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:
- Get Set – With a Plan to Get the Most Out of 1:1 Devices This Year
- Connect – Teaching with a SEL Perspective to Connect with Students This Year
- Engage – How to Build Engaging Lessons for Elementary School Students Using Kiddom
- Engage – How to Build Engaging Lessons for Middle School Students Using Kiddom
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.
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.
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.
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.