May 23, 2015

You Oughta Know About...Google Scholar

In high school and college when I was assigned a research paper I had the benefit of having access, through my school's library, to a variety of databases filled with scholarly articles. In college these databases could be accessed online through the library's website, but in high school they were only accessible on the library's computer (that was 10+ years ago so it may be different now). I am sure both my high school and college had to pay for costly subscriptions to these databases of information. 

If your school lacks these resources, if you can't get into your school's library due to scheduling conflicts (ours totally shuts down during AP testing), or you want students to be able to access high-quality sources at home, Google Scholar is an excellent free online resource.

Just as you would when using the Google search engine, entering search terms will display a list of related results. Under each result is listed the number of times the source has been cited. Also under the result are the options of "related articles," "cite," and "save."

Before having students begin research for an assigned research paper, you may want to familiarize them with this site and discuss how to research. Ask them how the "related articles" feature can help them with their research. Have students examine sources that have been cited frequently and infrequently and the reasons why they think that is (older versus newer publication, more or less credible, etc.). The "cite" feature formats the citation in MLA, APA, and Chicago. Discuss the different purposes and usages of the different styles. The "save" option allows students to save the article for later reference. 

You can also have students create alerts for topics, which sends the search results to them as new publications are released. This would be especially helpful if students are doing a long-term research paper or researching a very current hot topic.

As students are working, they can return to "my library" to see all of their saved sources or "create alert" to add or edit alerts.

These features are also located on the Google Scholar homepage.

Two other important features are the "metrics" and "advanced search."

Under "metrics," the top publications are listed as well as other language options. Regardless of their research topic, have students look at these top publications and identify qualities of high-quality sources. ESL students may benefit from the other language options.

Have students play around with the advanced search to see how limiting or broadening their search terms changes their results.

You can see how easy Google Scholar is to use. I love that its simple site name is easy to remember, and best of all it is free and accessible anywhere. Hopefully Google Scholar will be a tool you can use with your students next year for writing research papers or just practicing research skills. 

May 20, 2015

Page Turners: End of the School Year Projects

Greetings and welcome to Page Turners, a weekly Wednesday linky, where I feature great blog posts I have read (and sometimes that I have written). Hopefully you will find ideas that inspire you in your classroom and your teaching and maybe even a new blog to follow. Read down to the end of the post for directions if you are interested in linking up a post of your own.

And now on to this week's topic: end of the school year projects and activities. As you wind down the year, maybe you are looking for one or a few great last activities to do with students. Look no further than the posts below.

Guest blogger Jill Christensen shared this end of the year project with Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy. Students create a scrapbook after reading a biography on a person of choice. This project involves all of the disciplines with different subject area teachers supervising different pages of the book.

Caitlin Tucker shares this project idea, creating a soundtrack for Romeo & Juliet, on her blog. Students pair songs with scenes from the play providing lines from the play and lyrics to support their choices. She provides a free download of the project handout plus some extra credit ideas. I am trying something similar with my students as we finish up Monster by Walter Dean Myers.

Julie Faulkner of Faulkner's Fast Five shares ideas about hosting a literary themed party, specially a Gatsby party. After doing a close reading of the party scene in the text, students make decisions on how to adapt that party to the classroom. Julie lists a few other texts/possible party scenes as well. Work hard, play hard right?

AP Lit Help offers three ideas on what to do after the test is over, whether it is the AP test, the class final, or any other kind of culminating exam. My favorite idea is the “Toast, Roast, Gift & Grub” Banquet. Students choose a favorite character/author to toast, a least favorite charter/author to roast, a character/author to give a gift to, and food to share with a connection to a text from the year. This would be a great way to review all of the texts read in a fun, yet meaningful way.

Another idea from Caitlin Tucker's blog, having students write a letter to their future self. While that is not a new idea, she shares a website that allows students to write and send a future email to themselves. Woah technology.

And just posted yesterday, check out this blog post and freebie for creating a literary theme park. Students will love designing an amusement park based on a recent or favorite text from the year. It's also a great way to tie in review of literary elements.

Be sure to check out the posts linked up below. Page Turners will be going on summer vacation, but will return in August. Leave suggestions for topics for next school year in the comments.

May 19, 2015

End of the Year Project Idea: Literary Theme Park

At the end of one school year, my principal announced that she wanted to see us all engaged in project based learning. It was the new buzz word, though not as popular as it is now, and despite having final units and weeks planned, we were now supposed to add a project into the mix. 

My students had just wrapped up reading and acting out Romeo and Juliet.

 And now we were engaged in a mini-argument essay on teenagers and their decision making capabilities. Finals were soon approaching. 

I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted it to be fun and engaging. My students had just struggled through Shakespeare and were courageous enough to read and act in front of their peers. Now they were still working hard, crafting an argument essay. I also knew I wanted to connect the project to the final. I didn't want my students to be stressing over a final project and a final exam.

I am not sure where the idea came from but I decided to create a project centered around a literary theme park (with emphasis on theme). The rides could connect to events in the plot, shops and eateries could connect to characters, the theme of the park could connect to a theme in the play, etc. But would my ninth grade students be into it? Sometime the ideas I thought were awesome, they didn't quite share my opinion.

