Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An alternative to a linear powerpoint presentation

I have just a few moments to blog, but I did something today that I think has some potential to encourage some of the behaviors we are looking for in our classrooms, especially active listening and making connections. As anyone who reads my posts knows, my students are responsible for knowing a lot of content. In my department, we work with each other creating common tests.  

In an attempt to avoid delivering content to students via powerpoint, which is so linear and, often, boring. I made a list of some topics that students will see on an upcoming assessment. 

As I discussed in yesterday's post, when teaching about the Russian Revolution, I try to activate students' prior knowledge about the French Revolution, to help them consider how that knowledge might help us, or in some cases hinder us, in our attempts to make sense of the Russian Revolution.

After giving students a brief overview of our next topic and making some references and connections to the French Revolution, I had them read the textbook intro of the Russian Rev for about 10 mins (This might  have been an ideal HW assignment, but assigning HW like this has certain issues as well). 

Some students struggled to complete even a few paragraphs in the assigned time. Most, however, managed to read enough to ask a few questions and to repeat some statements about what the text had to say about Russia before World War I. This was all we needed to get going.


As a group, we looked at the list of the terms that I had typed. I still had to direct students and discuss with them how different concepts were connected. We were all much more active and engaged! 

And, and this is what I was hoping for, many students knew enough or could use context clues to make connections. For example, spotting Nicholas' wife was easy (only female on the list!), but students could also tell me why she was likely from Germany, connecting to what they had previously learned about political marriages.

While working our way through the list (not in a linear way!), most students were engaged, recording brief notes on their list of terms and paying particular attention to how various items were linked. 

When finished, they had learned enough and had some notes, where they could quickly partner up and work on their graphic organizers.

It's important to emphasize that students made their graphic organizers AFTER we had a chance to talk about all of the items on the list. This, I think, forced them to step back and check how much they had learned. Though just a first step, they were beginning to process the content on a more meaningful level.  

There is a part II to this assignment that I will discuss tomorrow.

Note: It would have been nice if I had some images to pull up as we discussed some of the people and topics. I will do that next time. The pace was fairly fast and active: two features which are often missing from powerpoint slideshows.

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