We’ve all had this conversation:
“You didn’t teach that,” says the student.
“I taught that last Tuesday,” says the teacher.
This happens to me with every unit. I did teach it. The problem is, the student didn’t learn it.
And it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because I teach content-heavy courses and there is so little time. If the students don’t study the material, they won’t learn it.
But the problem is, they don’t know how to study, so the cycle repeats. I teach. They forget. They blame me. I get frustrated.
I’m tired of being frustrated. I’m tired of them not learning. So I’ve been on a mission to find as many simple strategies as I can that will encourage learning by forcing students to work with presented material in a meaningful way.
In other words, I’m forcing them to actively study everyday in brief spurts in the classroom. I’ve written about active learning strategies before, but here are
Five Quick and Easy Teaching Strategies to Foster Learning
This is one that I used to do all the time. Then I forgot about it. I went to a PL last week that reminded me of this simple, zero-prep, brilliant strategy. Give students a list of words and ask them to connect them by writing as few sentences as possible using the words in context.
My world history students just completed stations on medieval Russia, the Mongols, and African kingdoms. As a wrap-up activity, I gave my students this list of words: Russia, Mansa Musa, Mongol Empire, Byzantine Empire, Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Empire of Mali, Cyrillic Alphabet, China, Hajj, India.
Here is an example of what one ambitious group wrote: The Mongol Empire conquered Russia, which would be greatly influenced by the Byzantine Empire, also, who gave them Orthodox Christianity and the Cyrillic Alphabet; the Mongols also conquered China and India, building the world’s largest contiguous empire, but they didn’t conquer the Empire of Mali, which was ruled by Emperor Mansa Musa who embraced Islam and became famous for his hajj.
You will get some lengthy sentences, but this is an exercise in reviewing and making connections, not writing style, so I think that’s okay. You will also get “Mansa Musa, the Mongol Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Islam, Orthodox Christianity, the Empire of Mali, the Cyrillic Alphabet, China, the hajj, and India are all topics we learned about.” And I think that’s okay. We can meet our students where they are and steer them to a higher level. One thing I love about this activity is that it is naturally differentiated.
Categorizing also gets students to make connections, but by listing and sorting. Give students a list of words and ask them to place the words into different categories–one to four. Using the words above, it could look something like this:
To control the categories and allow for a hands-on experience, card sorts are a great option. I use card sorts for a wide variety of topics–vocabulary, historical events and figures, grammar. I use this template from my friend Math Giraffe to create my card sorts.
|I use Math Giraffe’s templates to make my card sorts.
Create cards with discussion starters. Try to write questions that are broad enough to fit with most topics but that will force students to really think about the material and that stick to the higher levels of Bloom’s. An example of one of my questions is “What would happen if someone made a different decision?” This question gets students to extend the material, hypothesize, and really consider cause and effect.
Think-Pair-Share is another discussion strategy that allows students to take a minute to respond to a prompt by thinking. I give them a minute to write their response on a mini whiteboard. Then
they share their responses aloud with a partner.
Give students a series of events out of order and have them place them in chronological order. This can be a list or on slips of paper or digital pieces that they have to move around. For visual students, it can even be images that they have to place in order.
You can amp up the rigor of this activity by asking students to explain patterns of cause and effect in the particular order. Have them take out a pivotal event and consider alternate outcomes.
Give students a series of images that relate to your content and have them manipulate them somehow. Students can manipulate the images by turning them into:
-social media posts with hashtags.
-a comic strip.
What are some of your quick and easy teaching strategies to foster learning? Leave a comment and let me know.