But they loved this! The first step was to review the plot of the play using this tragedy cycle graphic organizer.

After I checked off their plot as complete and correct, students moved on to planning their rides,  attractions, shops, food, souvenirs, etc. using this outline.

I showed students a very simplistic sample park layout, but you could also show students real maps of amusement parks, historical parks, or nature parks. Just make sure the map has a key on it and you draw attention to that.

Once I checked off their outline for completion, students were free to begin the poster with the map of their amusement park. What they came up with was amazing! Here are just a few:

I also had the students present so they could share their parks with their peers. This was low pressure, even for students who don't like to speak in class.

While I used this project with Romeo and Juliet, you could use it with any story, novel, or play. Assign your students your most recent text or let them pick a favorite from the year to focus on. History teachers could adapt this to focus on a historical event or time period covered. Science teachers could focus on a concept or unit. Grab this free resource by clicking on the image below.

Enjoy your final days of school!

May 13, 2015

Page Turners: Using Games to Promote Learning {5/13}

Greetings and welcome to Page Turners, a weekly Wednesday linky, where I feature great blog posts I have read (and sometimes that I have written). Hopefully you will find ideas that inspire you in your classroom and your teaching and maybe even a new blog to follow. Read down to the end of the post for directions if you are interested in linking up a post of your own.

And now on to this week's topic: using games to promote learning. As teachers, we are always looking for ways to make learning fun for our students. Using games, whether it is to review terms or simulate a concept, is a great way to keep students engaged.

The Curly Classroom offers this twist on Bingo to review author's purpose. Using a PowerPoint of text excerpts and a Bingo board of verbs (both which can be downloaded for free from the post), students decide which verb best fits each text. On their bingo board they must add the title of each text to the verb and to use the verb to explain the author's purpose. I'll be using this on Thursday as part of a review for our upcoming state exams.

Next up, Michelle Luck of A Lesson Plan for Teachers shares her human board game. Think Alice in Through the Looking Glass. The tiles of your classroom floor become the game board. Add arrows to show the direction of movement and spaces like "roll again" and "move back two spaces" to mix it up. Have students roll a dice and if they answer the review question, they can advance. Monday is our last day of review. Maybe I can pull this together by then?!

Mind/Shift offers three games about viruses that teach interconnectedness: one board game, one app, and one that is both! How does this relate to your content? Science or health teachers this is a perfect connection to teaching about germs and health precautions. Math teachers you can definitely work some numbers into these games. Social studies teachers, are you covering the Bubonic Plague, AIDS, Ebola? ELA teachers are you reading Poe's Masque of the Red Death or Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793?  The post offers ideas on assessing learning and connecting to real world events.

Mind/Shift offers three more educational games. Think Oregon Trail. The first, Elegy for a Dead World is a writing video game?! Students trek through worlds inspired by the Romantic poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley. They offer a free press copy to all you bloggers out there. They sent me one that I just haven't gotten around to trying yet. The second, Never Alone, introduces students to Native American culture, specifically the Inupiat people (native Alaskans). The third, Valiant Hearts, focuses on WWI. These games make me wonder what else is out there.

And the last post is a short one on using Pictionary and other games to review vocabulary. Seriously simple, but students love it. Could be used to review vocabulary or terms for any subject area at any level.

Be sure to check out the posts linked up below and come back next week for some great posts about end of the year projects & activities.

May 6, 2015

Page Turners: Classroom Management

Greetings and welcome to Page Turners, a weekly Wednesday linky, where I feature great blog posts I have read (and sometimes that I have written). Hopefully you will find ideas that inspire you in your classroom and your teaching and maybe even a new blog to follow. Read down to the end of the post for directions if you are interested in linking up a post of your own.

And now on to this week's topic: classroom management. We all have that one student or maybe even that one class or many too many students in too many classes that are disruptive. Hopefully you fill mind some new ideas here for how to tame your little monster(s). 

Building community in the classroom is key to having a positive classroom environment and will eliminate many classroom management issues (ideally). Susan Barber of AP Lit Help blogs about five ways she builds community in her classroom. These ideas would apply in any classroom (not just an AP one) and any grade level. My favorite idea is "Funny Fridays." I have always wanted to start "Wacky Wednesdays."

We all have that tough student. The one that causes us to breathe a secret sigh of relief when he/she is absent because we just know our day is going to be a little easier. Dr. Allen Mendler, a blogger on Edutopia, offers four fresh starts for hard-to-like students. All four are easy to implement. 

Angela Watson of The Cornerstone explains the 2 x 10 strategy, a research based classroom management strategy. A teacher spends two minutes for ten days in a row talking to a difficult student about whatever the student wants to talk about. After ten days, a relationship will be formed making the difficult student less difficult. The blog post and comments have some great testimonials to the strategy's success.

Brain Waves Instruction blogs about "What I Know for Sure about Learning" and shares 10 ways to show students you care. This infographic is a quick visual introduction to her ideas, but read the post for all the details. Again, if you build positive relationships with your students that will eliminate many of your classroom management problems. Be proactive!

Think you can't do a marble jar with your middle school or high school students? Think again. This post is a cheap and easy DYI for creating a way to reward students and build classroom community.

Also be sure to check out the posts linked up below and come back next week for some great posts about using games to promote learning.