fbpx
Engage – How to Build Engaging Lessons for Middle School Students Using Kiddom

Engage – How to Build Engaging Lessons for Middle School Students Using Kiddom

Chelsea Asher

Chelsea Asher

Educator

Chelsea Asher is an educator and teaching artist, living in Queens, NY. She has worked as an educator for over five years, where she has cultivated and facilitated original creative writing and visual arts curriculum for students aged three to sixty-three.

This article is part of the third unit of our "Get Set, Connect, Engage!" Back to School Series for Teachers. Today we're focusing on how teachers can Engage middle school students by building fun, interactive lessons with Kiddom.

You can access the other blogs in this series here:

    When checking your student's understanding, it can be challenging to come up with new and engaging ways to ask the same, tired questions. Any educator who has worked with middle school students knows that this age group will let you know when they have checked out – and it can happen more quickly than you might expect.

    Last year, when I was teaching groups of sixth and seventh graders in ELA, I noticed half my classes were losing focus completely during our quizzes and I wasn’t getting a clear picture of their understanding. Instead, I began using “story-telling quizzes.” I asked students to write timed short stories using our learned vocabulary. Not only was I able to get a clearer picture of my students' writing skills, but students were actually able to use language they learned beyond the classroom. This type of testing process better engaged my students’ critical thinking skills and helped to solidify their understanding. I couldn’t believe what a huge difference such a small change could make.

    As this school year is now in full swing and classroom cultures and routines have been set, it might be a good time to pause and consider how you can differentiate your own approach to quizzes and assignments using Kiddom’s tools and resources.

    Make it Social

    Group discussions aren’t just for in the classroom; quizzes and other checks for understanding can be done through graded group discussions, both synchronously or asynchronously. Group discussions are an excellent tool for this age group because middle schoolers are particularly chatty and even more enthusiastic to learn from their peers.

    Students can be separated into groups based on their current level of understanding and needs. This way you can differentiate questions and material based on the particular areas for growth and your students can learn at the right pace for them. Differentiating based on level of understanding is an underrated tool for improving student engagement, but it’s challenging to do because of the extra prep-work that’s often required. Using Kiddom, it’s easy to streamline the process of creating different questions and group discussions for separate groups of students.

    Drawing Assignment

    By making some of your quizzes social through group discussions, interpersonal learners are able to absorb concepts more efficiently because they’re actively discussing them with others. Graded live group discussions, both in chat rooms and over mic, can create opportunities for students to practice their public speaking skills and solidify information they’re learning through the peer-to-peer social aspect of it.

    Kiddom Live Student view

    Make It Accessible

    Some students, depending on their unique needs and learning abilities, may struggle with answering questions solely through writing. Having a variety of ways for students to answer different questions can create more opportunities for students who need support in this area to stay engaged. An ELL student, for example, may understand the lesson content, but also may be struggling to put their answers into writing and can become disengaged as a result.

    Utilizing Kiddom’s audio and video recording tools can create opportunities for students with different learning styles and abilities to better show their understanding.

    Kiddom also features drawing tools, such as in the Math Applet (pictured below), where students can draw their answers to questions using graphs. Tools that allow students to draw their answers can be particularly helpful in keeping students engaged as it brings a tactile, game-like aspect to their assignments. Drawing also creates an access point for more visual and hands-on learners to engage with the classroom content.

    Make It Interactive

    Multiple-choice questions are great because they’re a tried-and-true method of testing understanding, quick to complete, and easy to make. However, they’re also a pretty passive way of putting your class’s knowledge to the test. Students will typically be more engaged when they have to do a little more work to find the correct answer to problems they’re presented with. Kiddom has a variety of question templates to choose from, so you can streamline how you differentiate your questions with ease.

    Something as simple as a variation on the multiple-choice format, such as a fill-in-the-blank word problem with a vocabulary bank to pull from, can allow your students to engage their critical thinking skills and push their understanding.

    Kiddom also has ordering and classifying question templates, which can be tailored to your particular grade and subject area. For example, you can use ordering questions to test your students’ understanding of math sequencing concepts or even how to structure an argumentative essay. Classifying questions often pair visuals with written or auditory concepts. This makes them engaging because of the variation of material and gamelike aspect to matching up concepts correctly.

    Make It Simple!

