The Balance with Catlin Tucker: Featuring Adam Welcome

In this episode of The Balance, I talk with Adam Welcome, a father, educator, speaker, and writer. Adam has written three books–Kids Deserve It!: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking, Run Like a PIRATE: Push Yourself to Get More Out of Life and Empower Our Girls: Opening the Door for Girls to Achieve More.

In this episode, we discuss the changing roles of teachers and students in a time when students have unlimited access to information and resources online. We lament the pressure that many teachers feel about teaching inside a metaphorical box because of pacing guides, curriculum demands, and standardized exams. We explore the difference between entertaining students and engaging them. We talk about empowering girls, making tough choices about where we invest our time and living an active, healthy lifestyle.

If you are part of a professional learning community, the questions below are designed to facilitate a conversation–in person or online–about the issues discussed in this episode of The Balance. If you do not have a PLC at your school but you want to engage in an online conversation with other educators, check out the Facebook page I created to encourage conversations about achieving and maintaining balance! I will post a question a week to encourage an ongoing discussion about issues related to balance.

  1. How would you describe student engagement? What does it look like and sound like? How do you know when your students are engaged in a lesson or activity? Do you make an effort to notice engagement and document those moments? Do you agree with the statement that “the best discipline program is an engaged classroom”? Why or why not?
  2. What tasks do you currently do for students that they could potentially do for themselves? Identify one task that you currently do for students that you think they could do. What support, scaffolds or practice would students need to assume responsibility for this particular task? What might the value be of shifting this responsibility to your students? How would this shift impact your teaching reality?
  3. Do you feel like you can be creative in the design and facilitation of your lessons? If so, what form does your creativity take (e.g., projects)? If not, what limits your ability to be creative? Is there anything you can do to mitigate or eliminate those limitations?
  4. Do you connect students with experts and experiences beyond the classroom? How might pursuing real-world projects and experiences impact your students’ engagement and better prepare them for life beyond school? How might partnering with people in the community affect the way you design learning experiences?
  5. Are the girls in your school given the same opportunities as their male counterparts? Are efforts made to expose girls to female role models? Are the girls in your school encouraged to pursue classically male-dominated subjects? 
  6. Do you carve out time to be physically active? If so, when do you make time for this in your busy schedule?

I would LOVE to feature “teacher tips” related to finding balance both in the classroom and in our lives.

  • Describe the strategy, tip, or routine.
  • What imbalance did it help you to address in your professional or personal life?
  • How has making this small change helped you to feel more balanced?

If you have something you do to create balance in your life, please post a comment and share it! I would love to give you a shout out in an upcoming episode of the balance.

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Student-Designed Review Games with Quizizz

As the fall semester comes to a close, many teachers are thinking about final exams or end of the semester summative assessments. Often those semester exams cover a lot of information. The prospect of preparing students for those exams can be daunting. I work with a lot of teachers who spend hours creating review activities for their students to help them review information in the weeks leading up to those exams. As anyone who reads this blog regularly will already know, I don’t think teachers should invest hours creating review activities that students are perfectly capable of generating.

Instead of asking, “How can I help students to review for the exam?” I encourage teachers to ask themselves, “How can students help each other prepare for the exam?” The answer to this second question puts the onus on students to do the work.

Quizizz is a fun, free quiz maker that students love because it makes review feel like a game. Teachers can sign up for a free account and identify the subjects and grade levels they teach. Quizizz will show you content that has already been created by other educators. You can use any game with your students that has been shared publically. Are you teaching students about Latin roots, orders of operation, or cell division? There are already games created and ready to use! There is also a private mode if you prefer not to share the games you and your students create.

When teachers ask students to generate review questions for a Quizizz game, it requires that they review the content you’ve covered to identify important information, promotes critical thinking, and encourages conversation and collaboration. I would suggest working this activity into a station rotation lesson where students work collaboratively online to generate their review questions. Ideally, each team would make a Quizizz game for a category of information (e.g., chapter in the textbook, unit of study, collection of vocabulary words). That way, there are multiple games generated on different topics that can be used to foster review leading up to the exam.

Teachers can use a couple of different strategies to capture student-generated questions and answers. First, they can provide students with a formated Google Document, like the one pictured below, and let each team fill in their questions and answers. That way, the teacher can easily review and edit questions before copying and pasting them into a Quizizz game.

Another option is to collect answers via a Google Form. Joe Marquez recorded a video demonstrating how he formats a Google Form to collect student-created questions/answers and import them directly into Quizizz. To check out his video and the Google Form template he created, click here.

Once you have a series of fun review games, you can decide if you want to run them as a:

  • Team mode: Students work together in teams to answer the questions correctly.
  • Classic mode: Students work individually at their own pace through a fun review experience.
  • Test mode: Students log in to complete an assessment without the fun, informal game-style features.

If the goal of using Quizizz is to prepare students for a summative assessment, I recommend using the team mode to encourage students to engage in conversation and social negotiation as they attempt to answer questions correctly. The conversations they have about the questions will encourage them to think more deeply about the content.

This strategy shifts students from consumers to producers. If they have a hand in designing the review activities for the test, students will be more likely to engage when it comes time to play each other’s games!

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Designing Balanced Lessons

The theme of balance has been top of mind for me lately. I have a book Balance with Blended Learning coming out in January. I started a podcast called The Balance focused on exploring issues related to balance in education. I also spend a significant amount of time helping teachers to design balanced lessons in my role as a blended learning coach.

When I design a lesson with a teacher, I stress the importance of balancing the various elements within the lesson. There are a few reasons that I think it’s critical to consider balance when designing lessons. First, I do not want the teacher to do the majority of the work in the lesson. Second, I want the learning to be a partnership between the teacher and the student. The lesson must be designed to encourage students to take an active role in it. Third, I do not want teachers to isolate learners. Instead, I want them to leverage the power of their learning community by designing lessons that encourage conversation and collaboration among students.

If teachers design their lessons with intention and strive to balance the various elements within the lesson, students are more likely to be interested and engaged. A more balanced approach to designing and facilitating lessons will also afford teachers more time to work directly with individual students or small groups of students to personalize their learning experience.

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