We’ve all been there. The bell rings, you try to settle down your class, give some directions, one student forgot their ipad, another asks to repeat what you just said, students move around for supplies, more students ask you to repeat directions, you realize you forgot an important step—suddenly you look at the clock and there’s only a few minutes left!
I’ve seen this scenario as a teacher, and it’s happened to me as an Adventure Curator. These are the days where very little learning happens. I end up working very hard, and my students do almost no work.
Here are 3 practical tactics I’ve learned in my tenure as a traditional educator and a TomTod Adventure Curator.
1. Batch Planning
Most What If 101 cohorts are only 12-15 sessions long. We can’t afford to spend an entire one of those sessions in the scenario I went through in the intro. So pre-planning the standards and milestones students will achieve as they move through the project is essential for maximizing deep learning.
I start Batch Lesson Planning with a wide-angle lens by planning objectives through the entire project. By pre-planning and preparing session objectives and materials, I create the freedom for me to be more present during the period. Because the project’s tools are already pre-planned, students can self-pace their work, and I am better at using in-the-moment formative assessments of student work and focusing my differentiation interventions to be most effective.
With What If 101, we go into the semester knowing what needs to happen in every session, setting milestones the students should be reaching. This not only helps keep us focused, but is helpful for the students. Those students who understand concepts quickly or groups who collaborate well and finish what needs to be done can be guided into the next step. Students who need a little more support to reach those milestones can use their time effectively because I know what is essential for them to reach their goal.
2. Zero Budgeting
You may have heard of this method of budgeting your expenses, but we use zero budgeting in What If 101 to keep track of our time. Every minute has a purpose. You know where every minute is going.
"The best method that I have found for maximizing learning during a period is to use an inquiry-based learning approach like SOLE (Student Organized Learning Environments.)
SOLE increases the amount of active learning in my classes by getting students instantly engaged with open-ended driving questions and the expectation that they will discover or create something new in every period.
Inquiry-based methods teach students that the norm of active problem solving and collaboration. Instead of students passively sitting through my long directions, complex rubrics, or new and confusing graphic organizers, they are released to explore and learn together with clear time budgets for the period clearly shared from the minute they walk in the door.
The key to inquiry-based learning is to create norms and expectations that student teams will be active from the beginning of the period as they build towards sharing and self-evaluating their discoveries at the end of each period or week.
Learn more about using inquiry-based with this great article from Edutopia about Getting Started With Self-Organized Learning Environments.
3. Bell Ringers
In the scenario above, and what I’ve found while teaching, is that a lot of time gets sucked into the very beginning of class. Transitioning from their last class and a busy hallway is tough for kids. One tactic I’ve found invaluable is Bell Ringers.
These creative, fun, and intriguing activities create the perfect segue into active inquiry-based learning. Often my Bell Ringers are silly, opinion-based, or hands-on. The goal of Bell Ringers is to get students engaged from the moment the bell rings, and get a deep conversation started within the first 3-5 minutes of class.
Before class I write on the board up to 3 instructions students need to do the moment they sit down. I stand at the door as students file in, greet them by name, hand them a material, and tell them to read the instructions on the board.
The key to Bell Ringers is consistency and curiosity. After years of wasting precious minutes of students not knowing what to do, I now always start the class off with connection and fun—greeting them by name and handing them a tube of play doh.