Building in Some Fun during Testing Season

Building in Some Fun during Testing Season

Written by: tarnold

March 10, 2023

This blogpost is a companion piece to a Keep Indiana Learning Livestream, entitled, “Blowing Through the Blahs,” by Digital Learning Coaches Dianna Knox, Bo Gibson, Jonathan Winslow, and Tim Arnold. Find this livestream and many others in the Keep Indiana Learning Youtube Channel.

Here are some “Blowing Through the Blahs” ideas offered by Digital Learning Coaches at Keep Indiana Learning. Who doesn’t like some free professional development in less than 20 minutes?  Hit the link above to check them out:

Review of Blowing through the Blahs!

Dianna: Try something new! – Spice it up with a die, get them moving, try a new tool.
Bo: Build something! – Incorporate movement, projects, hands-on activities.
Jonathan: Marzano magic! – Model making, thinking through and correcting a mathematical error as a teacher, Try a Speed-dating discussion model.
Tim: Flip it on its head! – Go Vegas style (poker chips/playing cards), Moo for me, Students learning with movement (Human Tic Tac Toe, 4 Corners, Human Bar Graph).

Yes, your content is important. Yes, providing opportunities for academic rigor is a must. But…school can be (you can be) a little bit fun, a little bit engaging, and a little bit in the direction of what is intrinsically motivating for your students.”

We Survived the Days of Gray…Now What?

Technological Easter Eggs: Grab a little bit of accountability or build a little bit of tension with your students by placing some hidden goodies in your videos or documents. As you record your instructions for a lesson, project, or activity, include a secret word, your pet, a stuffed animal (like a panda-see picture to the right), a special phrase or a sign at the end of the video as a secret code to a reward for watching the whole video. How about including that word or phrase at the end of a document you are asking them to read? Feeling high tech? How about a word on a page in your LMS or a Google Slide (in white text color) for students to uncover? Are students ignoring your posts / announcements about class? Schedule a discussion post in your LMS to arrive during the middle of class with specific actions to perform. Easy, fun, and engaging.

Tim presenting.
Tim as a Scientist

Test in a Box: Looking to find a fun way to assess your students? Collect a few boxes and find some “construction” materials in your building or the junk drawer at home (straws, paper clips, styrofoam cubs, rubber bands, etc.) to place in the box. Write your assessment prompt that asks students to create/construct their response to your essential question using only the things in the box and then present it to the class in small groups. Offer a Secret Ingredient (one item or symbol that creates a theme) and turn them loose!  Let students vote (using a rubric) on the best creation or best explanation.  Not ready for a full blown assessment? Use the same process to review. The conversations that you hear during the creation/review process will let you know what they have learned (and what they may have missed). Think performance enhanced maker space for learning!

Apps that Show your Personality: Let out a little bit of your fun side! Use free ipad apps like FaceSwapLite, Masquerade, or ChatterPix to liven things up. Feeling froggy? Give your daily directions as a frog and let students deal with it! Want to show off your teaching superpowers? Give Action Movie FX or Super Power FX a try (you too can blow things up!). SnapChat,  Instagram or Tik Tok more your style? Check out those filters! Record a lesson introduction as Elvis, Pinnochio, or Batman. Need someone famous to introduce your next unit? Give Voki a try and watch Gandhi, MLK, or Borat make you “that” teacher.

Punk Rocker Filter on Tim.
Tim playing Guitar

Whoa, Oh, Listen to the Music: Anyone who was educated in the 1970’s or 1980’s (and maybe beyond due to YouTube) can sing along to Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.” Why? Because music creates earworms (spontaneous cognition).This is fertile ground for teachers! Entrance and exit songs that set the stage for or help assess learning or just liven up an otherwise mundane day. Walk-up music for student presenters who are “Bringing the Academic Boom” – (P.O.D -Here Comes the Boom), How about Class Playlists, chosen by students as an incentive (and thoroughly vetted) for work time? Wait, can you actually play a musical instrument? Let’s do a song lyrics writing activity over content. Teach students the song, have them write new lyrics to express their learning in a verse or two, and everyone sings the chorus together – glorious! Not musically inclined – no worries. Check out a site like Mr. Betts on Youtube and let him do the hard part while you get the engagement!

A New Twist on Student Responses: Looking for some new and creative ways for your students to tell, show, share, or express what they have learned? The YoTeach! App is a great replacement to one of my favorites, TodaysMeet. YoTeach! provides your students with a secure backchannel to share their thoughts privately, ask questions while you are working with a small group, or participate in an asynchronous Socratic seminar. Here is a quick video to get you started.

Do you have students obsessed with SnapChat, Instagram, TikTok, or Netflix? Google Slides Templates could be your new best friend! Templates that are made to look like those popular formats are free and readily available. Here are a couple of links from Matt Miller at Ditch That Textbook: TikTok template, Instagram Template.

Looking for a way for students to do video reflections easily? Flip, formerly Flipgrid, has been redesigned and has added many features. Students can tell their learning story by creating, trimming, and rearranging unlimited video clips. They can show their work by flipping on the new whiteboard mode with live Inking or even add context by overlaying photos from their camera roll, emoji, and text as stickers on their video.

Want a multi-modal way to do an SEL check-in, utilize a quick digitized entrance/exit ticket, or assess learning? Here are a few: Jamboard, available for free in Google Workspace, is a digital whiteboard that lets you collaborate in real time. There are countless free Jamboard templates (like these from Matt Miller) available to suit your needs. Applications like Padlet, Genially, and ThingLink offer students the ability to create interactive experiences and share through text, audio, and video, the process and outcomes of their learning.

Tim with a kingly filter.

A Final Thought:

Here’s the key. Yes, your content is important. Yes, providing opportunities for academic rigor is a must. But…school can be (you can be) a little bit fun, a little bit engaging, and a little bit in the direction of what is intrinsically motivating for your students. Create a bit of tension and you will get a higher measure of engagement. Once you have them…well friends, that is when the magic happens!

*All photos courtesy of the author.



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