    Kiddom allows educators to reclaim their peace (and not to mention your free afternoons and evenings) by streamlining not only the available resources for students, but also your own administrative and planning tasks. Kiddom allows you to set up autograde functions for your quizzes and assignments where applicable, so that once a student completes an assignment you can see the results in real-time, instead of spending hours grading them. This helps not just to free up your schedule, but also benefits your teaching practice as you’ll know sooner when students may need more support in certain modules.

    Teachers can also upload class presentations and previous lessons onto Kiddom. If students have questions about the current material, they can access class materials to help them study, aid them in their homework assignments, or simply just catch up on missed days of school. Since all materials and tools are in one place in Kiddom, this also makes classroom experiences completely transferable from in-person to remote as needed under current health and safety guidelines with the Covid-19 pandemic.

    In Conclusion

    Middle school students are a notoriously tough crowd, but the rewards of seeing them engaged far outweigh any of the pointed sighs and eye-rolls. With a little extra prep-work and some variations on your activities and assignments, you might be surprised how much more engaged your students can become!

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

     

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    You might also be interested in these articles:

    Engage – How to Build Engaging Lessons for Elementary Students Using Kiddom

    Engage – How to Build Engaging Lessons for Elementary Students Using Kiddom

    Chelsea Asher

    Chelsea Asher

    Educator

    Chelsea Asher is an educator and teaching artist, living in Queens, NY. She has worked as an educator for over five years, where she has cultivated and facilitated original creative writing and visual arts curriculum for students aged three to sixty-three.

    This article is part of the third unit of our "Get Set, Connect, Engage!" Back to School Series for Teachers. Today we're focusing on how teachers can Engage elementary students.

    You can access the other blogs in this series here:

    Most teachers will know how to plan and organize their curriculum effectively, but how do you know when your students are truly engaged?

    Student engagement is a complex topic, particularly as children grow up in a digital age notably different from that of their teachers. This was a notion I was confronted with often as I taught reading and writing skills to K-5 children remotely this past year. The biggest challenge in creating educational materials in the remote space was learning how I could utilize technology to create lessons that kept my students focussed and learning, rather than over-complicating my material and allowing students to deviate from the class.

    The lessons I learned were hard won – particularly as I had to organize my curriculum across multiple platforms. Even something as simple as this can result in students disengaging from the lesson, particularly in the remote space. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the tactics I use to keep my elementary kids engaged and how you can use Kiddom to do it, too!

    Awesome Audiovisuals

    Many young learners are particularly visual when it comes to how they process information. Visual literacy is an extremely important skill and can set a great foundation for higher-functioning literacy and critical thinking. Adding visuals to your activities and lessons can also create opportunities for deeper engagement as it opens up learning access points for visual learners.

    In Kiddom, you can see how multiple learning access points can be created in even a simple multiple choice quiz. Students can clearly understand by watching the video, looking through the images, and listening to the audio content what is expected of them in this activity, while it also enriches their critical thinking skills to seek out the correct answers based on the information they’re given.

    Visuals are important not just for students to receive information, but also for how they can express what they understand. When completing assignments, students can draw their answers to questions in live time, or take a photo of their drawings in their workbooks and upload them. Incorporating space for student-created drawings and visuals into our lessons and activities is not only important for younger learners, it can also be incredibly beneficial for our ELL students. Utilizing videos and pictures, alongside auditory and written prompts, can help support ELL students in understanding activities and completing their work independently.

    Drawing Assignment

    Reduce the Cognitive Load

    Students will feel most confident in engaging with something new when they already understand how they are expected to complete their tasks and have consistent materials to interact with. Something as simple as being able to permanently embed the necessary tools into a program can make the difference between a student successfully and independently completing an assignment, and a class full of frustrated first-graders raising their hand because they can’t make the pencil icon appear.

    A lot of technology used in schools is not created with an early childhood-friendly interface in mind, meaning the learning curve of some softwares can alienate younger students before they even attempt to engage with that day’s class. In Kiddom, you can streamline tabs for younger students by embedding external tools, as shown in the picture above.

    Differentiate Your Questions

    When checking for understanding, it can be tempting to go with standard multiple choice quizzes. However, monotonous question types and activities can cause some students to disengage and do the bare minimum to complete assignments. Simply differentiating question types can create opportunities for students to remain engaged as they work different parts of their brain and elements of understanding to complete them.

