Making technology her friend instead of foe, Miss Sampson uses her iPad to give herself mobility freedom in her room. Students take notes on a graphic organizer while she lectures, but rather than standing behind a desk, Miss Sampson writes down the same notes with the students on her iPad as she roams around the room, which really helps reach both verbal and visual learners. This graphic organizer seemed especially necessary at the freshmen level, as it helped keep their notes clearly laid out and easier to study from later.
Plenty of brain based research suggests that after 8-10 minutes of continuous direct instruction, young teenage brains stop storing information: they essential reach an “information overload” state. In order to work around this, Miss Sampson would give notes for 5-10 minutes only, and then pause for an interactive activity.
Using their iPads, students logged on to the Socrative app, and were automatically assigned a “Space Race” team. They then raced to be the first team to correctly answer questions applying the grammar concepts they had just learned. Though this might sound simple, you would be shocked at how excited these freshmen were to see their ship inch towards the finish line, and tension mounted until one team enthusiastically let out a cheer of triumph.
This process of bite sized lectures followed by a competition continued throughout the period, with a real quiz going in the gradebook coming at the end of the period. Students had a very real incentive then to stay focused and on task, even though it was the end of a long school day.
Probably the best thing I saw emerging from this lesson, though, was Miss Sampson’s natural discussion of real world problem solving strategies that students should take when they get stuck in their studies and don’t know what to do. I love that freshmen teachers in particular make sure to build this into their lessons. She’s not just teaching them content, but how to learn and study in general. As Miss Sampson pointed out, everything you could memorize is available on the internet. She wants her students to learn to use all available resources, to learn to work together and ask questions, to learn how to struggle with challenging complex problems rather than just demonstrating rote memorization. These are students who are going to know what steps to try when they get stuck on a lab in Organic Chemistry in college, or when they run into an issue at their business job in the future. And that is a lesson that will last far beyond their four years in high school.