Saturday, November 22, 2014

The New Immigration Debate

The recent speech by president Obama about his new executive actions on immigration provided a great opportunity to discuss and debate the issue in class this week.  Before diving into the discussion, we started by watching the speech in class, then reviewed the Newsela article "Obama's Immigration Speech, Cheered By Immigrants, Angers Congress."

Beyond having a class discussion about the merits of Obama's immigration plan, I also wanted to have the students debate whether or not the president's proposed executive actions are constitutional.  Since this issue can get incredibly complicated, I created this brief video explaining the key points for each side of the issue.



The class discussions went well and I am very proud that the students stuck to arguments and justifications based more upon facts than feelings.  I understand how emotionally charged the immigration issue can be, so having Freshman students discuss this at such a high level was just awesome.  Feel free to use this video if you think it will help your students as well!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

5 Minute Guide to Kahoot

Since last summer, several colleagues have mentioned how much their students enjoy playing "Kahoot."  We educators hear claims about this "great new app" or "awesome new website" daily, so its difficulty to discern the trend-chasing hype from resources that are actually worth-while.  After my wife Michaela (an excellent science teacher at Coventry High School) mentioned how her students love playing review games with this "new site called Kahoot," I knew it was time to check it out.

I gave it a shot a few weeks ago by creating one called "Halloween History."  It went so well, students asked when the next time they could play would be and if Kahoots could replace our existing review game.  In preparation for a recent Civics quiz, I then created this 13 Colonies Challenge.  Long story short, this is a classroom tool that seems poised to stay.

Here is a quick rundown of what Kahoot is and why I like it:
  1. Kahoot is a student-response system with built-in game elements.
  2. The game elements (ex. pts awarded based upon accuracy & speed, leaderboard...) make it much more fun and engaging for students.  
  3. It is very easy to create and set up games.
  4. The gameplay is very streamlined and simple to administer in class. (minimal steps, no log-ins, clear visuals...)
  5. There is a growing collection of pre-made public Kahoots to choose from.
I have also created this quick "5 Minute Guide to Kahoot" (also embedded below) to help you set up and play in class in no time!

Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Watch Instructional Videos

I recently collaborated with social studies department members Brian Germain and Garrison Rose to create a video providing students with tips for, well, how to watch a video. It seems a bit ironic, but although most students are very experienced watching online videos, they still need some guidance when watching instructional videos.

In general, we provide students with the following four strategies: reduce distractions, take notes, pause & replay, and ask questions.  We then provide a few quick examples of each strategy in action.

You will notice that we tried to keep this video quick, upbeat, and yes a bit goofy. We also tried to use both audio and visual cues to help drive home the major points, including a quick recap at the end.  Feel free to use this video with your students or create your own version tailored to your particular students' needs.  Video linked and embedded below:

How To Watch Instructional Videos