Are we stressed out? Every time I turn on the news, a new wave of fear and anxiety wash over me. We were forced into a "new normal" in our lives and schools. Many of our children are going through a lot of stressful situations and this impacts on their learning.
This new normal demands that we pay special attention to getting rid of the "bad" stress and creating "good stress" in learning situations.
Games help our learners develop skill proficiency. A good game will challenge thinking and require the player to strategize. Here are a few of my favorite games for children learning phonics AND for older students who haven't developed their encoding and decoding proficiency.
Big Word Meltdown-The goal of this game is to make as many words as you can using only the letters in the big word. Choose a word that contains 9-15 letters. I like to choose science, social studies, or holiday words. Challenge your students to create small words using only the letters from the big word. The person or team who makes the most words wins.
Are you playing Wordle? This game was created by Josh Wardle for his crossword-loving partner. I’m obsessed! It’s the best digit game to come out since this type of entertainment became popular. It demands strategic thinking as you guess the word in six (or fewer) tries. You have to utilize your knowledge of how words work. There’s no way to binge the game, as there is only one posted game per day. It is just enough to help you exercise the gray matter and then move on. Best of all, when you guess the word you have a reason to celebrate. We need more celebration in our life!
As an educator, I always try to evaluate game based on how they can benefit students. Games are a tool for building fluency. Fluency is defined as automaticity and/or controlled processing. When first learning a skill, our brains must make sense of the skill. When should I use the skill? What are the steps of this skill? The more feedback we get as we learn the skill, the quicker our efforts can improve. This feedback is really just good coaching!
I was talking with four 2nd grade teachers last week who are very worried about how they are going to send their students to 3rd grade reading and writing "on level." Given that during first grade, the students went into lockdown for the entire fourth quarter of the year and then with the challenges of keeping kids safe this year, these teachers were feeling very defeated. They wanted to know what I thought is possible for their students with the forty days left in the year.
Sometimes when working with the parents of your students, things can get tense. I would like to offer some tips that have helped me throughout my years in education as a general and special education teacher, consultant, and administrator.
With virtual and hybrid learning, it can be challenging to keep student engagement alive and formatively assess student learning in the moment. Here are two strategies I use to not only increase student engagement, but quickly monitor student learning and identify any misconceptions. These strategies can be used in all content areas as well as all grade levels.
I recently worked with a teacher on revamping a lesson to increase student engagement. Before designing the lesson, I asked her to describe what student engagement looks like and sounds like in her own classroom. Doing this seemed simple, but it uncovered key values that were important to her and helped bring more clarity to her vision.
When it comes to writing, some writing skills are constrained, meaning once they are learned there is no need to continue to teach or have deliberate practice. Grammar skills are constrained skills. After direct instruction, coaching, and practice, students will have learned these skills and are using them with automaticity as they move through the writing process. Only data will tell if students need to continue to learn or deliberately practice. We can gather this data by looking at student writing and giving students weekly spelling and grammar checks.