How to make the material more fun

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Aliceacc, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 3, 2013

    I'm in the midst of an PM conversation. The topic has turned into one about making the material more interesting to the kids.

    In thinking about it, I realized that this is something we should all be talking about. If you can get the kids to enjoy your class, regardless of whether or not they actually enjoy the material (remember, I teach math) then I think it goes a long way towards managing your classroom and building a relationship with your kids.

    So, for better or worse, here are my replies to that conversation:


    Little things help a lot. For example, you know I've been drilling the life out of my Algebra Honors kids with their times tables. Once in a while, I'll do Times Table Bingo: I have them make up a 5x5 grid. I put up the answers to times table problems-- 1x1 through 12x12, and I have them choose 25 to fill in on their grids. Then I give them questions, and they have to mark off the answers. In the beginning, I went kind of slowly, but I'm picking up my speed. I just mark off the numbers I've used so I can check the winner. I don't give prizes, but what you could do is let the winner of the last game be the "caller" for the game the next day. The idea can certainly be adapted to other subjects and other material.

    I order individualized stickers from www.vistaprint.com sometimes. I order the return address labels. For my October 30 test (they'll get it back on Halloween) it has a picture of a jack o'lantern and "Mrs. Aliceacc thinks your Algebra grade is a real TREAT!" (or a dog with "Mrs. Aliceacc thinks your Algebra grade is Doggone good!" or a whale with "Mrs. Aliceacc thinks you did a WHALE of a good job with your Algebra test!") Incredibly corny, but they work hard to break 90 so they'll get a sticker. Even generic stars or Target/Walmart stickers make a huge difference in terms of motivation.

    I found a great site for corny-but-funny worksheets the other day: http://lcms.dadeschools.net/math/Piz...20Book C.pdf

    I think that, particulary with middle school and high school, corny-but-funny is the way to go. I tend to use their names in classroom examples (being VERY careful not to make them the potential butt of a joke.) Use lots of pop culture references-- so make a decimal problem about McDonalds fries or the price of an Iphone instead of the generic stuff in the book.

    Another big thing is making the info relevant to them. The great thing about Pre-algebra is that it's all decimals, and they're great with anything dealing with money.

    -teach them to fill out a 1040EZ form, doing the arithmetic by hand. Give each kid a phony W2form with the pertinent info. The parents will love the fact that their kids can do this!

    - when you do I=prt, have them "buy" a car-- as cool as you want-- get the prices for options. (if you can get your hands on an old Saturn price list, they printed the prices of each option.) Then figure out the monthly payments. Give them a budget that isn't quite large enough for all the stuff you know they'll want-- force them to make some choices.

    After that, "buy" a house. Explain what a mortgage is. Get the price for the house down the block. Explain that you're watering it down a little by not doing compound interest, but figure out the monthly payments for that house.

    - When you do scale drawings, have them design a room. (The IKEA website has precise dimensions for their furniture.) If you give me your email address, I'll forward you the project we give to our Geometry kids on this.

    -If your kids most likely have internet access, every once in a while assign a video as homework. One thing I've done a few times is assign an episode of Cyberchase from www.pbskids.com The kids ADORE the assignment, and it gets them thinking about some of the elementary stuff I teach. And it builds trust that I'm able to give them a little break every now and then. You could even show one in class every now and then to introduce a new topic. There's a great one on how rectangles with the same perimeter can have different areas.

    -When you do Pythagorean Theorem, go to youtube and pull up "The Scarecrow doesn't get a brain"-- the scene from The Wizard of Oz where the scarecrow mangles the theorem.


    So, tell me.... what little things do you do to help your kids enjoy the material, even when it gets a little dry?
     
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  3. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Oct 3, 2013

    There are a ton of words here and I'm pretty sure I agree with every single one of them.

    As far as little things, adding an element of competition (either within the class or between your periods) can add to even the most boring of things. I keep track of "class score" for each of my periods and can go to that well whenever I need to. I eventually reward the winning class with something or other but it is tiny (donuts usually) and infrequent. It's amazing how much more interested they are in a reading assignment when they feel their honor is on the line.

