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And we'll have FUN FUN FUN...

FUN in the classroom is ESSENTIAL. Especially in the Middle School. It keeps you stimulated as an educator and it keeps the students engaged. But there's more to it than that. There is BRAIN BASED RESEARCH to support that fun is MORE than just ok in the classroom, it stimulates learning!

The Neuroscience Behind FUN!

When students experience joy in the classroom, it is scientifically proven that their minds are MORE OPEN TO LEARNING! The endorphins that are produced as a result of positive experiences allow them to be more receptive to learning. In addition, those endorphins are addictive. The body remembers the positive and safe feelings that are associated with the environment and will produce those endorphins each time the student is in the environment. This means that you'll have created a situation where the student's physiology will be biochemically altered to perceive your classroom as a safe place for risk-taking that is necessary for learning.

Fun and engagement comes in many ways. There are tech integration strategies like: gamification augmented reality, virtual reality and scavenger hunts, and non-tech options like: Escape Rooms (Breakout EDU), costumes, skits, joke telling and more. There are so many other ways!! Even the little things can engage and ignite interest in your students. So here's ONE way you can incite a room full of giggles....FAKE student names.

Fake Names

When beginning a lesson that requires note taking, I often start that lesson by modeling the heading on a student paper:
Rather than dry, droll note taking, that ONE little element of levity can capture student interest and provide a small smattering of giggles. It seems simple, but it's fun, and as we now know, it helps set the stage for learning!

Here are some of my FAVORITES!!

Avery Goodyear
Rita Book
Moe Mentum
Neera Nuff
Dewey Hafta
Obie Quiet
Constance Ubervision
Igor Beaver
Les Ismore
Doris Shutt
Moe D'Lawn
Russell Papus
Laura Deboom
Amal Shookup
Linus Scrimmage
Isabelle Ringing
Paige Turner
Arty Ficial
Ed U. Cation

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Special thanks to Amy Hysick New York State's 2017 Teacher of the Year for sharing with me the science behind fun!  See her AWESOME Discovery Education article here!

and of course, thanks for

For more on the neuroscience of learning, try:

Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher


Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Revised 2nd Edition

Perfect Plicker Plans for Pleasant Patrons!

What Are Plickers?

In a nutshell, a Plicker is a bit like a QR Code; a scannable image that stores information.  On a Plicker, each side represents a letter...A, B, C or D.  

In the classroom, each student can hold a Plicker and use it to respond to a question indicating their selection by holding the corresponding letter UPRIGHT.  In the case below, this Plicker represents a student #1 responding with the letter B.

When students hold up their Plickers and you scan with a device running the Plicker app, (cellphone, tablet) the student response is recorded.  What's super cool about this is it is NOT necessary to get close to each Plicker, you can scan multiple Plickers in seconds from the front of the room!!!

A GREAT Assessment Tool

The Plicker website (and app) allows you to build folders of questions that can be added to the Plicker Queue.  Once a question resides in the Queue, it is visible by the app, can be projected via Liveview on a PC screen and can be scanned to collect student information.

The Plicker website also allows classes of students to be added by name (I assign student numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.) so you can use as an authentic assessment of individual student responses.

Plickers are FREE and printable from the Plicker website.  It is NOT recommended that you laminate them as non-matte finished laminate generates a glare that makes scanning difficult.  

Amazon offers pre-laminated Plickers with a Matte laminate finish for $20.00.  

Plicker Hacks

Plickers are great as a 'ticket out the door' or 'exit slip' and this is where I find them most useful.  Try these hacks for making it much easier to quickly integrate Plickers on a routine basis in your classroom.

#1.  Use student numbers instead of names...spend MUCH less time entering data into the Plicker website.

#2.  Provide each student with a paper Plicker.  TAPE IT TO THE BACK OF THEIR AGENDA OR NOTEBOOK.

#3.  Keep spare Plickers in the room on a Plicker Keeper for forgetful students (and for an attractive display!)

#4.  Don't create set after set of questions if you only need to use Plickers as a quick ticket out the door.  Create ONE set of generic questions (5 blank questions) and VERBALLY ask the students to respond.  Scan their responses and view the data for an instant look at how the class is doing on concepts.

5.  Worried about the VERBAL option only in number 4 above?  Create the questions (and choices) in an attractive Google Slide instead of on the app.  It's faster and MUCH easier than building them within the Plicker website.

Data driven instruction with positively pleasant Plicker performance,

Top Fears Fretting those Fresh Middle School Faces

Middle School.  A time in our lives that MOST adults would prefer to forget. Often, middle school years are filled with awkwardness, anxiety and insecurity.

As a sixth grade teacher in a middle school, back to school means a new crop of of 'wet behind the ears' middle schoolers arriving with their own set of fears.  Yet what IS it that they fear most?  If we could get inside the head of our incoming students, what DO they worry about and how can we allay those fears this fall?

Here are a few frets that fresh faced middle schoolers have and tips on how to assuage those fears:

#1.  The DREADED Locker Combination

For many middle schoolers, this is the first time they are using a locker that contains a combination lock.  Students worry about losing their combination, being able to complete the combination correctly (believe it or not, they all don't know left from right yet!), and they struggle with being able to lift the latch to open that locker.

To help students:

-provide the combination on a small colored sheet of paper, remind them NOT to put it in their pocket!
-place gentle left/right reminders on the walls above the lockers.
-show a combination lock video to students prior to attempting the actual locker combination. Have them mime their combination in the air along with the video.
-use this $.99 iOS app to help students practice their combination.  ❤️❤️❤️Upon discovering this app, I LOVED reading the testimonials.  They were written by actual middle students that used this app to help practice their locker skills.  ❤️❤️❤️

#2.  Getting Lost

While in elementary school, students remain in the same room for the majority of the day.  Middle school presents a whole new scenario where, for the most part, students travel from class to class.  This is incredibly nerve-wracking for incoming students as they fear not being able to find their way around and/or being late for class.  To calm students nerves, try providing a tour for students to get familiar with the building.  Here's a great one for you to customize to your school.

#3.  Making Friends/Fitting In

Entering a new school with many unfamiliar faces (students AND teachers) can cause some students to become nervous.  Needless to say, greeting students warmly and providing plenty of 'getting to know you'  or Ice Breaker activities helps pave the way towards a welcoming atmosphere and creating new and lasting friendships.  

Good luck to all my fellow teachers getting ready to start the school year and remember the importance of: