It’s April and schools in the northern hemisphere are counting down the days until the end of the school year. Students are antsy for summer break, and teachers often find student engagement challenging during these final weeks. Here are five new teaching ideas that are sure to engage your students while pushing through those last standards and learning outcomes for the year.
Text with Others
Imagine texting existed during World War II. Show what you learned about World War II by creating what could have been a text conversation between leaders Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This is an example of a formative assessment when learning about World War II. What better way to engage students than to bring what they do in their spare time into the classroom: texting!
With Text Chat Animator creating text conversations is not only possible, but easy. This site creates “fake” text exchanges and even animates the conversation to create a video. The video is saved as a .webm file, which means that it opens as a web page. This is great, because students can add the link to their text conversation to an assignment in your digital course homebase or learning management system. You can then easily open each link to view each unique creation.
Text Chat Animator is ad-free and does not require accounts, logins, emails, names, or other personal identifying information, so it should pass many student data privacy requirements. Of course, always check with your school’s technology director before using any sites with students, though. And coach students on their digital citizenship skills, i.e., only adding their first name or first name and last initial to websites such as this.
Of course, you could always have students write out the conversation or create a template using a tool such as Google Slides. However, using a site such as Text Chat Animator makes the text conversation look real!
What other topics could use creating text conversations as a learning task?
World language: Create a conversation between individuals in another language. You would need to define if abbreviations or slang are allowed!
Art: What would Van Gogh say to another artist about modern art?
Science: Create a conversation between a cold-blooded animal and hot-blooded animal.
Math: What would Pythagoras say to construction workers?
Music: What would Beethoven say to Dr. Dre?
Health: What would a cell say to a virus?
English/language arts: What would Athena say to Poseidon?
Agriculture: How would a plant explain its needs to soil?
Personal finance: Create a conversation between a loan provider and the credit agency.
Write Yelp Reviews
Imagine you are an animal. This could be any animal of your choice. What environment do you live in? Evaluate the environment that you live in by writing a Yelp review of that environment using the Google Slides template provided. What do you need in order to live? Based on that, how many stars would you give your environment in terms of livability, climate, and ability to find food and water? Then explain your ranking. What does your environment do well? How could your environment improve to be more livable for your species?
This is an example of a formative assessment when learning about species adaptation and/or environmental conditions. Students love to write Yelp reviews! When you think about it, writing a Yelp review is a great form of evaluation. Which of your standards requires students to evaluate? Could you add a modern twist to that evaluation and have students demonstrate their evaluation in the form of a Yelp review?
Of course, students aren’t writing an actual, real-life Yelp review. Educators are the most creative beings on the planet, so we recreate the experience in a school-friendly tool. Here is a Yelp review template I created in Canva:
Ditch That Textbook has also created a great Yelp review template in Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint. If you follow me, you know I am a big fan of using a slides tool for these types of learning activities (check out my meme and Pinterest slides templates).
Simply make a copy of either template and share with students!
You could have students write a review for:
Social studies: Political figures, laws, or historical decisions
Automotive: A tool type or brand
Culinary arts: A cooking technique or kitchen utensil
English/language arts: A story, poem, book, or author
Music: A composer, song, or instrument
Art: An artist, art period, or art piece
Math: Different methods for solving the same math problem
World language: A Yelp review in another language
Adventure with Virtual Field Trips
When learning about the art and architecture of the renaissance period, you take your students on a virtual tour of the renaissance exhibit in the Louvre.
What better way to add a level of engagement than a field trip! It is rarely possible in formal education environments to take students to real-life locations. However, many museums, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, cities, monuments, national parks, and universities now have virtual tours accessible to anyone in a web browser.
Get started with virtual field trips with the following organizations that have some form of virtual tour or live cam at the time of writing:
San Diego Zoo
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
New Orleans, Louisiana
Yosemite National Park
NASA Glenn Research Center
United States Botanic Garden
In addition, there are websites that have a plethora of virtual tours and/or live cameras from all over the world:
Google Arts and Culture includes virtual tours of national parks, museums, art galleries, and opera houses.
AirPano has virtual journeys from around the world in the form of 360 videos and interactive 360 images. Explore the Taj Mahal, Niagara Falls, Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, and more.
Explore.org streams live cams from around the world. Visit the bald eagle cam on Catalina Island, the polar bears in Wapusk National Park, or the underwater manatee camera from Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Xplorit is filled with virtual tours of cities, monuments, and more.
HistoryView includes historical virtual tours, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Liberty Bell, Titanic, and more.
Do Some Snap-ping
Explain in one Canva Snap how you solved today's math problem of the day.
In this formative assessment example, students are still explaining how they solved a math problem but demonstrating that knowledge through the form of a “Snap.”