    I'd highly recommend anyone and everyone read Teach like a PIRATE as he has a series of brainstorming activities to help you find the right little hooks for each lesson.
     
  4. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Oct 3, 2013

    I LOVE history parody videos. Horrible Histories is an educational program from the UK that has some great ones (Henry VIII online dating, Pizarro stealing gold from the Incas on a travel show, etc) and there are some great music parodies online as well ("Too Late to Apologize" for the Dec of Independece and "I got 95 Theses but the Pope ain't one" are popular ones).

    I also try to use a lot of simulations. I have a game that teaches capitalism vs communism that's always fun and I have the students make infomercials for the Industrial Revolution.

    I also LOVE "Teach like a Pirate" but I'm not nearly as fun as that guy. :p
     
  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 3, 2013

    My students enjoy being a part of my class mostly because of the way I treat them, and the way I do everything I can to protect everyone's right to learn in the classroom, and be treated with respect by others.

    But they also have a ton of fun because I put a lot of effort into my lessons. Even the ones that are simply lecture and note-taking, I teach with enthusiasm and I try to instill wonder. I use demos whenever I can, and they love it.

    I try to get them doing some kind of creative work like using models to create flip-ups (basically interactive graphic organizers that need to be decorated). I should actually be a bit more strict about the visual quality I would like in my assignments. I always figured that I teach science, so I'm not too concerned with their artistic ability, but when I looked at the things they produced for their science teachers last year, I know that they are very capable of it.
     
  6. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Oct 3, 2013

    And remembering that sometimes it's the really little things that excite them--it doesn't have to be very elaborate. My class this year loves playing "Scoreboard." What is this game that they beg to play? Something I totally made up on the fly when one day I decided we needed to do a little extra review before moving on to the next math lesson. I had them get out their individual whiteboards and we worked through a bunch of problems. If they got them right, they got to put a star in the little scoreboard section of their board. I gave them opportunities for bonus points for things like labeling parts of the number sentence with the correct vocabulary words. They go crazy for this 'game.' One girl today said, "This is the best game ever! I'm going to play it sometime with my brother at home!"
     
  7. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Oct 3, 2013

    Love this! Isn't it funny how they get excited over the little things? I think making a little effort to work in "fun" stuff is greatly appreciated.

    For my kiddos, any time they get to move up and talk, they think it's a party. So, I do lots of partner activities, lots of things that make them move. It's sometimes as simple as answering questions about the reading, but I create "question stations" and they have to get up and move from station to station, answering the question on a poster board instead of individually on binder paper.
     
  8. dave1mo

    dave1mo Comrade

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    Oct 3, 2013

    Anything competitive is enough to get recalcitrant high school students engaged in a heartbeat, assuming you couch it in the right manner. You've got to get excited, talk a little trash, and genuinely be interested in the game to pull it off, whatever that game may be.
     
  9. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    My kids love their games. I do give prizes too. I made business cards from vistaprint with things like skip a question pass, add two points to a test, one day extra for an assignment, etc...

    Alice is 100% right about stickers. Target has some truly great ones. They love comparing. I make a big deal out of them too. I sometimes announce that I was bummed I only got to use two stickers, etc...

    We also play Apples to Apples or Catch Phrase after their vocab quizzes on Fridays. I play too usually.

    I also try to talk about sports, music, tv shows, etc... When I can. I went to the playoff game last night so I made sure to mention it. Then we spent a couple minutes before the bell rang talking about it.
     
  10. 1cubsfan

    1cubsfan Companion

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    Oct 3, 2013

    I feel like the little things make a big difference.

    I use pop culture references in grammar example sentences. "She thinks One Direction is better than Justin Beiber."

    At the beginning of each class I have an agenda projected, and I always include a cute, funny, or motivational photo. They love awkward family photos. I play the radio during the last five minutes of class if they are working quietly.
     
  11. teachsph2008

    teachsph2008 Companion

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    Oct 4, 2013

    When we do grammar review questions, I try to use their names in the examples. I also try to use things that I know they personally like. I get a lot of smiles out of them and engagement.
     
