11 August 2010

Classroom Changers

School (in North America and Europe) is starting soon. So I just wanted to offer five quick "classroom changing" solutions...

(1) The Backchannel: Nothing alters the learning space more dramatically than empowering communication throughout the room. The Backchannel allows peer-to-peer communication to operate on an equal, and effective level, allowing students to share resources, questions, thoughts, even if not every student wants to speak in front of the class.

My favorite, for many reasons, is TodaysMeet.com but there are other choices.

Our Experiences Backchanneling In Grade 1

(2) Text-To-Speech: If reading is a problem, if vocabulary is a problem, if "read-to" time at home is missing, offer your students support. Simple, free solutions including FoxVox and SpeakingFox for Firefox, WordTalk for Microsoft Word, and native Macintosh speech capabilities offer access to reading to all of your students, while building vocabulary and sightword recognition.

(3) Spellchecking for the rest of us: Traditional spellcheck doesn't work for kids struggling with language, they typically don't get "close enough." So bring in Ghotit - both the web-based solution and the Microsoft Word add-in (both free for schools). Ghotit pretty much helps kids correct any misspelling or word misuse.

(4) Speech Recognition: If you've got Windows7 computers you have an incredible tool waiting for your struggling writers. Let them dictate using the embedded speech recognition system. Let kids begin to communicate, focusing their energy on the "writing" and not the physical acts of writing. Plus, bonus - your students will see their spoken words appear correctly spelled. Or let the kids use their phones - iPhones have Dragon Dictate and BlackBerry and Android can add Vlingo.

(5) Do Not Disturb: A low-tech solution which allows kids to have a "bad hour" or a "bad day." Give each student a "Do Not Disturb" sign they can put in front of them when they need to retreat. Listen, we all need to retreat at times, but schools - typically - just keep pouring the pressure on. Students can't close their office door, or walk out for a cup of coffee. And as that pressure builds, learning stops.

So put up the sign and neither teacher nor other students will bother you. Obviously if a kid uses this all the time, you need to intervene, but in general, kids don't want long-term isolation, they just need time to back away and regroup.

- Ira Socol

1 comment:

Karen Janowski said...

Love the low tech Do Not Disturb sign idea. I wonder how many "behavior" problems would disappear if we empowered students with the option to take a break when they recognize they need it.