    Kiddom allows educators to differentiate their question types within assignments easily with suggested templates such as Fill-in-the-Blank questions.

    Different question types can be adjusted based on age, subject area, and even individual student needs. For example, Ordering Questions, like the one pictured below, can be used not only for younger students learning size sequence, but also for older students learning about more challenging concepts, such as paragraph structure.

    The Right Resources

    Engaging your students in your curriculum can come down to simply having the right resources and materials on hand. Particularly under current pandemic protocols, it’s more important than ever to have lessons that are easily translatable from in-person to remote instruction.

    With Kiddom, all of your class materials, such as presentations, assignments, and more, can exist in one place and be easily accessed by you and your students.

    Read-aloud videos, such as with Kiddom’s Open Up Resources, that incorporate a combination of auditory and visual prompts for students to practice their reading skills are an excellent tool for not just your younger students, but also for children with different accessibility needs and ELL students.

    Sometimes finding new and refreshing resources can be the most challenging part of creating engaging classes. If you are bored of teaching your concepts the same, tired way, then how are your students going to get excited to learn them? Kiddom can help you streamline how you select content with your students’ classwide and individual abilities in mind with the Kiddom Content Library. Kiddom also allows you to track student progress and understanding in different subject areas, meaning you will have a more immediate picture of what students may currently need more support with.

    In Conclusion

    Creating engaging lessons for your students is not just about the tools and resources you bring into the classroom. It’s about building strong connections with your students, honoring their unique needs to grow and succeed, and allowing everyone (teachers included) to try new things and make mistakes. Even if you’re not as technologically savvy as your students, with a little legwork, you can still prepare engaging lessons that are transferable between remote and in-person classrooms and that your kids will love, too!

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

     

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    You might also be interested in these articles:

    Fun End-of-Year Projects & Activities for Students

    Fun End-of-Year Projects & Activities for Students

    Chelsea Asher

    Chelsea Asher

    Educator

    Chelsea Asher is an educator and teaching artist, living in Queens, NY. She has worked as an educator for over five years, where she has cultivated and facilitated original creative writing and visual arts curriculum for students aged three to sixty-three.

    Chelsea shares some fun end of year ideas that are sure to helps us all make the best out of the last few days of this school year.

    It’s almost the end of an exhausting, sometimes wonderful, totally unexpected, and crazy school year. It’s tempting to shove Monster’s Inc on the smartboard every day and just be done with it, but the end of the year can actually be a powerful time for deeper reflections and cultivation of community through independent and group projects. Whether you’re teaching in-person or remote, here are some ideas to share with your group...

    Time Capsules

    Have students make individual time capsules themed around what this school year meant to them, what they hope to carry forward, and what they hope to leave behind. This project is truly versatile and can be adjusted for different age groups and class needs. The time capsule can be an empty Pringles can, a tupperware, a jar, a taped up paper towel roll, a large envelope, or anything else you can think of, as long as students have a place to put their chosen items. If working remotely, students can create these physically at home using found objects, or they can create a digital time capsule using documents, slideshows, or other software services.

    The possibilities for what you can place in the time capsule are equally varied. For younger students, you could have students trace their hands and create artwork from it, so that when they open the time capsules on the decided future date, they can compare their hand size and growth. You can have students place a photograph that they feel represents an important moment in their year, or simply a photograph of themselves from this moment in time. Students can include news clippings, pieces of fabric, or small objects that represent milestone moments throughout the year for them. Older students can write letters to their future selves, or lists of their goals and dreams for the year ahead.

    When students have completed their time capsules, you can set a date for everyone to open them and designate a spot to place them, in school or at home.

    Teacher for a Day

    Have students become teachers! Not only does this activity allow you to take a breather, but it’s fun for students to take on leadership roles and share a bit about themselves with the group. Students can brainstorm activities or subjects they’re passionate about, from video games to recipes to art and beyond, and create short presentations or activities to share with the group.

    Balloon Countdown

    Put secret fun daily activities, rewards, and riddles inside balloons for students to enjoy as a countdown to the end of the school year. This is a great activity for the last couple of weeks of school. You can either think of your own rewards, like movie and popcorn day, choose your own seat, outside reading time, or have students submit their ideas ahead of the activity and pick the best (and most reasonable, let’s be honest) ones.

