Student Products

Join Me at #TCEA23 for Digital Differentiation!

My colleague, Amy Chandler, and I will be presenting for TAGT, Digital Differentiation:10 Tools That Will Help Your Gifted Learners at TCEA in San Antonio next week. You can see us on Monday, January 30th, at 1 PM in Room 225C, in the Convention Center.

Here is the summary of our session: “Learn about a myriad of digital tools, most of them free, that will allow you to create lessons in your classroom that will empower gifted learners to leverage their own interests and abilities. Work smarter, not harder, to include every student in every lesson.”

As many of you know, I like to make sure that my presentations include tons of free resources teachers can access immediately, and this one is no exception to that rule. Additionally, Amy and I will share examples of these tools being used in the classroom and offer ideas that will hopefully be new to you. In fact, we just added a couple of last-minute “surprise” tools that should be fun! Of course, I also like to keep my presentations interactive so you will have the no-pressure opportunity to offer some of your own suggestions as well.

Are any of you planning to present and/or attend TCEA? Email me (engagetheirminds@gmail.com) or DM me on Twitter (@TerriEichholz) so we can try to meet up!

a young girl holding her toy microphone while singing
3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Language Arts, Student Products

NPR Student Podcast Challenge

Way back in the early 2000’s, I convinced my then-principal to purchase a MacBook for my classroom. Another teacher (shout out to Diane Cullen at Fox Run Elementary!) and I sponsored a media club after school designed for 5th graders who were struggling in their classes. Our goal was to get them excited about school by getting them excited by creating for authentic audiences. Our little group started playing around with Garage Band, and began producing podcasts for the school. Those, along with their iMovie commercials, not only entertained and energized all of us but also helped to build school community. It was probably one of my first experiences seeing how producing something to be heard, seen, or used by others (Design Thinking) can be a powerful motivator.

I had no idea back then how popular podcasts would become. We had no resource materials when we started, fumbling along as we learned on our own. But now there are plenty available, and the tools for production have expanded way past Garage Band. I detailed many of these resources in an article for NEO almost two years ago on “Podcast Pedagogy.” I also recently blogged about “International Podcast Day“, which occurs annually on September 30th of each year. I still think that Smash, Boom, Best is one of the best gateways to podcasting for younger students.

Now I’d like to bring your attention the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. And before you dismiss it because you don’t think your students are ready to enter a contest (submissions are being accepted until April 28, 2023, possibly March 24th according to the Podcast Guide for Students?) or they are not in the age range (grades 5-12), I would still like to recommend taking advantage of the educational resources provided. You can listen to past winners and even a podcast about student podcasting. There are free downloads for teachers and for students that are useful for helping students to prepare, plan for, and produce podcasts. Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before. In fact, according to the NPR Podcast Guide for Students:

We don’t expect you to be experts. In fact, we expect that most of you are putting a podcast together for the first time.

And even though this is a contest, it’s also about learning new skills in a fun way. We want to make that learning easier — so we’ve put together a guide to help you along the way.

NPR Podcast Guide for Students

It can be daunting as a teacher if you have no experience, but it’s a good opportunity to model a growth mindset and learning along with your students. You could start by giving the option to a small group of advanced students and expand from there, or do one all together with the caveat that I always used, “I have no idea how this is going to go, but I love to learn new things even if it’s from my mistakes, don’t you?” Even if students design podcasts just for practice to begin with, there are so many useful skills students will learn such as researching, summarizing, outlining, and writing for an audience. Podcasts are just one of many great choices to give students when differentiating products so they can demonstrate learning (which my colleague, Amy Chandler, and I will be presenting at TCEA this year), so I encourage you to give it a try!

Link to Downloadable Poster Can Be Found in Teaching Podcasting: A Curriculum Guide for Educators
boy in red sweater wring on notebook
K-12, Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

10 Retrieval Activities + 1 Choice Board

You may recall my mention of retrieval practice in my post about the +1 Visible Thinking Routine. To briefly recap, scientific studies show that retrieval practice done in intervals can help learners to retain more information. These activities are like short pop-quizzes in that you are asking students to recall as much as they can without referring to notes or texts. But, while a pop quiz is used for the teacher to assess, the purpose of retrieval practice activities are to help students learn, so they should not be attached to grades. Ideally, they are woven into your teaching day and can take the form of games, classroom warmups, and even exit tickets. The +1 Visible Thinking Routine is one way to do retrieval practice, but I recently discovered some more ideas on Twitter.

It started when I noticed a Tweet from Brendan O’Sullivan (@ImtaBrendan) where he shared a choice board of “settler” activities. Now, I don’t know about you, but the word, “settler” makes me think of dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail or getting obliterated by my family when we play Catan. Once I found out from Brendan that these are a term for activities used “to get your class settled, to give them focus and moving towards learning,” the board made a lot more sense to me. (This is the fun thing about Twitter. Brendan is from Ireland, so I appreciate him helping us non-Europeans learn a new term!) Brendan’s choice board is a nice way to have students do some retrieval practice when class is getting started.

Settler Choice Board from Brendan O’Sullivan

I then noticed a Tweet from Liesl McConchie (@LieslMcConchie) where she shared a link to her mini-book of “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention.” Although it is math-focused, you can easily do the activities in any classroom. For example, I could see using the “Quiz, Quiz, Switch” activity in any grade level or subject (possibly using pictures for students who are pre-readers).

