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Technology Helps Students Avoid the “Summer Slide”

Published on CoSN: The Consortium for School Networking

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Summer slide refers to a decrease or loss of academic skills over the summer break. As summer goes by, if students do not actively engage in learning experiences, the progress they had made throughout the school year will not only decrease, it can actually regress.

Avoiding this “summer slide” is easy if strategies are in place to help students stay fresh until the next school year. This is where digital tools and technology can step in and help students be ready for the start of the new school year.

Ways to avoid the slide

There are many digital options for helping students avoid this summer slide. With the rise of technology, students have access to diverse tools with many options for providing these learning extensions.  Students have choices when given opportunities for practice and this will help them to return to school better prepared.

Regardless of the content area or level taught, teachers can recommend some great tools and apps that can easily be used by students to practice over the summer. Technology enables students to learn anytime and anywhere, so time conflicts are no longer a problem. It just requires students to set aside time to interact with these resources, and it can also be a good way to help students take ownership of their learning and even have fun in the process.

As a foreign language teacher and member of several professional committees on educational technology, I am always looking for new online platforms and strategies to stay connected with my students.

In my classes, we use Edmodo, a platform that allows teachers to share resources and connect with parents and administrators, and Celly, a platform that uses social media to help students, teachers and others connect and communicate. I can post links to resources using either of these throughout the summer, if I want to send students an activity to complete to practice the verbs or vocabulary, or if I find a new website or resource that I think they will enjoy.

Students have assignments and activities posted on Edmodo; for instance, they might be asked to complete a game of Quizizz or use Quizlet study cards, or to do something like write a blog post about their summer vacation, or to find some authentic resources and share them with the class.

My students also use the Duolingo app on their devices and can use this as a way to stay fresh and have fun learning and reviewing the language, on their own schedule and wherever they are at the time.  I remind them to set aside a certain amount of time each week to review their skills.

For blogs, I use Kidblog, a platform that is secure and allows students to build their own pages and post blogs.

And when students go on vacation, I ask them to use their travels as an opportunity to engage in conversations with Spanish speakers.

Other ideas include using tools such as an LMS or a collaborative class website, and a messaging tool for communication, to help students and teachers stay connected over the summer. Digital tools can be shared and students can ask for help and have access to additional resources when needed. Maintaining a connection over the summer can keep students engaged and continue to foster those important student-teacher connections.

There are many opportunities available to help students stay involved and even build their skills over the summer. It just takes a little bit of investigating to find beneficial resources and setting aside the time to explore the many options available.

Rachelle Dene Poth teaches French and Spanish at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She holds a law degree and Masters in Instructional Technology from Duquesne University.

– See more at: http://www.cosn.org/blog/technology-helps-students-avoid-%E2%80%9Csummer-slide%E2%80%9D#sthash.4p03rkG8.dpuf

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The Year Is Almost Over. Don’t Miss The Opportunities.

by Rachelle Dene Poth

As the final grading period sets in, it’s hard to not look forward to summer vacation, having days where we don’t have any particular place to be or tasks to attend to, but we have to remind ourselves to keep our focus, stay motivated, and keep up that momentum until the finish. Too many days can be lost as a result of changes in schedules, standardized testing or any number of things that can take away from the valuable class time at the end of the year. There are many factors that can lead students and teachers to lose momentum such as: nicer weather, school sports, school musicals and activities and the rounds of standardized tests.

Classes, teachers and students can be pulled into many different directions and finding ways to stay engaged, motivated and working right up until the end can be a challenge. I am not saying that I have all of the right answers but I decided to do things a little bit differently for the end of this school year.  I decided to take some risks.  I wanted to try some new things, give the students more control in the classroom, and see what happened.

What brought about this change of mind, change of plans and new perspective?

Lots of things. A combination of finishing out a two-and-a-half-year graduate program for a Master’s in instructional technology, getting involved at education/technology conferences and edcamps, and interacting with people having various roles in these areas and hearing some really great ideas. A lot of my inspiration came from seeing my students involved in a technology showcase and the pride that I felt while watching them taking the lead, advocating for technology use, interested in more opportunities, and my desire to make things better, more interesting and meaningful for them.

