The time has come that all of us have waited for, both student and teacher alike: the “ insert name of break here" break. It doesn’t matter what break it is, be it Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring, State Championship Football, etc., students will gladly accept the time away from school. During this time I begin wondering how much of the material, excitement and learning is melting out of their brains. A past article in Time magazine reported on a study that students may lose up to a “month of progress in math skills each summer, while low-income students slip as many as three months in reading comprehension”. This trend does not have to continue, as teachers now have the ability to allow the learning to continue beyond the classroom walls. With tools like Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Remind a quick message or image can give your student’s brain enough of a jolt to keep the material active and stable.
Treat YouTube like the unexpected White-Elephant Gift, that it is. Find a new, interesting, unique, or thought-provoking video and send it to your students. If it relates to the content that you are teaching or have previously taught even better. It may relate to the current holiday, or to a current event that you would like to bring to your student’s attention. Text out the link to your students and include an open ended question. Get the kid’s thinking about how it relates to the current topic, use it as a preview to a future topic, or just something that you find interesting in your subject matter. I previously send my students a video on the difference between white and dark turkey meat, and then asked which they prefer and is there a difference. When we got back from Thanksgiving break many students were eager to tell me what they preferred, what the difference was in meat, and that they never knew there was a difference. Some of my favorite channels to thought provoking videos include: Discovery News, PBS Idea Channel, Vsauce, and Veritasium.
Send your students an exciting preview of what is to come. Take the highlights of a unit that will be covered when they return from break, and make a movie trailer. I have seen this done with books, or as an engagement piece within the classroom walls, but what if you could start your lesson before your students even got to school? Think bombs exploding, clocks ticking, dramatic music all in the context of cell growth. Make it where the students either think you are crazy for getting this excited, or they are bombarding you with emails to tell them more. I made this video for an upcoming unit using WeVideo. WeVideo is a great site to built projects like this. Drag and drop videos, images, music, and texts easily in a free web-based video creation site. Build the anticipation and they will be come ready to learn.
Games and Review
Many of the sites that I use in class have built in games that encourage learning in a fun manner. Vocabulary can be reviewed using Quizlet and students can play the scatter game on sets that you have built for your class. Create a set, grab the share link, and send to your students. Encourage them to post their scatter scores on twitter using a class hashtag, with promise of prizes when they return from break. Use Memrise to vocabulary development in a mobile-friendly and brain-compatible learning. Memrise has hundreds of sets built originally for language development, but may be used to learn any kind of material. With a simple setup of small bits of learning, picture representation of the term, and spiral review of learned terms, I found that using the Memrise app was self-motivating, making me want to get the best score possible and just do one more set for the fifteenth time.
A break does have to mean that students must stop learning. A small bit of information, or something novel might be just the stimulate that a student needs to continue the learning at home. Don’t forget though, that these contacts you have with your students during the break can also be words of encouragement or warm wishes. Many times I find that the best way for you get to your student to retain the information you teach them, is to show them that you care. A “Merry Christmas” or a “Have a wonderful day, I care for each of you.” may just be the only kind thing they hear that day. These are just some of the ways I encourage continuous learning with my students, are there other ways that you find effective? If so, leave them in the comments below, I would love to learn some new ways.