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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tips on Reviewing Content with Engagment

If you follow my blog, you know how much I love Kristina Smekens from Smekens Education Solutions, INC. I went to the Literacy Retreat 2016 this past summer. So informative. I took detailed notes on six different sessions, as usual, but am just beginning to share them out to you all. Kristina's sessions overflow with ideas, so it takes me a bit of time to process all of the information. I've written previous posts on the various workshops and sessions I attended. If you're interested in reading posts from the Literacy Retreat 2015, click HERE, or HERE for a 3-part series on Dynamic Mini-Lessons for Teaching Reading. 


As you may already know, I am a Reading Specialist working with mostly young, struggling readers who benefit from practicing how to decode or consistently use Fix-Up and fluency strategies. Even though I work with small, intensive RtI groups using the F&P LLI Kits and am not a classroom teacher (anymore), I am finding a few of these engagement strategies useful. I say a few because my time spent with the groups is jam-packed with strategy instruction and is also very limited. However, I'm certain these strategies would benefit classroom teachers of all grade levels and ages, so let's talk engagement strategies!
Need help engaging your students when reviewing content? I think we've all had times in our teaching careers when we would answer a shouting, "YES!" to this question.  If you don't have some *pep in your step* when teaching or a little added #tlap in your lessons, students can and will get bored. 

When reviewing content, you must be quick and engaging. Typical review sessions require students to raise hands, while one or two students share answers, but that doesn't tap into all students' thinking. Teachers must honor the knowledge level of every student. In order to do that, ramp up the energy, but without it being a competitive game. Use a variety of tools and resources, add mobility/movement and make it fun! Easier said than done, right?

Addressing previously taught content is crucial. To be effective, it's important to incorporate quick reviews regularly in your classroom, while providing validation and clarification for students. Make sure to allow time and opportunities to *fix up what didn't stick* with students. Above all, honor the knowledge level of students. Below you will find some engagement strategies discussed at the Literacy Retreat that support effective content review. 

In the Stand Up-Sit Down strategy, the teacher poses open-ended review questions to the class. Students discuss the answers to the review questions all while executing the designated method of delivery (Smekens, 2016). The steps to this strategy are below.
Teachers need to change up the method of delivery options for students to make it more engaging. For instance, students may need to stand on tippy toes with hands up while speaking to their partners, or pretend to be jumping rope, riding a horse while lassoing, or even pinching their noses while speaking. Get the idea? The suggestions below are images taken from a bookmark passed out at the Retreat. Case and point: Make it fun!
 
The 1-2-3 Show Me strategy is sweet and to the point. Students respond to a teacher's questions by silently showing their answers to the teacher, not speaking aloud. It allows the teacher to gauge who is understanding the content and who is needing additional scaffolding. 

There are a variety of options for students to use when responding. For teachers without technology, create a class set of hold-up cards labeled, for example, A, B, C, and D, or use whiteboards and markers for students to display their answers. A further option is the site called Plickers. Click the hyperlink or image below to learn more about Plickers. Download a free set of hold-up cards HERE
For classrooms with access to 1:1 technology, try using Whiteboard Apps or instant polling websites like Kahoot! and Quizizz. Make sure to give students time to investigate the answers to the questions. Refrain from giving students answers to the questions. Make them work for it! :)

The Answer of the Day strategy is similar to playing the game Jeopardy. Teachers place the following prompt on the board, The answer of the day is____. The blank space reveals a term, phrase or person the class has been studying. The students are then asked, What's the question? 

