A class set of clipboards is one of the most underrated teaching tools out there. I want to share some of the ways to use them if you have them, and encourage you to get a set if you do not! These are so handy to have if you just get used to using them well.
Don't worry - I used to have no idea how valuable these are too! Years ago, a wonderful mentor teacher left me a set of 30 clipboards when I taught middle school. At first, I had no idea if I would ever use them. I shoved them in a closet and continued on with my day.
At the time, I had a couple of sixth graders who had what I called a "popping-up" problem. These two boys happened to be in the same class, and physically could not stay seated. They were great kids! It was not intentional, and eventually I started to feel bad for how often I'd have to say "sit back down!" They were very lovable and did not even realize it, but would suddenly be standing! Constantly.
The two who did this all the time would very sheepishly sit back down any time I pointed it out. They seemed to not even realize that their rear ends had left the seat. They just could not stay in the chairs! They'd be hunched over taking notes way down at the desk level.
Once I realized that they were just more comfortable standing, I gave up and accepted it. I just moved these students to the back row so everyone else could still see. Then, I remembered the clipboards. At least they could work without hunching way down to work at the low desk. Once I pulled out a couple of clipboards, suddenly I was finding uses for them everywhere!!
Another group of students loved to camp out on the floor right up close to the smartboard. I'd let them gather there, where they could see clearly and hear me easily when they asked. The clipboards started to come in handy again! I started leaving the whole basket out so that kids could grab them and sit (or stand) wherever they needed to.
I even started reaching for them when I needed somewhere to stack and layer all the different class periods of make-up quizzes. I found more and more uses for the set and started adapting!
Here are a few ways to use a set you may have lying around.
Clipboards are amazing for streamlining the make-up quiz process. During the regular quiz time, immediately label a blank quiz with the name of each absent student. Then, clip it to a board right away. Lay it along the chalk ledge with just the name visible. You can group and organize them by class period.
When students come in during recess time (or after school) to make up the quiz, you'll never again have to stop working with students you may be tutoring. The kids will know to come in, grab their quiz, and find a quiet place to work. No more fumbling around to find the right make-up quiz instead of focusing on grading, planning, etc. And BONUS! -- If you need to send one into the hall, they have a work surface already attached. No more dragging desks back and forth to the hallway.
If you slide the stack closer together so that only the names and class periods are showing, none of the quiz will be revealed ahead of time. You can even add a cover sheet to the top one.
If each student has a clipboard, you can spread out more for group work. Kids this age LOVE to sit on the floor. If you are trying some task card activities or scavenger hunt-style worksheets, clipboards will help a lot. Send one group to the back of the room and two to spread out in the hall, and suddenly group work is SO CALM!
During stations, scoot activities, games, etc. they will love not having to cart around a book to hold under their work. I even have learned to start color-coding groups of clipboards to kill two birds with one stone. Just hand out the clipboards, and you can have built-in partnering or grouping.
Being able to sit on the floor with a clipboard helped students even in cases I did not expect. Sending someone out in the hall to do missing work while everyone else goes over the answers used to mean dragging a desk out. Even after offering both options, I've yet to see a single student ever prefer a desk, surprisingly. I used to feel so bad having them sit on the floor until I realized how much they loved it. They sit in chairs all day and sometimes just need some variety. It can feel more relaxed for them to work lounging on the floor with a clipboard and finally get a break from the school chairs.
As we all know, middle schoolers are always begging to go work outside. This can be a pain and is sometimes asking for trouble. To make this work in situations were it was beneficial (like measuring shadows when doing scale, right triangles, etc.), I put blank paper on every clipboard, threw them all in a basket, and took everyone out with no hassle. All they needed was a pencil.
With doodle notes, it can get frustrating to carry coloring supplies around if you do want to do some chill doodle time outside with a new lesson. I've stumbled across a solution for keeping a few coloring tools on hand without dropping everything. Here's how I have adapted a brand new set of clipboards to make all these systems more perfect. Get ready for a fun project!
Ok, here comes the fun, crafty part!
To use the clipboards for grouping, it's nice to have colors, numbers, and symbols/icons (I used animals) on each. This way, you can group in different ways. I used stencils for both the pictures and numbers, but you can do stickers to keep it easier!
Groups of 4: Color-code. Students can gather into groups of four by color to work or complete stations. My set has 28 clipboards, so I grabbed 7 different paint colors. For this, I just used tape and number stencils. The foam dabbers work MUCH better than a brush for stenciling. Pro Tip: Keep your foam dabber super dry for trickier shaped stencils. Just dab over it lots of times with less paint, rather than soak it, or it will ooze through and make the stencil print messy.
Once you peel off the tape, you'll have both the coloring and the numbering done, if you do it this way. Remember, another option is to just use stickers or sharpie for the numbers, and you can add colored tape to keep it simpler. I was going for a fun, more bold graphic design, so I chose paint and arranged the tape differently to make each one unique. It does not have to be complicated. This was pretty quick for me, though, because with these little jars of paint, I did not pour anything. Just dabbed right into the jar for each one.
