Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tips to Keep Your Students Moving

Students working in groups

It’s supposed to be springtime, but somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature. This time of year presents a challenge for teachers of all grade levels. I have taught grades 7-12, but I spent the last twenty years of my career teaching sophomores and seniors.

They are two unique groups for different reasons, and for each level, spring presents special challenges. The name of the season reflects the energy that students have as the days get longer and warmer. They “spring” all around the room and have a difficult time settling anywhere. Sitting still for an hour or longer makes learning tedious and boring for many students.

Although I incorporated movement into my entire curriculum, during the final semester of the year, I made it my mission to develop even more lessons that allowed students to work in groups and to move about the classroom. They were so much more productive that way, and so much better behaved. They needed to talk and to laugh and to enjoy being in class. And I needed that too. After all, I am not immune to the joys of spring.  

I have a few ideas and tips that you might find useful. (You are probably already implementing some of these).

Grouping Tips for Cooperative Learning:

·      * If I wanted my students to form groups, I would have them number off from 1-5. Then each student who was a #1 would meet in one corner of the room, the #2 students would meet in a different corner, and so on. Group #5 would meet in the center of the classroom. We would drag and rearrange the furniture as needed so that everyone would have a seat.

·      * To ensure that new groups formed frequently, the next time we did a new group activity, I would have them number off backwards from five.

·      * I frequently asked my students to work in pairs. Students seated in rows would turn their desks to face one another. This was a quick and efficient way to choose a partner.

·      * Another fun way to group students is to place colored index cards in a container and have students choose a card. Each color forms a separate group.

Get students up on their feet whenever possible.

·   My grammar program involves students working together to complete the group practice assignments. Then, I would call out the answers and we would grade the papers in class.

*  I always called out the answers out loud. Then, students would score the papers. They each had a copy of my grading scale chart in their notebooks. For example: “minus 7 equals 93.”

*  Then I asked the whole class to stand as I called out the grades starting with 50 or below. When the student heard his/her grade, he/she was to sit down. At the end, the students with 99 or 100 were still standing and got a round of applause, but no one was embarrassed at having a low score. The way my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense grammar program is structured, most of the class will have very high scores, and working in pairs gives them an even better opportunity to be successful.

·          *  Sometimes, I had students stretch and walk around the classroom a couple of times before we sat down to do an assignment that required an extended period of deep concentration.

·          *  I asked students to stand and take several deep breaths before they began an extended writing assignment such as an essay or an essay test.

·         * Once in a while, we would have snowball fights while grading papers. (A really strange event since I taught in El Paso, Texas.) Here’s how it worked. After all students were finished with an assignment, they would crumple up their notebook papers and, on my count, they could toss them at each other. When I said “freeze” they would stop, pick up a snowball close to them, and that is the one they would smooth out and grade.

·         * Whenever possible, encourage students to come to the front of the classroom and demonstrate their answers on the board.

·         * Encourage students to teach a concept or a lesson to their classmates. They can teach in pairs or in groups.

·         * Take your students outdoors whenever possible and let them work in small groups.

4.   And don’t forget that teachers also need to move around the classroom, both for the students’ benefit and for their own.

·       * Teach from the back of the room and improve students’ listening skills.
·       * Walk around the room stopping to speak to individual students or to interact with group members.
·       * After students are fully engaged in an assignment, sit down for a short while to take the focus off of yourself, but stand up frequently and move about.

Movement is the key to keeping your students engaged and involved in the lesson you are presenting. Take a look at one of your lessons and see if you can revise it to include movement. 

You will also find lots of no-prep lessons on Visit the blogs below and find clever examples of ways to keep your students moving in the classroom.