Monday, May 15, 2017

Creating a Classroom Museum

Every year, one of my AICE classes tests at the end of April. This is sometimes a bit of an issue because students don't get out until the first week of June. Keeping students motivated for a week or two after testing is difficult, but keeping them motivated for over a month is nearly impossible. To combat that, I like to give my students a couple of longer or larger products on topics that they're really interested in. For our first big project in my marine science class this year, I created a "museum" activity that my students really loved.

I assigned partners and animals randomly- my classes are a pretty funny mix this year and that really helped stop the best friends from pairing up or the fighting over animals. Students got a sheet that listed the requirements of their museum exhibit:
1. A trifold exhibit board with information and pictures about their animals
2. A model showing a special anatomical characteristic of their animal
3. A hands-on activity relating to their animal
4. A notes sheet that other students could fill in based off of their board
5. A set of 2 scrapbook-style pages about their animal (we have a close association with a Montessori preschool in our town, so this scrapbook will be donated to them!)

Students were given a week to complete their exhibits- we are on a 4x4 block, so this was a total of 7.5 hours to work. I provided the exhibit boards, paper for the scrapbook pages, material to make self-drying salt clay for the models, and access to the multitudes of craft supplies I keep in my room. I personally think this project worked so well for a few reasons. First of all, our testing schedule is insane- between state tests, AICE tests, pre-AICE tests, and AP tests, we have at least 2 tests scheduled every day. Putting students in pairs and giving them a lot of time and components really let them be flexible around their test dates- one partner could work on the board or the model while the other was testing. The large variety in what they were doing helped appeal to all students, whether they were more research-minded or more creative.

I designated 2 days as "museum days". My classes that participated in this were my first and last blocks, which made this easy. The day before our first museum day, my last block class set their exhibits up at the end of the day, and the next morning my first block class set their exhibits up. I made copies of the student note pages in advance and put each set of notes in folders that I set up inside a file box. Students selected a note page, found the exhibit, filled out the notes/completed the activity, then wrote some quick notes evaluating the project on the back of their paper. When they were finished, they got another note sheet and repeated the process. Some of them chose to work individually, while others moved around in partners or groups of 3. After the museum days were over, students completed a short evaluation on their work and their partner's work and listed their top exhibits.

Some of the exhibits and activities that students came up with were really creative, and I've tried to include some of those pictures in this post. Some of my favorite activities included a velcro vocabulary matching activity on the blue whale group board and a lift-the-flap maze that had students encounter different dangers to baby sea turtles while they tried to make it safely to the ocean. The otter group created a larger-than-life model of an otter paw out of clay and fake fur. The stingrays, skates, and manta rays group included models of the tails of each type of animal. 

This activity was a great way to give my students an overview of a lot of small topics while also giving them the chance to dive more deeply into a specific topic (in this case, a specific marine animal). I'm eager to find more ways to use this structure!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Favorite Self-Checking Review Activities

As we approach testing season every year, I start thinking about the ways that I can help my students review for their major tests- whether that is an AP/IB/AICE test, a state end of course exam, or just their finals in my classes. Over the past few years, I've tried many different strategies, but I always come back to the self-checking review strategies. These are great because students can see instantly whether they've completed an activity successfully! My favorite type of self-checking reviews are looping activities. Basically, students start with a card, chart, or task card that has a question and the answer to a different question. Once they think they've answered their question, they look through the other cards or charts to find the card that has their answer on it. If they can't find the answer, that means they did something wrong and they need to go back through their work. If they can find the answer, they start working on the question that is attached to that answer. If they've completed the loop correctly, they should end up back at their beginning card- if they don't, they've done something wrong and need to double-check their work. These activities are great because they allow students to be responsible for checking their own work. This gives you a chance to work with small groups or help students out independently, and also gives the students an opportunity to develop their self-reflective skills. Today, I'll be talking about my 3 favorite self-checking review opportunities: vocabulary stacks, dominoes, and scavenger hunts!

Vocabulary Stacks
A coworker introduced me to the idea of vocabulary stacks, and I am in love! Students start with a group of vocabulary cards laid out in front of them, vocabulary word up. Each word has the definition to a different term on the back. Students turn over one card, read the definition, and find the word that matches. They take that card and flip it over on top of their original definition, creating their "stack" and exposing a new definition. My kids enjoy these activities because they can see right away if they did something wrong- if they have a definition that they can't find a word for, that means they matched a word incorrectly earlier in the stack and they need to restart. As a teacher, it's easy to check because they should have a stack of cards on their table and the last definition should match a word that's face down on the table.

If you want to try a vocabulary stack activity, I have a FREE scientific method stack on my TPT store- click here to download it!

Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunt activities are an easy way to get students up and out of their seats to review. You hang a series of papers around the room that have a question and then an answer to a different question. Students start at one paper and read the question (in the case of the pictures below, they are trying to match the name of an acid to the formula of that acid). They look around the room to find the answer to that question. When they find the answer, they go to that paper and then try to answer the question that's there. They repeat this process until they end up at their original paper, completing the loop. I like to do this as a "lift the flap" activity. This prevents students from just sitting in their seats and looking around the room, and it also helps to reduce confusion between questions and answers, especially if the questions aren't written as typical questions.

I have a whole series of scavenger hunt activities here in my TPT store!


Domino activities are another great station activity. Each domino has a vocabulary word and a definition on it. When students have matched all of the vocabulary words with their definitions, the dominoes should connect in a loop. You can also do this with a "start" domino and an "end" domino instead of the loop. I love this because students have to think about multiple words and definitions at once.

I've included a FREE set of ecology vocabulary dominoes for you to use as a starting point- click here to access and print them on Google Drive!

I hope these activities give you a starting point to think about the self-review or looping activities you can use in your own classroom. In the comments below, let me know what your favorite type of review is!