We live in a society that idolizes super heroes. Everyone wants to be super, and teachers are no different: They can teach super. An elementary school teacher’s impact on a child surpasses almost anyone else in their life, other than parents and close relatives.
Do you know how important you are to your students?
By sparking curiosity and interest in a subject like science, you can build the foundation for a future career and lifelong passion. But it takes more than just an attentive teacher; it requires making STEM fun and playful.
Just last December, Getting Smart magazine noted how important it is to make science a fun activity. “Implementing a STEM curriculum during the early elementary grades which combines play with direct instruction can lead to long-term interest in these subjects,” writes Tracy Derrell. Maintaining interest from elementary and through middle school requires engagement.
That’s where teaching super comes into play.
The Need for Super Teachers
The need for super teachers is real. Only 34% of 4th grade students achieved a score of “At or Above Proficient” on the science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The United States needs its youth to take on STEM careers. The country is currently reliant on foreign workers to fulfill its STEM workforce.
So how does an educator make science fun and playful?
For starters, you can make a game of it. That goes well beyond Legends of Learning’s elementary suite of games. There are many ways to make content accessible to students.
Experienced teachers know success often bubbles up as singular breakthrough events that occur during the long march of a school year. Teaching can become a slog, particularly in the winter months when the days are short and the work is long.
But then there’s that student who suddenly comes alive. Or that class that really gets into a lesson. Maybe a former student comes back to visit or reaches out and thanks you for providing that spark.
So, Legend, every day is a great day to teach super.
Let us know how we can support you.
Creating a Blended Learning Culture in Your School
Excerpted from Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom. Download it today.
Having technology in your classroom can be a fantastic thing. It has the potential to expose your students to a world of information, hand’s on projects and game based learning, like our middle school science games. In order to maximize your classroom experience with blended learning it is critical to have a school culture that supports technology integration.
Making the shift from traditional learning to blended learning is daunting and impacts every stakeholder in a school community, including leaders, teachers, IT staff, students, and parents. As a result, the journey from old to new, from traditional to blended, must be a shared journey—one in which all stakeholders are engaged and all voices are heard.
For a blended learning initiative to be successful long-term, decisions cannot be top down or device driven. Instead leaders must carefully consider why they want to make a shift to blended learning and how that shift will benefit members of the school community.
To get administrators and parents on board, use these two approaches.
Administrators may hesitate to invest in blended learning because of cost or lackluster results. Overcome their concerns with detailed research and data that show blended learning’s past successes and your plans to implement the teaching model in the classroom.
Administrators also want hard numbers about projected academic performance. They prefer financial documents, implementation plans, and blended learning examples. The more data and documentation you can provide, the more likely your blended learning proposal will receive approval.
Parents care about academic performance on a more personal level—everyone wants their child to succeed. They want to know how their child is performing academically, and what you’re teaching in the classroom. They also desire to learn how to help their child improve test scores and study habits.
To reach parents, talk through how blended learning will motivate their student to learn and excel, they will back the initiative. Your conversation could prompt them to become advocates on your behalf and secure support from administrators, other teachers, and peer parents.
Establishing a Blended Learning Culture in the Classroom
Blended learning can sustain a bad culture or help create a new one. Culture is especially useful — or toxic — in blended programs because blended learning goes hand in hand with giving students more control and flexibility. If students lack the processes and cultural norms to handle that agency, the shift toward a personalized environment can backfire.
As such, your blended learning culture sets the tone for classroom instruction and assignments. It fosters the right attitudes in students, inside and outside the classroom. Culture can affect parents, too, causing them to encourage, rather than frustrate, their students’ blended learning activities.
To establish culture inside the classroom, begin with clear and honest communication with your students. Set expectations for your blended learning program, whatever it encompasses—classroom projects, edgames, student teams, at-home assignments, et cetera.
Also employ “TRICK,” an acronym suggested by Esther Wojcicki and Lance Izumi, authors of “Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom.” The acronym stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. When your classroom embodies those five traits, students learn, grow scholastically and personally, and desire to help their fellow students.
Outside the classroom, you should also focus on communication, this time with parents. Just because you got their initial buy-in doesn’t mean your work is done. Let parents know how their kids are enjoying and improving thanks to your new blended learning environment.
Remember that some parents may not be familiar with digital technologies and tools, especially if you teach in a rural or underserved area. Share basic information about blended learning with these parents, and offer opportunities for them to experience it in the classroom. Showing parents how blended learning works can better convince them than a letter sent home.
Finally, aim to spread your blended learning culture across the school campus. Your own success with the initiative often sells itself, but you should talk about it, too. Sharing results and personal testimony invites other teachers to participate in blended learning and make a difference in their classrooms.
You can download the whole white paper Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom here on the Legends of Learning site.
Get Your Classroom Ready for Blended Learning
The following is an excerpt from our new white paper, “Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom.” Download it today!
Do you ever find yourself leaving school at the end of the day thinking you could have taught your lesson just a little bit better? It is very natural as a teacher to take stock of your day and think about adjustments you can make for tomorrow. What if you could use tools like games to make a large scale change to your classroom that would lead to much higher levels of engagement and achievement? You can, and blended learning is the 21st century key to this kind of change.
You might be wondering how can you transform your classroom with a blended learning model? After all, the possibilities with tech based learning — middle school science games (hint, hint) — can be truly infinite given the right strategies.
