Thursday, 7 February 2013

Jared's Weekend Homework Chopper

Everyone has had those nights where you wake up an hour and a half before your alarm goes off.  You try and go back to sleep, but we all know that "trying" to sleep doesn't work and you just end up tossing and turning, your brain going a million different directions, only to fall asleep about 15 minutes before your alarm goes off.  You wake up bitter.

Sometimes though, some of those thoughts you had while tossing and turning, even though born out of the random thinking of not enough sleep, turn out to be good ideas.  This was the time of day that I thought of something that is fun for me in my class.  It is a good idea for how I like to teach.

The idea is called Jared's Weekend Homework Chopper and it is a play on delivering the news from an "on the scene report" by a big city news helicopter (chopper).  My kids had received some money from their Grandpa for Christmas to buy a toy.  As we were on that shopping trip, I didn't want them to have all the fun so I bought an R/C helicopter for myself.  I was flying the thing around my house, ramming it into anything and everything so I thought I would take it to school.  You know, to fly around at lunch for a couple minutes just for a fun mental break.  Shortly after I took it to school I had a night of sleep like I mentioned, and during the "random thoughts time" I thought to myself, "I wonder if there is a way that I could incorporate the remote controlled helicopter into my lesson plan so that I could have a legitimate reason to fly the helicopter during class time at least once a week." Crazy thoughts in the early morn.

Well, I decided to do it, and it was related to my desire to increase my students' ability to recall vocabulary.  I teach 12th Grade biology and to learn biology you need to learn a new language.  The more kids are familiar with the language, the more easily they can understand complex, abstract concepts.  So, each week on Friday, I have a list of words that I give my students to study, relating to the unit we are in.  10-15 words.  I have asked friends, family and famous people to record themselves reading these words and send me the file.

Jared's Weekend Homework Chopper is the name I gave the helicopter.  I fly it around each Friday near the end of class, kind of like it's roaming the big city until a big news story is found.  Then I land (or crash) it, and pretend that is the location of our news.  I then play the video that has been made for that week.  The person reading the terms is the "on-scene reporter".  The words are the news.  I usually get the person to describe their location, and what they do for a living.  I have found this a fun way to have students be exposed to people who are my friends and family (incorporating your life and opening yourself up so students can get to know you is a really big part of my joy in teaching),  and famous people (adding this, adds excitement to the exercise for the students and me!)  Seeing people doing so many different things from so many different locations opens up ideas to the students about where they could be, and what they could be doing after they are done school.

The students write a quiz on Monday dealing with the vocabulary words they wrote down on Friday.  I don't like assigning massive amounts of homework, but I think that giving it over the weekend forces students to remember some of the things they learned the week before, even if they are just studying for the quiz on Sunday night.  It helps their understanding and serves as a review at the same time.  That way I can launch into what we are doing without taking as much time to rehash what we did on Friday.

It's also a lot more fun than writing the quiz words down on a whiteboard that's for sure. 

Here is a link to my Biology 30 Homework Chopper videos.  I have them on a playlist on my YouTube channel so that students can watch the videos again.  I can also share them with my friends and family.

Here is a link to my Biology 20 Homework Chopper Videos

I hope this makes sense.  I guess it may not make "sense" to you because you may think it is an absolutely mental idea for your class.  I guess that's one of the reasons I like teaching, it gives you freedom to create your own way of doing things that engages you as well as your students.  If you think it is a fun idea and want more information, just let me know!

Thanks for reading.

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