So taking a bit of time over the recent spring break, I thought about what had not been going so well, things I might like to try to change or improve upon. I referred to my list of different ideas and tools that I’ve wanted to try in my classroom, but did not have enough time. I wanted to try different ways of doing things I had always done, to see if it made an impact in the classroom. I figured that now was as good a time as any to integrate some new ideas, to seek student input and to change things up a bit.

I thought that the end of the year seemed like a decent time to do this because it could lead to creative and innovative way of trying things, different from how we had done things throughout the year.  And it would provide an opportunity for reflecting over the summer break.

Sometimes change is good and the benefits are seen quickly and sometimes they are not. Worst case scenario in my mind was that the changes I would make and the different methods for enhancing student learning and interactions in class would not end up as I or the students hoped, but in the end, it’s all about learning and growing. And then figuring out what the next steps should be and starting from there. It is about taking risks, evaluating, reflecting and then moving forward. But there has to be a first step.

So if you find yourself feeling like this.  If you are seeking a way to help the students hang in there for the final stretch of the school year or to keep yourself going as well, think about trying something different, that has been on your list. Maybe it is a new classroom setup, or trying a different tool, or some other activity, that will give you just enough time to get some experience, involve the students in the decisions and get their feedback.

Having this information at the end the year can provide some really valuable information, leading you to reflect over the summer. Perhaps you will start off the new school year with these ideas. Worst case scenario is that it doesn’t go as you or the students had planned, and so you use that information to reflect and grow and plan something different or better for the future.

Starting with change number one.

I had a day to think about where I wanted to start.  Was it a specific activity? Or should I try a new tool in class? After some thought, it ended up being the same way I started the school year, creating a new learning space.

I am always trying new ideas, activities, tools and more now with my classes than I have never done before.  In some cases it’s trying out a new idea that I just thought up right before they came in, and in other cases it’s integrating a tool that we had used before, but because of lack of time, did not have opportunities to use recently. Regardless of what you decide, it will be something new and different and just might be that extra spark that you and your students need to stay strong to the finish.

I can give you some examples that have been working for me but again, it’s what you need and what’s best for your students. I will share some additional ideas and how they went in my next post but here are a few simple ideas to consider if the learning space is an area you would like to change.

Can you change around your learning space?  Can students be paired up and then rotate seats every so many days so they have a new partner to work with?  Does your classroom lend itself to movement and flexibility?

I changed the arrangement of my classroom so students would be seated across from each other. I wrote numbers on cards and the day they came to class, I gave each student a number written in Spanish.  They had to put themselves in numerical order and then starting with one, were able to go in and select their seat.  It was a fun activity and the students were really excited about the opportunity to choose their seat and the different setup.  I was nervous because I was not sure how it would all work, but I was willing to give it a try.

So, what happened?

I used the new arrangement as a way to have students work with peers more in cooperative learning activities during class.  This has had many benefits. I am still working through it, but my students like the arrangement and sharing the role of teacher and having opportunities to collaborate more in class.  I had them take on various roles and complete different activities with their partners over the first week. Sometimes it was seated in their group, others it was combining with another group, and a few times we did gallery walks with activities and stations in the classroom.

These are just the first in a series of changes/new ideas that I started with and I will admit, I was a bit hesitant and nervous at first because I did not feel as in control.  I can tell you that each class reacted differently and some reactions initially to the new seats, new methods were not all positive.

So I took this as an opportunity to ask my students for their input, whether in conversations, in writing, or surveys.   I had to set up some expectations and let them know that it was a risk and that it might need adjustments along the way.  After a few days, it worked out and the students have said how much they are enjoying this new experience. And I’ve noticed less students looking at the clock and less counting down the days to the end of school.

As a facilitator more with this arrangement, I have been able to interact more with them, answer individual questions, assess their needs more regularly, and continue to work on the relationships.  So I take these as good signs and what’s even better is that they seem to be making more progress with the material which is an area that is quite difficult for students in Spanish II to master.

So this is an evolving process and I would love to keep you up-to-date to where it goes for the rest of the year. So I leave you with this: think of a class or classes that you have, in which it seems like students need a little something extra.  Find a spark.  Ask them what could help them to learn better, make things more exciting, and then just try something.

Get them up and moving, mix it up, whatever you do it will be new and different and hopefully keep everyone going strong. And don’t give up too soon, give it some time and see what happens.

