Tag Archives: Instruction

Using Pecha Kucha to Help Students Review

Many of you may have heard of the Pecha Kucha presentation technique.  The general premise is this:  A presenter can have twenty slides and twenty seconds a slide in which to convey his or her point.  The slides advance automatically whether or not the speaker is ready.  There is more to it than that, and it has an interesting history; Those are the basics, though.  You can learn more about the concept in general here.

I want to share with you how it made a big splash in my 7th grade English class this week.  The class before a test, in middle school at least, is always interesting.  The students know it is coming, of course, but the realization that a few weeks of hard work is coming to a culminating assessment the next day can be overwhelming.  Middle school students are not always prepared to understand the reasons teachers have for assessing their understanding  or for understanding the ways we might go about it.

That is where the Pecha Kucha adaptation comes in.  We had been reading a novel, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, but the activity could be adapted to anything.  I divided my class into thirds.  One group was assigned literary devices, one was assigned plot points, and the other characters.  Each student developed one slide based on their assigned category and according to the instructions below:

For Review Activity

I had a number of goals for adapting and presenting the idea this way.  Mainly, it would help the students learn to think critically about what we had discussed, prioritized information, and present ideas in a manner other than simply regurgitating the way we originally learned it.  The following is an example that I showed my students.  I had them time me as I explained it in under 30 seconds.  It may only make sense to you if you read the book!

Regarding the book DRUMS, GIRLS, and DANGEROUS PIE by Jordan Sonnenblick

The kids loved the concept and how we adapted it.  They got creative with how they portrayed their thoughts, as well.  A number of students did some interesting work with the wordle-like website Tagxedo.  I pulled all of their slides into one presentation and they could come by to get at the end of the day if they wanted to use it for review at home.

What other ways could you use Pecha Kucha to help kids?  I think it could be a valuable tool for growing their critical thinking skills.


Reflections on the Jeff Wilhelm Webinar

I had never tried one of the Scholastic webinars, or Teacher Talks, before this past Thursday, but must say that I am a believer now. The session was surprisingly short, only thirty minutes, but I am still amazed at the amount of solid, usable information was packed into those thirty minutes.

The focus of Thursday’s talk was Inquiry and Motivation in English Language Arts, led by Jeff Wilhelm.

One of the first questions introduced was on the pros and cons of a student-centered approach versus a teacher-centered approach. Wilhelm, however, advocated for a learning-centered approach, focusing first on the “how” of learning, then on the “why” and the “what.”  From this point, the conversation continued from a learning-centered perspective for the remainder of session.

I was especially drawn to Wilhelm’s description of using essential questions in the classroom. My pervious misconceptions on how and why these were used in the classroom had kept me from employing them in my own. However, It is much more clear to me, now, that using this tool to construct an inquiry based classroom will help learning to become more personal and purposeful. Students will be led to take a more active part in their own learning. In particular, Wilhelm suggested that with an inquiry based approach, we as educators are more prepared to answer the question : “How are we promoting what real experts do?” Students want to know that their learning is relevant. I was a little overwhelmed, yet convicted and motivated when Wilhelm stated that “you can re-frame anything you teach as inquiry.”

And so you have my new call to action.  My own essential questions as I enter into the nest week and remainder of the semester are these:




I will definitely keep you updated on the results of my own inquiry.  I plan to post some ideas on how I can reconstruct some of my current curriculum from a more inquiry frame of mind by the end of the week.  I would love to hear your thoughts as well.

In the mean time, I’ve embedded the video of the webinar below, or you can click here to go to the actual page.

Skype discussion on Inquiry and Motivation in the ELA classroom

Field Trips!!!

I have just finished planning a 7th grade Language Arts field trip.  Sometimes I am surprised by the organization and planning that can go into a trip, even a simple one.  Still, there is so much that can be said for a well-planned, on-site experiential learning opportunity.  All of a sudden, what you are saying has tangible applications beyond your classroom walls!  As teachers, we know that we do matters.  A field trip might be just the ticket to convincing your students its true.  This stuff they hear in their classroom – people’s lives revolve around it.  Plus, they get to move a little bit, and that always helps. 

One key to truly effective field trips is clearly communicating the purposes and goals behind your trip.  Some parents or administrators may be weary that a field trip will simply become a vacation day from school.  In case you are interested, I’ve attached my letter to parents explaining our curricular goals for the trip.  Wren’s Nest Letter

I am taking my 7th grade Langauge Arts class to The Wren’s Nest, home of Joel Chandler Harris and the oldest house museum in Georgia.  Harris is the writer who took the oral traditions of the Brer Rabbit stories and put them into written form as the Uncle Remus stories.  At the time of his death, his work was second only to Mark Twain in popularity.  That’s some pretty impressive stuff.  We will go on a house tour guided by a docent/storyteller.  I am super pumped.

How do you use field trips as an educational tool, or what do you think makes them so great?  Any stellar field trip experiences you would like to share?

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