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Middle school students have short attention spans, text quickly and send short instant messages. They love to communicate with each other. Use this to your advantage when you try to organize a creative lesson plan.
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Plan Two-to-Three Activities
Plan two-to-three activities for each class. The key to keeping students on task is to keep it moving. This may not be the most creative tip; however, students with short attention spans will lose focus quickly. It is great if one of the activities can be a hands-on activity or a creative one where students can move around.
One activity could be something that deals with new content. For middle school students, lectures or direct instruction should be kept short. Using Power Points can be interesting; however, a Power Point every day can be a drag. To keep students focused, teachers can give struggling students guided notes. This is where the notes from a lecture are typed, but there are blanks left for key terms or definitions that students need to learn.
Another activity could require students to be creative. For example, if students need to discuss the plot of a novel, they can make a plot chart on construction paper with colored pencils and markers. Or, if students need to learn about a battle in history class, they can create a diagram as a poster of the groups involved and their movement on the battlefield.
When students show what they know, they don't always have to take a quiz or test. Teachers can assess student knowledge with the following:
- flip chart
- flow chart
- mind map
- color coded chart
- student created PowerPoint
- student led discussion
- student created bulletin board
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Talking Pair Work
Yes, students can talk and learn at the same time. When students work together on a task, they get to the thing they enjoy most, talking. I find the most productive groups are pair groups. Students can work in pairs to find information, complete a project, or discuss issues.
To set up a productive task, the teacher needs to make sure that the questions are not just comprehension type questions. They should be ones that require a little thinking and discussion, which are on the higher end of Bloom's Taxonomy. To keep both students working, give tasks to both people in the group. Each person could use different colored ink to show that both students worked on the task together. This means that the teacher needs to be up and walking around the room to listen for "productive talking," not random talk or gossip.
Whether you choose to allow students to work together as a pair to complete a task, or ask them to show their knowledge by creating a skit, students will enjoy using their creativity.