What is a Snap? Snaps are the output of the app called Snapchat. Snaps can be images or videos, which makes it easy to integrate them into many learning outcomes. There is almost always text, images, annotations/drawings, and stickers over the top of the image or video. However, no matter what, Snaps are designed to be short.
Kids love Snapchat. I have learned that I am much more apt to get a response from my nieces if I message them on Snapchat! Whether students have access to the real Snapchat or not, give them the chance to create “Snaps” in your classroom. This example is known as a #MathSnap, and you can find lots of examples if you search that hashtag on social media.
As with the text conversation and Yelp review ideas, we are recreating the experience of creating Snaps in other school-friendly tools. In this example, I referenced a Canva Snap. Canva is my favorite tool for creating Snaps (Canva is my favorite tool for many things!). Canva has templates that are the correct size for a real Snap and makes it easy to add your own images and video. However, Canva also has a built-in draw feature and elements (such as stickers, icons, and graphics) to add over the top of the image/video. Below are two resources that will help you create Snaps in Canva:
Canva Snap template: Simply copy the template and add your own content. You can even share this template directly with students.
A video demonstrating how to create #BookSnaps in Canva: The great Tisha Richmond created this video to show how to create #BookSnaps in Canva. The same skills apply to any type of Snap you are creating in Canva.
Canva for Education provides all the premium Canva elements for free to teachers and students. Students do need to have accounts to create in Canva, but Canva for Education makes it easy to create student accounts. Of course, ensure Canva is an approved tool at your school before using it with students.
Flip is also a great tool for creating video Snaps.
Google Slides can also be used to create Snaps. Here is a Google Slide template:
How else can you integrate Snaps as a learning task?
Labs: #LabSnaps show the steps to complete a hands-on lab or explain one step of the lab in detail. #LabSnaps can also explain safety elements of lab equipment. Any content area that completes hands-on labs could use this idea: science, woodworking, automotive, culinary arts, interior design, or fashion design.
Music: Create Snap videos of music excerpts and explain where and why accents were added. Or create a Snap video of how to clean and care for an instrument.
Health enhancement: Create Snaps to demonstrate correct positions for stretching, weightlifting, or sports techniques.
English/language arts: #BookSnaps are a great way to summarize any text from an assigned reading or explain figurative language.
World language: Create a Snap video of a conversation in another language and add captions.
Culinary arts: Create #FoodSnaps to analyze specific elements of a dish: plating, taste, texture, etc.
Art: Create a Snap that describes a specific painting style.
Build 3D Scenes
Write a short story about anything of your choosing. Then, create one scene from your story in 3D using CoSpaces. What scene will you choose? What is the setting of that scene? Make sure to recreate the setting and include any items that are critical to the scene and story as whole. Add the characters that are in the scene. Then, add audio to narrate the scene.
“At the Restaurant” is two scenes from a short story that have been created in CoSpaces (trigger warning: in true kid fashion it references eating some Fear Factor-esque food!). This is an example of how you can expand the creativity of the writing process. What a great way to motivate students to write! You could also flip this and have students create a scene in 3D, then use that scene as the setting for a story or poem that they write. In addition, if you are focusing on learning specific story elements, such as setting, characters, or point of view, you could have students create that specific story element in 3D.
This example used CoSpaces, which is fully web-based and works on any device. It doesn’t require any special skills or coding knowledge to create 3D scenes (although there is an option to code). CoSpaces is a freemium tool, so some features are included with the free version and you can upgrade to get additional features. Students do need accounts to create in CoSpaces, so make sure to check that it is an approved tool before using it with students.
Spoke by Mozilla is another web-based 3D scene creator, and it is completely free. It does support audio like CoSpaces too. Spoke does require student logins as well.
The open-ended nature of Minecraft Education means you can build anything in a Minecraft world. It does have a text-to-speech feature that you could use if you wanted to add audio dialogue.
How could you integrate the creation of 3D scenes into your curriculum?
Theater: Create stage design, lighting, and/or scene placement.
Computer science: Use your coding skills to create a simple game in CoSpaces or Minecraft Education.
Science: Create an animal that doesn’t exist and then design that animal’s ideal habitat.
Engineering: Create a large structure and explain how your structure was designed with structural integrity in mind.
Interior design: Design a house or room and explain how the elements of design were taken into account.
Art: Create a sculpture that represents the elements and principles of sculpture.
Social studies: Recreate a historical scene.
Physics: Design a roller coaster to demonstrate your knowledge of thermodynamics.
World language: Create a monument from a French-speaking country and then add dialogue that explains that monument in French.
With these unique teaching ideas, you will slide right into the end of the school year. Watch my webinar on “Creating Assessments to Engage the Modern Learner with Canva” for even more new teaching ideas. And share your ideas and student creations with me on your social media platform of choice. May the odds be ever in your favor!