    Once you have your ideas, write the activities and rewards on small slips of paper and place one inside each balloon. You can also place confetti or small colorful pieces of paper for added fun (if you can stomach the clean-up after). Blow up the balloons and number them, then hang them up somewhere high in the classroom. This activity can also be a useful tool for encouraging positive classroom cultures even as students get restless toward the end of the year. If students complete their daily class goals and follow community agreements, pop a balloon so that they can enjoy their countdown to summer reward!

    End-of-Year Newspaper

    Create a basic newspaper template and have students collaborate on a publication for younger students coming into their grade the following year. Students can include pieces of artwork and photographs, they can write stories about their favorite memories of the school year, information on their favorite subjects, or give advice that they would have wanted to know. Once completed, make copies and staple them into newspapers or zines to share with the grade below!

    Thank You Notes

    Students can practice the social-emotional skill of showing gratitude, while also brushing up on their letter-writing chops. As a group, have students discuss moments when someone in their life made this school year special for them. Maybe it was a friend who listened to them when they needed it, or a teacher who really brought a subject to life for them. Students can then write one (or more) letters to that person or people, detailing the moment and what it meant to them. After, students can seal and mail the letters, or hand-deliver them.

    Memory Wheels

    Students can create beautiful, colorful pieces of art from their favorite memories of the past school year. To start the project, brainstorm as a group to generate a list of what activities and events occurred throughout the school year. Maybe students had a favorite daily ritual or routine, maybe there was a fun art activity they explored, or a subject they particularly enjoyed.

    Once you have created the list, have students create their memory wheels by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper. Using a ruler, have students divide the circles into equal parts of six to eight. Then, have students designate different memories of their choice to each segment of the wheel and write the title on the outer edge, then create an artistic design unique to the topic.

    Once completed, have students cut out the wheels and laminate them. Teachers can keep and display the memory wheels for next year’s class to see what awesome events they have ahead of them, or students can take them home as a keepsake from their personal journey through the school year.

    School- or Grade-wide Graffiti Wall

    Designate a bulletin board, length of hallway in the school, or a wall outside with a large piece of bulletin paper or cloth, and schedule a time for each class to come and sign their names and write a message that represents this school year to them. Students can write poems, quotes, trace their hands, create original artwork, or simply sign their names. This year, it has been challenging for schools to come together in meaningful ways as a community, and collaborating on a piece of artwork like a graffiti wall can be an awesome way for kids to express themselves, and see their similarities and differences in visual format.

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

     

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    Feeling the Burn-Out? Setting Boundaries as a Form of Teacher Self-Care

    Feeling the Burn-Out? Setting Boundaries as a Form of Teacher Self-Care

    Chelsea Asher

    Chelsea Asher

    Educator

    Chelsea Asher is an educator and teaching artist, living in Queens, NY. She has worked as an educator for over five years, where she has cultivated and facilitated original creative writing and visual arts curriculum for students aged three to sixty-three.

    There's never a bad time to start prioritizing your self-care as a teacher and asking for what you need from others. This #TeacherAppreciationMonth, follow these tips to reclaim your peace. 

     

    Let’s talk about the B word.

    No, not that one.

    I’m talking about boundaries. A word that conveys clear and concise meaning in a professional field that can be anything but. Teachers struggle with boundaries for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the viral Instagram Martyrs on their feeds who, “Do it for the kids,” even pushing so far as holding remote circle time from a hospital bed. 

    Maybe it’s the eight million emails from parents in their inboxes. Maybe it’s the insecurity you feel as a teacher that you’re always falling short of what’s needed from you. The key factor in how much these variables impact educators is often juxtaposed to the health of their relationship with their administration.

    Administrators are in a unique position of being ultimately disconnected from the lived teaching experience while also being somewhat responsible for it. Sometimes, you’ll get really lucky and find yourself with an administration that supports you, respects your time, and effortlessly creates an environment where you are set up for success. 

    However, if this sounds like complete fiction to you, particularly in the year of a pandemic, you’re not alone. Since administration loves to tell teachers to practice self-care so much, why don’t we practice the biggest one of all? Setting some B-words: beautiful boundaries!

    Much like attempting new classroom management techniques too late in the year, it’s challenging to set boundaries with an administration that is accustomed to hearing a big, fat yes every time they come running. However, challenging doesn’t mean impossible. Here are some actionable boundaries you can begin practicing right now.

