It’s spring break this week and I am trying to relax a little, catch up on some blogging, and do some lesson plans. On the topic of lesson plans, it’s that time of the year where it seems everything stops and lesson plans become dominated by EOG review. I was actually able to get a jump on this before the break and started doing some activities in my class that led me to the ideas for this post. In the past, I’ve always thought about what I can do to help the students review, but this year I decided to put it more of it on the students.
I am letting them create posters, activities, word walls, and anything thing else they can think of to help review standards before the tests in May. I am also having them work on projects over the next few weeks in order to differentiate the review and add some variety to the lessons.
Decorating classroom and hallway bulletin boards has always been a source of frustration for me. I don’t feel very creative in this way, so it is always a struggle to put something together that looks good. It’s gotten even harder for me to get motivated about bulletin boards since so we do so much more work with Google and other apps, and students display their work with eProtfolios.
About two weeks before spring break, I was looking around the room thinking about how I was going to post various topics for review in reading, math, and science. I realized that I had several students that loved to draw and decorate. It occurred to me that they should be the ones decorating the classroom with relevant topics for review.
I decided to set up a discussion post with a few ideas and ask them to make posters displaying concepts or vocabulary. I started with science and math and posted a few ideas of the main standards and topics we covered throughout the year. By the end of our AM work time, the students responded and were already starting their posters. I never imagined they would react this enthusiastically. Some chose weather, others worked on Newton’s Laws of Motion, and others were busy drawing food chains and food webs. The day before spring break they started asking me when they were going to put them up around the room. Some already had ideas about how to divide the room up into sections for each subject. This is where we will pick up when we get back.
In all my years preparing for EOG review, I always felt like it was all on me. By turning some of this responsibility and decision making over to the students, it gave them a say in the process. It also gave me an idea of what they really knew about the topic. We studied weather back in September and October and as I looked over some of their posters I realized some things were forgotten, or maybe never fully understood. I noticed immediately some gaps in their understanding when it come to things like warm/cold fronts and and high/low pressure. I realize that analyzing data from assessments is important, but it was so much easier to see their misconceptions this way than from an assessment.
As for the bulletin board in the hallway, I set this up myself and will let the students finish it and maintain it. The idea behind the hallway bulletin board is to make it a daily weather map where the students can track the weather on a calendar, as well as, a map of the United States. I cut the blue border into triangles to represent a cold front and the red border could be used as a warm front. I also plan on having the students create a word wall around the bulletin board with essential vocabulary from the weather unit.
Here is an image of the board so far:
Another issue that comes up with EOG review is how to differentiate the students and the content that needs to be reviewed. Each student requires different degrees of review depending on the subject. By using Project-Based Learning, I think I will be able to keep all of the students engaged whether they are working on review concepts or working on a project.
This was something I started about three weeks before spring break. Atomic Learning has two great modules for Project-Based Learning (Project-Based Learning Lesson Framework: Endangered Species and Project-Based Learning Framework: Million Dollar Classroom). I highly recommend checking these two out if you have access to Atomic Learning. We are about halfway through the endangered species PBL in my class and the students are really enjoying it. I have a separate page on this site with my reflections on the endangered species PBL.
One thing I discovered as they are working on this project is that they were so engaged I was able to pull some students into small groups and start reviewing. I plan on starting the Million Dollar Classroom PBL during math class after the break. The other important point about these projects is that they are interdisciplinary, so I can have students working on them in any of the three major subjects for review (math, reading, and science).
It is my hope that these activities and projects will provide some variety to what can be a stressful time for some of my students. I hope it also gives them a better sense of ownership over the work they have done this year.