I like to tell my students that if they are bored, I’m bored and if they are having fun, I am having fun. I really do believe this! There is a certain kind of unexplained magic that is palpable when the teacher and students have this synchronic energy of fun in a learning environment. When we have fun, we are more open to new experiences, we are more relaxed and most of all, we are happy! Who doesn’t want that everyday? I know I do and I am willing to bet that you do too. Below are just a few ideas for you to try as well as to help you get started in your own brainstorming session on bringing fun into your classroom.
A year ago I introduced “clickers” to my classroom and my students went nuts for them. These clickers were essentially remotes that they could use to “vote” their answers to questions I projected up on the board. The participation of my students skyrocketed as well as their desire to review material so they could use “the clickers”. This system was very expensive and I fundraised to get it in my classroom. When the system recently started having connection trouble (long, frustrating story), I searched for a solution and found a FREE alternative that basically does the same thing. Below is what I learned about this awesome new tool that just requires a printer and a smart phone!
Does this sound familiar? “Hey (insert student name here), could you come by after school so we can discuss your grade/behavior/missing work etc?” Three o’clock comes around, 3:05 then 3:15 and eventually 3:30 and you are still all alone. You see that same student the next day and ask them what happened and they respond: “Oh! I totally forgot, sorry!” This is the (short) story of how I fixed the problem.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to get students to participate in class. Being a middle school teacher, I see it year after year and day after day: students feeling self conscious and apprehensive when asked to participate in class discussions or answer questions. Students participate for one of two reasons: they are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. For the students who are intrinsically motivated to participate in class (motivated by internal factors such as wanting to do well or participating merely because they enjoy the experience), there is little you need to get their hands raised–their intrinsic motivation is enough on its own. The students who struggle are the ones who need extrinsic motivation–motivation by external factors, such as rewards etc. Below are some fun ways I boost participation in my classroom by taking advantage of extrinsic motivators.
I don’t know about you, but no matter what I have tried in the past, my pencils always seem to disappear! I have a special holder on my desk for ‘student pencils.’ I have previously asked them to leave a shoe in exchange for a pencil. I thought that if my students would hobble around my classroom with only one shoe, they would surely remember to give me my pencil back. But, sure enough, my pencils would slowly disappear! So, I recently came up with a new idea for keeping my pencils from getting “kidnapped” (napped by kids) and thought I would share it with you!
Much like with parenting, teachers are often the caring and supportive adult in students’ lives. However, we are also the judge, jury and executioner! It can be a tough role to juggle. In order to help strike that balanced chord of showing that you are there to support your students, building community should be your first step. Here are some approaches that I use in my classroom to help build community.
I don’t know about you, but I have strong mixed feelings about using technology. On the one hand, technology is something that my students have a deep connection to–it’s how they understand life. On the other hand, I sometimes feel that for all the good it brings, I secretly fear that it is going to ruin our society. Technology is such an integral part of our world today, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if it were to disappear suddenly. Districts across the nation are touting their integration of “21st century learning” (whatever that means), and teachers are being pushed into bringing as much technology into their classroom as possible. Sure, technology can be great; however, when you are relying on it and it suddenly stops working, it can be crippling and very frustrating in a classroom setting (especially when 68 eyes are on you… waiting for you to ‘fix’ the unforeseen problem). Is it unbelievably frustrating when the technology you are using suddenly stops working? Yes. Does it have to be? No. Here are some ways that I have learned to help make the integration of technology into my classroom easier, fun and a bit more seamless.