Retrieval Practice example from Liesl McConchie in her mini-book, “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention

You can download more free mini-books from Liesl on her website.

By guiding students with retrieval practice activities, we will not only help them to retain more important information, but we are teaching them a valuable skill they can continue to use as lifelong learners.

illuminated gratitude quote on board
3-12, Creative Thinking, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

Gratitude Zines

Since this is the month of American Thanksgiving, November classroom activities often revolve around gratitude in the States. Austin Kleon, a Texan author famous for his Blackout Poetry among other things, has the perfect free download for you. He is a proponent of all things creative, and “zines” are excellent gateways to encourage imaginative writing and illustrations. If you have not run into “zines” before, here is a quick introduction from the University of Illinois, who basically describes a “zine” as “a small-scale, self-published publication, similar to a magazine, which can focus on a variety of topics.” Kleon has a page of examples and free downloads here.

I learned about Kleon’s Gratitude Zine on Twitter from Maria Galanis (@mariagalanis), when she shared a video tutorial of how to make the printed page into the tiny book.

You can get the free download by going to Kleon’s newsletter. (I highly recommend subscribing when the popup displays, but you don’t have to.)

Click here to go to the free download on Austin Kleon’s newsletter.

I’ll be adding this idea to my November collection of resources. If you are looking for some more creative and critical thinking activities related to the season, here is another post of free ideas.

Cartoon Students Presenting to Class
3-12, Creative Thinking, Fun Friday, Games, Independent Study, Research, Student Products

Host a Classroom PowerPoint Party

My daughter began college in 2020 when the majority of her classes were still on-line and most extracurricular activities were still shut down. She lived in the dorm, but was definitely not experiencing the typical first year for obvious reasons. When she started talking about “PowerPoint Parties” that her close friends would host, I thought that was another amazing example of how creativity can be born from constraint. They couldn’t go out to many places, so they found a way to entertain themselves inside.

PowerPoint parties are when small groups of people meet and — you guessed it — show PowerPoint presentations. But these are not the “Here is what I learned about Abraham Lincoln” kind of presentations. Sometimes there is a theme for the the party, such as “The Best TV Show Ever” or sometimes participants are just invited to do one on whatever they’re passionate about. One of the favorites that my daughter’s friends have shared is when they pick which Disney character each of their friends would be. It seems that, usually, the purpose of the presentations are to persuade — and to entertain, of course. Sometimes they offer prizes at these parties, but not always. There are also parties where the presentations are timed (usually 3 minutes) or there is some kind dress code that goes with the theme.

I recently saw a TikTok from a teacher (Noelle Cheney) where she let her students have a PowerPoint Party in class (wouldn’t this be a fun class reward?) and here are some of the topics her high school students did: why you should give us a free day every other Friday, why baby trucks (aka compact trucks) are stupid, why the Shrek tetrology is a piece of cinematic brilliance, and why Miss Cheney should get a fish as a class pet.

I like the class pet idea if you work with younger kids. Some others could be: things you like that no one else does, the best board game, which fictional character would make the best president, the best super hero, where your class should go on its next field trip, or even a theme proposed by your students.

PowerPoint parties can be a fun class reward, interspersed as Brain Breaks, used on those chaotic class days right before a holiday, or an introduction to Genius Hour. You could also make them “semi” educational. For example, if your class has just finished a novel you could host a PowerPoint party where they argue which dog each character would be and why.

What are the benefits of PowerPoint Parties? Practicing persuasion, research, technology, and presenting skills, giving students the opportunity to use their creativity, learning more about each other, and bringing some laughter into your classroom!

Do any of you use PowerPoint parties in your classroom? Comment below!

@noellelovessloths This is a genius idea that you can use for several different lessons. 10/10 recommend #powerpointnight #teacherlife #highschool #noellelovessloths ♬ original sound – matt
Creative Thinking, K-12, Student Products

Me — The User Manual, 2022 Edition

I’m starting a Wakelet collection of ideas for beginning the school year (stay tuned for that to be shared next week!) and one of my favorites is this activity, “Me — The User Manual, that I did way back in 2017. It was originally inspired by a tweet from Adam Grant, famous author of many books including one that I highly recommend for teachers, Think Again. In the tweet, Grant referred to an article by Abby Falik where she described writing her own “user manual” that she wrote as a leader. You can read more about it in my original post.

Back then, I created my own User Manual, and suggested it as something teachers could do to share with their students and/or colleagues. I also think it would be a unique activity to have your students do when the school year starts as you are trying to get to know each other and develop relationships.

I’ve updated my own User Manual, and I’ve created a link to the template in Canva so you can use it if you wish with your students. Of course, deviating from the template is highly encouraged as employing your own creativity to this product is a large part of its power. As you can see from my graphic, I highly value creativity!

You can adapt this idea to any age and digital creativity tool, even drawing it by hand if you prefer. The purpose is to build community in a safe way while encouraging creativity. Your students will appreciate getting to know you better, and this can be your first signal to them that you truly care about each individual in your classroom.

Click here to access this template in Canva.