Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Punch Game

Once in a while, I like to do something a little silly to add interest to an otherwise dry lesson plan. This is a game I've used before to spice up grammar lessons and review for final tests. It takes a little time to prep, but you can re-use it for years to come.

On a piece of foam core, hot glue plastic cups in rows, leaving at least a half inch between the rims of each cup.
 When the glue is set, you can put a question, task, or review question in each cup. I like to add a different treat along with each question and a few "free passes."

Cut squares of tissue paper and use a rubber band to secure them to around the top of the cups.
Here is one I made for a church class (Primary). When you call a student up, he or she has to choose a cup and punch through the tissue to get to the question (and treat).

An alternative use it fill it with prizes and let students punch on their birthday or after certain goals are met.

The element of surprise and the carnival feel of this game will be sure to add a little extra fun to your classroom!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Free Back to School Resources for High School ELA


This amazing book of resources is full of tips, free, and paid products to help you start the year off right. I am honored to have a page in this book, put together by Tracee Orman. Download the ebook from her store here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back To School Bingo Ice Breaker

When I have a class where the students don't know each other already, I like to break the ice with this tried-and-true activity. It opens up conversations, helps students find others with similar interests, and helps them learn names.

Use a Bingo card template and write in activities or experiences your students might have engaged in over the summer in each space. You'll want to make several different cards, then photocopy them. I use about eight original cards for a class of 25 - 30.

Give each student a card, and ask them to find fellow students who fit the description in the square. They then write that person's name in the square. I make a rule that they can only use one person for two squares so they have to circulate.

When someone gets a Bingo, give them a small treat. I usually let them play until we've had five or so winners. Afterwards, we have a discussion about what they might have learned about each other.

You can find blank templates online, or if you don't want to make your own cards, I have some available here:


Friday, August 8, 2014

Writing Prompts for Research Papers

I like to let my students choose their research paper topics, unlike some of my colleagues who assign topics. I believe if students are interested in their topics, they will be more fully engaged and get more out of the whole process. With a topic they care about, they are less likely to view the assignment as hoop jumping, and invest more energy and time into it. 

That said, it has never worked well just to say, "Choose whatever you want to write about." Most students are like deer in the headlights - they have no idea where to go or where to start. I used to write a list of previous topics that worked well on the whiteboard, but that was ineffective.

What did finally work was when I gave some topic ideas, and then posed some questions to think about, along with ideas for research.

For example, most students were not excited about the topic of genetically modified foods, until I posed a few questions for thought: "Should genetically modified foods be labeled?"  "What should the government's role be in oversight, testing, and labeling?"  "Why would voters shoot down a proposition in California requiring labeling?"  Once we talked about these, then I asked for questions about the topic to research: "What measures have other countries taken against genetically modified foods?"  "What do studies show about safety?" By the end of the discussion, I had a few enthusiastic takers.

I got the idea to make a set of cards with topic ideas, questions to consider, and research ideas. This way, students can flip through them and see what speaks to them. The best thing is that most use the cards as a starting point, and end up with a unique spin on the topic.

I recommend doing this in your own classroom if you want students to choose their own topics, or you can limit the topics to a few of the cards you have made. Either way, it gets everyone off to a great start.

If you don't want to make your own, I've compiled 40 ideas that students have used successfully and put them on half-sheet cards. I've also added a full-color Power Point so you can use the ideas one at a time for discussion or response papers. Click here to see the product.