The Year Is Almost Over. Don’t Miss The Opportunities.; image attribution flickr user vexrobotics

Keeping Students Engaged: A Teacher’s Quick Guide to Quizlet Live

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This is a guest blog post by Rachelle Dene Poth, a teacher who uses Quizlet Live with her classes.

As a teacher winding down the school year, it seems we need something extra to keep students motivated and engaged. Fortunately, in today’s learning environment there are a lot of great resources available for use in classrooms that are tremendously beneficial for both teachers and students. The use of digital tools like Quizlet have introduced new methods for teachers to deliver instruction, personalize learning, and engage students in and outside of the classroom.

I frequently use Quizlet with my foreign language students to help them practice vocabulary and verb conjugations. Since Quizlet makes learning more personalized, I typically create study sets related to the chapter we are covering in class, or track their progress through Quizlet by creating sets dedicated to terms that my students are struggling with. What’s most helpful is the variety of activities Quizlet offers students to do at any time, ranging from flashcards, practice tests, audio activities, and playing a game of Scatter or Gravity. With countless ways to use Quizlet, I’m excited to share my experience with Quizlet Live, which I had the opportunity to beta test with my students.

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My first game!

With the recent addition of Quizlet Live to my classroom, students have been more engaged and eager to learn new material with this interactive game. When I first tested the game, I let students figure out how to answer questions as a team, which improved their focus on selecting the correct answer. Although students typically sit with their respective teams when playing Quizlet Live, my students decided to remain in their seats and call out their team name, or in Spanish (i.e. “tengo” or “no tengo”), to signify whether or not they had the right answer. I noticed that when students chose not to sit with their team, they were more mindful of their own answers, working through each choice. As the game progressed, they learned the mechanics more quickly and wanted to play over and over again.

Letting students learn on their own

Not only did I enjoy seeing their excitement and desire to keep playing the game, it was rewarding to see them truly learn the material and work through the activity on their own as well as on a team. My foreign language students told the other class about Quizlet Live and it was great to hear them so eager to share their experience. Without much delay, the second class started the game and I shared a few pointers that I learned from the previous group. I knew how to guide students with the second beta test and wanted them to figure out how the game worked on their own. My involvement was briefly as a facilitator, then as an observer. This helped me assess what they could learn on their own and also encouraged students to help each other. I could work with them individually or within the groups, be involved in their thought processes and problem solving, and ultimately use this information to guide my next steps in the lesson.

Since testing Quizlet Live, my students have asked to play Quizlet Live every day and they tell me that it really helps their critical thinking skills since they can retain vocabulary better with the repeat practice.

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Key tips for getting the most when using Quizlet Live

  1. Pick a study set with at least 12 terms for the students to practice. Give a brief explanation of how the game works, then let them figure it out on their own and use their experience to guide the next game.
  2. Have at least 6 players since the game will generate 3-4 players on a team. Each team is assigned an animal name and you can see the progress of each team as you go through the 12 questions. The first team to answer 12 questions correctly wins, but if an incorrect answer is selected, the team starts back at zero and has to earn points again to clear their board. As questions appear, each student starts with 4 possible answers on their screen. One member of the team has the right answer, the other members can only see blocks below each team member’s name. As answers are used, the blocks below each member’s name show a checkmark. Players can only see their their answers and the game continues until one team reaches 12.
  3. Shuffle the teams after a few games to provide new opportunities for students to collaborate with each other, and shuffle the card sets to get new terms and practice as much as possible.
  4. Make sure to complete the review with your students, which can be done with Quizlet Live’s feature. Once the game is over you can review the study set to assess and give feedback, and the students also see the correct answers on their screens during the game.
  5. Collaboration is key! Teamwork truly makes learning successful and I’ve seen my students become more engaged with their peers as they work together to master new material. In addition to providing new learning experiences, giving valuable feedback to the students helps them grow.

Quizlet Live is free to all teachers, and just requires signing up for a Quizlet account to start. Inject a new study activity in the classroom and see the positive effect it has on your students!

Rachelle Dene Poth teaches French and Spanish at RIverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at rdene915@gmail.com  @rdene915 or through her website: www.rdene915.wordpress.comquizletlive