Yesterday we had our first snow day of the year which was completely on the crazy side considering it is only early November! The day after a day off or the days after a school break are always on the rough side. Some students are riled up while others are zoned out. Anticipating this, I restructured my first block class for this morning to incorporate timed activities and movement in an attempt to combat the multiple personalities that may present themselves in the room!
My students were shocked at first that after our “Do Now” they were instructed to turn off their computer monitors. My classroom is based in a computer lab, as aforementioned in previous posts, and considering this class is Business Writing we tend to use the computers a lot. Technology is heavily ingrained not only in my room, but our campus overall. However, being a person who did not grow up with everything “paperless” in school I still find importance in putting pen to paper every now and again.
For this lesson I incorporated a few different teaching strategies that I learned about while completing my Master’s and have used prior in other classes. The first strategy I used was timed reading in conjunction with comprehension questions, second being concentric circle discussions (rotating) and lastly an exit ticket quiz (summative assessment). The topic we covered today dealt with discussing and reviewing business trends; what they are, where they have been and where they are going.
The class started with a “Do Now,” which is pretty much a daily staple. I labeled it “Trends” and asked them questions such as; 1- When you hear the word “trend” what comes to mind? 2- In your personal opinion, why are trends important? and 3- What trends do you follow? This kicked off our class discussion so I could gauge what they associated the word trend with. As you can imagine the top responses were social media, clothing, hair and makeup. I was highly impressed with the discussion that these simple questions sparked, only a few students had to refocus in, and it made me very internally excited for the rest of the class to come.
After the discussion started to fade I began to transition the class to the first strategy; timed reading (with comprehension questions). There were two articles that I had physically printed for each student in the room. Last week I had a discussion with our curriculum director about how our students are really good at watching things, but not the best at reading things given to them especially if told to take home. By using this form of timed reading they had the copy in hand eliminating electronic distraction and they knew they had to finish it, no ifs, ands or buts about it. At the same time I handed out the articles, I also handed out the comprehension questions they were to answer. It was up to each students discretion how they went about to complete the questions they just had to also have them completed by the end of the 15 minute timer that was set.
If you are not familiar with timed reading it is a comprehensive tool that enables students to work to improve reading rate and reading accuracy thus increasing reading fluency. It can be done with short stories, articles, peer papers or unit books/novels. The amount of time can and will vary based on the class and the activity. I decide my time based on grade level, reading level of the content and then usually add about 5 minutes to what I think it should take. I typically project the timer, which I find simply on Google, up on my projector that way students can see an accurate representation of how much time has elapsed and how much is left.
Once the timer went off I instructed students to stop where they were, even if they were not finished. I was not as worried about the students completing the worksheet with questions, which I wouldn’t be collecting anyway, as I wanted to get them into strategy number two; concentric circle discussions. The reason I wasn’t as concerned about completion here is because the goal was to foster and build ideas with one another through discussion, as one person will comprehend something in a different manner than another.
Now, I’m not going to lie… getting these seniors to form 2 circles of 7 was quite the task, something I did not anticipate and took much longer then I planned for. Once we finally got there, we definitely laughed about it. They brought with them to the circle their comprehension questions and I prompted them to which question to answer and every 2 questions we would share out what we discussed with the partners then the inside circle would rotate one to the left. Unfortunately in the end our circles ended up being 2 lines because of my classroom layout, yes after all the struggling with forming them, but nonetheless the objective of the activity was completed!
We rotated about 4 times as we moved through the 8 different questions. Timing for discussion varied for each question that was posed. This is something that was determined by me as I could easily figure out what was academic talk and what was not. At the time I started to feel discussion was shifting away from the question I shared they had less than 1 minute to wrap up that way I was not cutting someone off mid thought if they happened to still be talking about the question.
If you are not familiar with concentric circles, also known as inner outer circles, it is a discussion technique that gives students the opportunity to respond to questions and/or discuss information with a variety of peers in a structured manner. I enjoy using this strategy for several reasons. First, it keeps students from always choosing the same go to pairing. Next, it develops connections with students one may not typically interact with. Lastly, it gives a voice to students who may not usually want to share out in class. It does this in two ways; they share with their partner and that partner may then reiterate to the group what the other said to them (this happened in our class today).
Once we made it through all questions students were asked to head back to their seats. With the class period ending in about 15 minutes I had just a few more things to cover. I had a YouTube clip ready to go first. This was a quick 3 minute video that put the article words into a visual manner in an attempt to connect any missing links. We then briefly reviewed what we learned about trends and talked about some current business trends around us today. Then I was onto my last strategy, their exit ticket, which was in the form of a quiz.
The quiz was just a short 7 questions and developed in a multiple format. They had about 7 minutes to complete it. I did not want to give them too much time so that they were not inclined to reference the articles for answers, but rather pull from information gathered through the duration of the lesson.
At first they certainly had some reservations about this lesson since it was a new integration into this particular class, but by the end they were talking about how they enjoyed it. It also took them a minute to warm up considering it was the first block of the day (anyone have that as a daily struggle??) and they definitely walked in with those “post snow day” vibes. Overall I’m proud of how the lesson went and per the discussion and quiz results comprehension was definitely gained.
Sooooo.. take that snow day! The jokes on you!