Before students can begin taking ownership of generating questions, teachers must explicitly define what a *teacher-like question* looks and sounds like. 
  • The stronger questions demonstrate the student knows a lot about this term (or phrase, person) because it's packed full of lots of information and details.
  • Describe what a weak/non-teacher question sounds like. Ex: What's a word that starts with /p/ and is important in this chapter? (Smekens, 2016)
Once students have participated in whole group practice, they are then able to generate questions where the term, phrase or person is the answer. For example, let's say the answer is Helen Keller. Students generate questions that make Helen Keller the answer. For instance, Who is the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and is the author of The Story of My Life from 1904? Smekens stated,
Rather than writing definitions for terms, students are pulling on anything and everything they know about a specific concept. This strategy allows students to demonstrate what they know- no matter how much (or how little)- by asking a teacher-like question.
If you are wanting to review more than one term, Smekens suggested handing out colored index cards. You can repeat the process for each term you want to review, using a different color of index card per term. Tip: If you are choosing to review more than one term, don't review the color cards in order. Mix them up and don't allow the students to see the color of the cards. Try to stump them!
Before I go into detail on the ABC Chart Carousel strategy, this is a collaborative exercise, so Smekens recommends acquiring and using multiple ABC Charts. Each group should have access to their own laminated chart. Laminate for durability! Purchase packs of different colored dry-erase markers, too. Prior to the activity, pass out a specific color of dry erase markers to each group, making sure no groups have the same color. The marker colors are what bring accountability to the group! 

Once the above logistics have been taken care of, each group begins to brainstorm any thing they know about the topic being reviewed (or introduced), then writes down their answers in each square on the chart. For instance, if the topic is Weather, students may write lightning, low pressure, lake effect in the L square and snow, stratosphere, smog, sleet in the S square on the chart. 

After students have had a chance to write down their brainstorming results, they stop, cap markers, stand up and rotate, bringing their markers with them. Students then read what the previous group members wrote on their chart and add to it. If students see something they think is wrong on the chart (for example, drought means rains a lot), teach them NOT to erase, but to strike through it with their groups color dry-erase marker. They can defend their thoughts at the end of the activity. Students should have the chance to rotate through all ABC Chart stations, as well as discuss what they added, changed, thought, etc. as a class. For a previous post discussing this chart and how I used it with my RtI groups, Click HERE
Image from Literacy Retreat
For the Graffiti Wall strategy, students are called to the board, three at a time. Say to students, Decide upon a word you associate with (name the topic). Come up and write it on the board. No word on the board may be repeated. This activity offers choice and differentiation. Students can choose their marker colors and how they want to write the word they associate with a larger concept or topic the being discussed. Allow them to get creative with the font style and size! 

In regards to differentiation, to better support struggling students, you may want to allow them the opportunity to write their words first. The longer a student waits to go up to the board, the harder it is to decide upon a word, since the words are not allowed to be repeated. If students waiting to be called see a peer write the word they're thinking of, they must think of a new word. If you have students that need to be challenged, have them go towards the end. ;) Once every student has had a turn to write a word, have them pair up to discuss the terms from the Graffiti Wall.
Images from Literacy Retreat

Think, Ink, Pair, Square (T.I.P.S) The independent portion of this strategy is Think-Ink, where students are asked to think about an answer to a posed question then write (ink) it down on a sticky note, in a notebook, etc. Once students have written their answers, have them Pair up with a partner to share what they wrote. For the Square portion of this strategy, students should be placed into small groups, then share out with their group members what they have written down on their sticky notes, notebook, etc. Students then create a sentence using the best parts of their individual answers and write it with a dry-erase marker in the Square on their T.I.P.S laminated placemat. The final step is to regroup as a class to discuss the sentences placed in each group's Square.

Keep in mind, before this activity can be successful, students must be explicitly taught how to pay attention to each other's responses, find the differences and similarities among the responses, discuss/feed each others' ideas and identify the best details of each person's response, as well as underline or circle the words and details the group finds the most crucial to their understanding of the posed question. If you would like to download your own copy of the T.I.P.S placemats, click HERE.
The Top 5 strategy is more suitable for intermediate students in a large group at the end of a sizable unit or novel study containing a fair amount of content. Students are independently required to list their Top 5 or most important ideas they learned in the unit, novel study, etc. During the sharing portion of the activity, anything that is newly mentioned, is written down for all to see. However, every time something is repeated, tally mark it. This will help students figure out or identify the Top 5 important ideas. It was suggested NOT to divide up the load into partners or small groups because there is power in large group student discussions!

Well there you have it...additional strategies to add to your engagement tool box. I hope at least one of these strategies can be used with your students. Keep me posted if you try one. I'd love to hear about it. A huge shoutout to Smekens Education Solutions, INC. for sharing their engaging strategies at the Retreat! 

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