    1) Set the standard for how feedback is communicated to you.

    Feedback is important in the teaching profession. We can all use different perspectives on our work from time to time. However, it’s more than okay to set boundaries on how this occurs!

    I remember I once had an administrator who liked to wander over and talk to me about my teaching performance whenever I was on lunch duty. This made me anxious, as I was not prepared to hear out their perspective while I was overseeing a cafeteria full of kids, in front of other teachers and colleagues.

    If your boss or another admin often gives feedback to you in circumstances that throw you off your teaching game, you are allowed to express this. Have a direct conversation where you highlight what makes you uncomfortable (I’m not comfortable with being pulled from my teaching to have a conversation about my performance during class time) and a clear way for how you would like to move forward (Moving forward, I would like to propose scheduling a meeting outside of class time so that I can be prepared to fully address and understand any of your concerns.

    Ensure you follow up this conversation with an email documenting your agreement on how feedback will now be given to you, and politely remind them of this agreement when similar circumstances arise.

    2) Ask for actionable items when feedback is given.

    Administrators often have big-picture ideas and sweeping statements about how teaching should look, but expect you to bring their vision to life without a lot of specific guidance. If an administrator is giving you innocuous feedback like, “Make it more fun!” or “Be more innovative!”, you need to push for clarity, without outright disregarding their feedback. But how?

    First, explain what you are understanding from their feedback and ask for confirmation (You’re saying you want my lessons to be more fun, does that mean you’re concerned about student engagement?).

    Next, list the steps you already feel you specifically take to address this in your classroom (To keep students engaged, I already incorporate a variety of games that complement the curriculum).

    Third, ask them to help you lay out tangible, actionable steps that you can take to improve, and document them (Now that you know what I’m already doing, what are some other steps you feel I could take to achieve higher student engagement?).

    Finally, make sure you set a date for when you will discuss the results of these action items (Thank you for your feedback and working with me to understand how I can implement it in my classroom. I would like to schedule a meeting in two weeks to discuss my progress on this issue.)

    3) Listen to your gut feeling and honor it. No means no.

    Every teacher has a gut that they know to listen to when it comes to the well-being and growth of their students. You know, the feeling that tells us when we’re pushing too hard, when we need to push more, when we know we’re heading into a topic or lesson that will truly excite them. Think of yourself with the same mindset.

    If administration approaches you with an opportunity that excites you and gets your teacher heart going, follow that feeling! If an administrator approaches you with a task outside of your job description and current capacity, check in with yourself. If the request is bringing up anger, fatigue, or resentment, say a polite and firm no thank you.

    For example, Thank you so much for thinking of me for this opportunity, but I do not currently have time for this within my workload and will have to decline. This tactic equally works for the dreaded being “volun-told” to do something. Just because they are volunteering you, doesn’t mean you have to comply if it isn’t within your capacity. Keep your response short and sweet, and honor your emotions.

    4) Your time is valuable, and only you know how to protect it.

    In a perfect world, administration would norm how teachers spend their time. If teachers were compensated for their overtime, only then would administrators truly stand up and take notice of this issue.

    Realistically, this looks different for every teacher, but the sentiment remains the same: you’re allowed to value your time outside of contracted hours without judgement. You don’t need to have a reason to be at home and enjoy your life outside of work. If you want to get home to spend time with your family, amazing! If you want to get home to scroll through TikTok with a glass or two of wine, great!

    If you try to live up to the world’s expectations, you will always fall short. If this is a boundary you struggle with (and I know we all do), you need to ask yourself if you have over-committed yourself (see above), if you're struggling with time management, or if you're struggling with your teacher-ego.

    If it’s a time management issue, take a look at your daily schedule. What is feasible for you? What can you get done if you structure your teaching day differently? What is necessary and what is not? What support can administration offer? Set a routine and stick to it.

    If it’s an issue with ego and feeling the need to go above and beyond, even when you’re burning out, set firm boundaries with yourself. Most computers have the ability to set a daily time they shut down. Use it. Write a to-do list on Friday in your notebook and close it for the weekend. Do not answer emails that don’t require an urgent response. Make that the last thing you do and forget about work until you step back into your classroom the next morning.

    You cannot be your best teacher self when you don’t give time back to YOU. Your students will thank you for it, but most importantly you will thank yourself for it.

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

     

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.