet girl at table six just puts her head down and wonders how she got stuck in Mr. Robinson's class of chaos.
Before I found CHAMPS, I'd see things like noise level stop lights that go from green to yellow to red as the kids get louder and louder. But, I quickly realized that if I got one of those I'd still have a loud class that got loud too many times. Wouldn't it be better if they didn't get loud in the first place?
Yes! This is where the C of CHAMPS comes in. The "C" stands for conversation, or voice level. With CHAMPS, this is the first thing you need to explicitly tell your students before beginning an activity. It might sound like an elementary thing, but I swear by my voice level chart.
Voice level 0 is no talking; this is used for and modeled before the students do individual work. Voice Level 1 is a whisper; I sometimes call it the "don't get in trouble in church voice." Students use this voice level when working with one other person. Voice Level 2 is used when students are talking with two or more people (i.e. group activities). I call voice level 2 the "nice restaurant voice level." By the way, when installing voice levels, it's fun to see what middle schoolers consider a "nice" restaurant (ex: the Subway that isn't in the Walmart). Finally, Voice Level 3 is the class presentation, or teacher voice. Calling it the "teacher voice" also sends a message about who is usually supposed to use it.
The picture above shows a Voice Level chart I use in my class. Some of the ways you can use it is to have a big one posted that you refer to, or you could have small ones at individual tables for students to readily access. Another interesting way, for those of you who are technologically inclined, is to embed it directly into PowerPoint or Google Slide presentations.