Time to Rearrange the Desks
Whether you have a cart of iPads or a room full of Chromebooks, integrating technology into your classroom is a great way to engage students in learning. One facet, the classroom setup, is often overlooked. It might seem that just putting technology on the desk in place of a textbook will improve a student’s experience and engagement, but research has found otherwise.
Says Ramona Persaud, Edutopia contributor, “From the front door and school grounds to the classroom, the aesthetics of learning spaces impact brain function and influence how students feel when they’re in school—as well as how they feel about their school.”
You likely understand Persaud’s point intuitively. Students perform better when they feel comfortable, safe, and feel as though they belong. You might even have anecdotal evidence demonstrating the impact of something as simple as a desk arrangement.
If classroom setup is instrumental in determining the success of your blended learning model, try something a little out of the box next year. Get a bunch of chairs and a couch and have your students use them during blended learning time. No room in the budget for furniture? No problem! Let students sit on the floor. Students simply do not have to be sitting at a desk in order to be engaged in learning.
Seven Ways to Set Up Your Class For Success
Check out this great list of recommendations from Blended Learning Universe on how to arrange your classroom for Blended Learning.
Station Rotation – moves students from station to station on a fixed schedule, with at least one (if not all) of the stations featuring digital learning activities such as games, puzzles, or videos. The rotation can free up teaching time, allowing you to work one-on-one with students needing extra attention.
Lab Rotation – looks similar to Station Rotation except that students go to a dedicated computer lab rather than an in-classroom station. Many teachers enjoy the flexibility of using an outside lab in terms of both scheduling and classroom layouts.
Individual Rotation – provides students with personalized schedules and assignments. The students may or may not visit every work station in a single day, instead focusing their attention on completing assigned activities.
Flipped Classroom – changes the classroom dynamic. Students learn at home via a digital curriculum and online lectures. They then complete teacher-guided projects and other activities in the classroom.
Flex – gives the most control to students. It allows them to move through classroom curriculum and activities — both digital and traditional — on a fluid schedule. Teachers, in turn, offer support and instruction as needed. This model tends to use online learning to a greater degree than the previous four.
A La Carte – allows schools to offer electives they can’t provide due to a lack of on-site resources. The model often supplements high school classes.
Enriched Virtual – requires students to learn at home via online instructional materials and meet with a teacher face-to-face two to three times a week. This model tends to be less common than the other six.
No matter which approach you choose, remember that bringing blended learning into the classroom is a chance to approach student learning in a new way. Do something new this year with your class and get excited for a transformational 2017-2018 school year!!!
We’re Looking for Legendary Teachers Who Like Games
Considering joining the Legends of Learning community of teachers and developers? We need help from middle school science teachers who are willing to comment on our games. Ambassadors who sign up by March 1, and provide feedback to our developers get free access to games. The most qualified Ambassadors earn an opportunity to attend ISTE this June 26-29 in San Antonio.
This is your opportunity to shape the Legends of Learning platform and games from the ground floor. When you sign up for our community, you let your voice be heard and make a difference not only in your classroom, but for educators across America!
Your input on individual learning objectives is used by the Legends of Learning team and our game developers to improve our collective offering. You can directly impact how kids learn thru games, join forces with like-minded heroes to review and strengthen the Legends of Learning platform and the individual games.
We want to reward teachers who are active in our network, and provide you free games for your classroom. Just for signing up for a community you get 3000 credits to use the games in your classroom!
Further participation in our community garners you more credits to continue playing and some crazy rewards, too. The 50-100 teachers who are most active in the community and agree to participate in our next major research study will attend ISTE — the premier education professional development conference — on our dollar (an up to $2,000 value that includes registration, travel, and lodging)!
Here’s how it works:
1) Adopt a Learning Objective as your very own: 100 credits
2) Adopt a second (third, fourth…?) Learning Objective as your very own: 200 credits
3) Answer questions in the community: 20 points for answers, badges given at 1, 5, 25, and 50 answers for 10, 100, 500, 1000 credits respectively.
4) Provide feedback and comment: 10 points for commenting, badges given at 1, 10, 50, and 100 comments for 10, 100, 500, 1000 credits respectively.
You can also receive points for adding an avatar, connecting and sharing on Twitter and Facebook, referencing others in conversations, and receiving positive feedback from your peers. Finally, agreeing to participate in research and attend ISTE will both garner you an additional 1000 points.
The fastest way to get ahead in the community is to adopt a Learning Objective (part of our community application), and work with our developers to improve games within that series of lessons. By taking ownership of specific lessons taught in classes, you will answer questions, comment and interact by default. You will also help make Legends of Learning a better platform for all educators. Now that is truly heroic.
Not that a hero needs more motivation, but those whose exploits are truly legendary will receive t-shirts, Pez heads, or other Legends of Learning swag. We might even write your avatar into a game as your very own super hero character!
So what are you waiting for, Legend? Sign up today, and help make game based learning even better in our community today!
Legendary Keynotes at AMLE
After making more than 1000 teachers sing If You’re Happy and You Know It (we kid you not, Legends, see the below picture), the American Mid-Level Educators 2016 Conference (AMLE) kicked off with a general session featuring Derek McCoy, Debbie Silver, John Bernia, and Marlena Gross-Taylor, all educators and administrators working in Middle Schools. Each had a mini keynote, and here are some of their legendary comments.