by Benna Crawford
The modern classroom no longer contains only a chalkboard and lesson book, but a hybrid learning of traditional teaching and technology. As a teacher, make yours an exciting adventure for your students with innovative approaches to standard subjects that tweak the imagination. Weave technology and play into lesson plans; set up spaces for individual exploration; create a visual feast of fun facts that are easy to remember. Clever ideas can be adapted for any age, from kindergarten through high school.
Grow your classroom a little greener in 2015 and beyond. It doesn't take a big budget to set up a lunch bag recycling system and educate students about different kinds of trash, how it can be recycled and ways to reduce disposable wrappings and containers. A living green wall — a small frame or a large panel — could be a class building project as you set up the frame, water catchment, drip irrigation and pockets for individual plants. Maintaining the wall becomes part of shared classroom duties. A homemade earth-box, a doubled tub with soil and plants in the top container and a water reservoir in the bottom, will grow edible vegetables in the light from the window. Calculate individual carbon footprints for various student activities, post the results in traced paper feet on a wall, and challenge students to shrink their footprint over the course of the year.
Set Up a Wonder Shelf
Every classroom could use a little more wonder. Designate a shelf for materials that encourage creativity and playful learning. A wonder shelf might hold colorful hands-on math blocks; construction and building toys with gears, wheels, interlocking plastic rods and connectors; sketch pads and colored pencils; air-dry clay; beads, wire and string; microscopes and prepared slides; tablets and an e-reader loaded with interactive books. Put sea shells collected on a field trip on the shelf along with a seashell guide and ask students to label them. Leave simple experiments, all materials gathered into a kitchen storage container, sitting out for a curious student. Anything magical that encourages exploration goes on the wonder shelf for use before and after school, during lunch break or whenever a student finishes classwork with time to spare.
The Blurb Blog
Engage with the written word through technology. Set up a classroom library with grade-appropriate books, a laptop and a microphone for recording “vlog” or video blog posts for book reviews. Create a private blog and upload reviews, student-made book trailers and written book blurbs—short, catchy evaluations endorsing favorite books. Use free online QR code generators to assign a code to each book's bucket of blog reviews and trailers, print the codes and attach them to the back of each book. QR, or "quick read" codes are digital shorthand that can be read by a free cell phone or tablet app to take a student directly to an Internet site—your private blog. The blurb blog becomes an interactive year-long conversation that may encourage thoughtful reading, critical thinking and clear self-expression, incorporating popular communications technology.
Dig deeper into high school science, writing and literature, and current events on global field trips that take place in your classroom. All you need is a wide screen and a high-speed Internet connection to transport your students. Set up a tech-explore lab in a quiet corner where students can use tablets to travel to ancient Egypt or a rain forest or the moon via virtual education portals, museum sites and organizations like NASA. Link outside-the-classroom exploration with the curriculum and encourage students to work independently and take responsibility for scheduling their online research time and related feedback activities. Some virtual visits require fees, others are free; use education apps that can be downloaded to classroom tablets.
References & Resources
About the Author
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has worked in executive management for global advertising and marketing firms, in finance industry regulation and as head of her own successful small business for 15 years.
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