  12. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I love using kid's name's in questions and multiple choice answers! In my 5th grade class we were studying classification and somehow a joke became that the answer to everything was "M's [kid's name] Chicken" So of course that had to go as an answer on a test! :)

    I always put at least one silly answer on a test, I think it helps break up the tight mood. And the kids just think it's the funniest thing in the world. Usually Shane Battier (Duke basketball player) ends up on my tests :rolleyes:
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I got more of a sense of the sweep of English literature from Richard Armour's hilarious classic English Lit Relit than I ever did from lit-survey coursework.
     
  14. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I once heard a 4th grader say that the reason he wants to play high school basketball is because it would be awesome to hear the announcer call his name and everyone cheer. I thought "What a great idea".

    I play the introduction to the song they use when they introduce players in the NBA. I bought mine, but it is free on the internet. I then turn off the lights and pretend to be a sports announcer. For those who get A's on a particular weekly test, I call out the students name and have Power Point show their name and city they are form across the screen. All the other students cheer. They love it and it takes 1 minute a week. Many former students, when they come back from high school to visit, ask if I still introduce the students. I smile that they still remember this one minute celebration.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 5, 2013

    That is so cool!!!! My own chidren would be walking on cloud 9 all day long!!!

    Yesterday I was talking about the difference between "And" and "Or" as we were doing compound inequalities. So of course my example was: "Let's pretend that, just because you're my favorite class, I said that I would give you either a free 100% or ice cream..."

    Well, we joked about ice cream all period... They had such fun with that one example, and kept coming back to it. I wish I had thought to use that particular example earlier in the day. (Oh, and every single class I teach is "my favorite class" and I mention it on a pretty regular basis.)
     
  16. heavens54

    heavens54 Connoisseur

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    Oct 5, 2013

    When you give them reward stickers, where do they keep them? Do they have a sheet or a folder or can they stick them anywhere they like? I like to give out stickers too. Some would like like to collect them, I think and add them up.
     
  17. heavens54

    heavens54 Connoisseur

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    I have a question, because I'm not sure. I love this idea, but would be concerned that they ones who don't make A's would feel bad because they didn't make A's. Is it OK to make a fuss about the A's? I'm honestly not sure.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm not a big believer in the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality.

    It's our job as teacher and parents to recognize and celebrate all those things that each child is good at. So I think we should celebrate the A's. And applaud at the concerts and the art shows and on the playing field.

    But just as we DO applaud those athletes, I think we can also applaud our scholars. Would any school hesitate to mention the winning football team, out of worry that those kids who didn't make the team might feel bad? So why would we worry about the kids reaction to applauding the A's?

    I think our kids are a lot less fragile than some would have us believe. And that they really need to learn that someone else's accomplishment doesn't diminish THEM.

    Or, as I'm always telling my daughter: "Sorry, sweetheart. This one's not about you."
     
  19. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I put them right on the papers. Some peel them off and keep them on their binders.
     
  20. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    That is a good question. I find different ages really respond differently to that. Kindergarten and 1st graders would probably be in tears and it probably wouldn't work well. In 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades it has worked well. I try to use a test where if they study they can do well. Those who don't make an "A" several weeks in a row, I sometimes talk to them and see what they can do to get an "A". I have tutored a few and they are so proud when they finally get an "A".

    It also helps that they everyone enjoys hearing the music, cheering, and the introductions even if they don't get the "A".
     
  21. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I have some kids who I know wouldn't like being singled out for getting an A. I announced this week that only one student earned an A on a test. (Pretest) Another student made comments about that student being a nerd. I, of course, dealt with it immediately, but I could still tell the other student wasn't happy about it. I think it's a great idea in younger grades. However, some of my kids prefer to keep their grades to themselves and that's their right.
     
  22. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Oct 6, 2013

    I know when I subbed everyone even upper elem loved to color. I know one teacher had a solve and color for multiplication. When I taught I made my own with Microsoft clipart.
     
  23. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Agreed!!! I tell lil ones you have to try your best, but sometimes other people's best is a little better. One day though you'll have a better Best day!!! And we can't all be winner's (during game playing) things would never end! LOL! :D
     

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