Espresso Shot: Simple and Effective Strategies for Learning

Whether you're already settled nicely into summer vacation, or you're packing up your classroom during the last week of school, we know that the ideas for next year are already percolating.  To help you with your planning, we thought we would share some of our go-to strategies, ones that are simple to implement and designed for maximum student learning.

Nouvelle ELA: I love small-group presentations for a number of reasons, but one big one is that students are able to get more in-depth feedback. I have students present to each other in groups of 3-4, and then complete guided peer feedback to give the presenter. Students aren’t facing a burnt-out audience after three days of class presentations, and more responsibility is shifted to audience members since I’m not seeing every presentation. Also, since it doesn’t take as much time for all of the students to present, I can work in many more speaking opportunities! This is truly student-centered and win-win.

The Daring English Teacher: One of my favorite quick and easy strategies to get students thinking, discussion, and inquiring about a new topic is a poster project. I have my students work in small groups, and each group takes on a new vocabulary word, concept, or idea. From there my groups work together to define the concept or word, find famous quotes about it, explain it in their own words, and explain why it is important in today’s society. From there each group presents their posters to the class. This whole process takes just one 55-minute class period, and it is a great introductory student-centered activity.

Simple strategies for student learning from the Secondary English Coffeeshop

Addie Williams: My students love this quick and easy review activity for any topic. I have a pile of laminated plates from the dollar store in my room (the bigger, the better), a box of whiteboard pens and socks (to use as erasers - also from the dollar store). In groups we play quiz games and the students write / draw their answer on their plates (their mini-whiteboards) and then hold them up for me to check the answer. It's ridiculous how much they enjoy this game and it's a quick way for me to check for understanding.

The Classroom Sparrow: One of my go-to activities, which can be used with virtually any unit, is to place four posters around the room: agree, somewhat agree, disagree and somewhat disagree. I share some statements and have students go to the sign that represents their view on the topic. Students, especially ones with strong views on something, really get the discussion going! Even students, who may be a bit quieter, feel comfortable sharing their views, because they have other peers in their corner. So, whether it’s a few statements or themes found in an upcoming novel, a top news story, or just some fun topics you came up with to start the class, everyone will be engaged with movement!

Simple strategies for student learning from the Secondary English Coffeeshop
Room 213: My go-to strategy when I want my students to think about something, whether it's about an idea or analysis, is a quick-write followed by a turn-and-talk. I give students two to three minutes to write about a question I pose (What is the author's purpose in this chapter? What's your opinion about...?) Then I have them turn to share their ideas with a partner. I use this almost daily because it takes only a few minutes, and it means that all students have to engage and think. If I just pose a question to the whole class, a handful of students will dominate the discussion, letting the rest off the hook. 

Secondary Sara: Is the class tired (or lazy)? When in need of a quick review that has 100% student engagement, I have the entire class stand up and tell them that they can’t sit down again until they’ve given me an answer or statement. Then the verbal quizzing starts,and hands go flying in the air. (I know this may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, but in reality, the atmosphere is festive!) We’ve also done a variation of the game in which students are in teams. Once, we qualified that students couldn’t sit unless their answer included the word “because.”

Presto Plans: It doesn't matter how old your students are, if you bring an element of competition or game into the room, students will be far more engaged and ready to learn. Find a basic Powerpoint game template by searching online, input your own questions and content, split the class in two, and you are ready to have fun and “trick” them into learning. There are also many well-known game formats that lend themselves to reviewing content: Jeopardy, Memory, Scattergories. Charades, and the list goes on. One of my favorite projects to do with students is to work in groups to develop their own game based on what they are learning. They can model their creation after already well-known games or create their own rules and format. Once completed, have groups swap games for some in-class fun.

What's your favorite go-to strategy? Let us know in the comments!

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