Two big teams: Sometimes, you need to split your class into two large groups. When you want to do this for a review game or something, have students with even numbered clipboards go to one side of the room, and students with odd numbers on the other. They can keep scorecards, notes, game sheets, etc. on their clipboard, and keep all other reference materials, calculators, phones, etc. out of the playing area. Having just the clipboard makes games run really smoothly.
Partners: So many math activities are perfect when done in pairs. Get the "math talk" going and team kids up! To pair up matching sets of clipboards, I stuck with my paint and stencil plan, but you could just use stickers instead. For mine, each pair of matching animals on the boards means those two students will work together.
Numbers: Just a side note, you can also of course just use the numbers to randomly call on a student, determine an order for presentations, etc. There are a lot of possibilities. You can also use these to have kids sign out a clipboard and see which one is missing.
Another note: I tried to make the animals "partner up" boards from two different color groups. That way, if you want to use both grouping options in the same day, everyone can keep their clipboard and still work with a totally different person.
Elastic Headbands: I use a clipboard myself all the time. Lately, it has been driving me crazy to try to carry my work along with a few pens or pencils. Especially with doodle notes, we need to have a handful of coloring tools right with the page, and even though clipboards are supposed to make this portable, I end up dropping the colored pencils. Or I try to line them up and balance them below the clip and tilt it just the right amount so they won't slide as I walk very carefully.
Sometimes, I even put my phone face down to "trap" the other end of my stack of colored pens. I finally found a little trick to help this frustration a bit. If you slip an elastic headband over the end, it will allow you to slide a little handful of colored pencils in and keep them somewhat secure to travel around with the clipboard. Usually, about 5 colors is enough for a doodle note page. I like to choose a coordinating color combo, and a lot of kids do too.
They can slide them right inside the headband and keep them handy. (Tip: Be careful if you use the headbands with the strip of clear rubbery silicone. Those would probably grip the pencils better but could also grip and rip the paper.)
Notice, you can tilt the page almost completely vertically and it still holds them pretty well! So handy for working on doodle notes together on the floor, in groups, spread out in the hallway, or even outside!
This particular set of clipboards is going to a teacher in need as part of my "Supply Sprinkle" where I am gifting materials and teaching tools to a math classroom that is lacking the funds they need. If you or someone you know could use this type of gift showering for their math classroom, apply here!
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Educational brain science continues to amaze me. The more researchers learn, the more convinced I become about certain methods. Slowly making changes in the way we teach as we uncover the truths about brain processing can benefit our students so much!
Today’s post is really fascinating and has such impact for our classrooms! A reader passed some of this on to me, knowing that I am digging deeper and deeper into visual methods and creative approaches. Of course, I was hooked right away. Here’s the scoop:
What if I told you drawing improves memory significantly better than other strategies, like writing, reading, or visualization? Would you believe that drawing boosts memory by nearly doubling it?
Well, it’s true! Researchers from the University of Waterloo conducted studies to explore whether drawing to-be-learned information enhanced memory and found it to be a reliable, replicable means of boosting performance.
What is the Research Behind This?
There were three main researchers conducting these studies- Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D. Wammes, and Melissa E. Meade. They conducted a series of studies where they asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques. Then, they tested their recall.
Edutopia explains one of their first experiments. “They asked undergraduate students to study lists of common terms—words like truck and pear—and then either write down or illustrate those words. Shortly afterward, participants recalled 20 percent of words they had written down, but more than twice as many—45 percent—of the terms they had drawn.”
Later, they compared note-taking by writing down words and illustrating concepts with undergraduate students. The researchers found drawing to be “an effective and reliable encoding strategy, far superior to writing.” (Sage Journals)
When they tested older adults, they found similar results. These findings are groundbreaking to developing therapeutic interventions to help people with dementia hold onto memories. (Science Daily)
Why is Drawing Such a Powerful Memory Tool?
The results of these studies have shown us drawing is a powerful memory tool. So, now the question is … why?
The researchers of these studies propose that “drawing improves memory by promoting the integration of elaborative, pictorial, and motor codes, facilitating creation of a context-rich representation.” (Sage Journals)
When you draw a picture, you force your brain to make connections with the term you are drawing. You elaborate on the given concept or term, which helps encode it into your memory.
“At a neural level, the strength of a memory depends largely on how many connections are made to other memories. An isolated piece of information—such as a trivial fact—is soon forgotten in the brain’s constant effort to prune away unused knowledge. The opposite, however, is also true: The more synaptic connections a memory has, the more it resists eventually being forgotten.” (Edutopia)
When a person draws a new piece of information, not only is he or she forming a motor connection with the hand-to-paper connection, but also deep synaptic connections.
Here’s the best part- it doesn’t matter how good you are at drawing! Artistic ability makes no difference in this powerful memory tool.
How Can You Incorporate Drawing in your Lessons?
Now that you know the memory benefits, you’re probably trying to come up with ways you can incorporate drawing seamlessly into your lessons. Luckily, there are plenty of ways!
Whether you’re introducing a new topic, getting some extra practice, or reviewing for a test, divide your class into small groups and have them create and decorate a poster or an infographic on the topic to hang on the wall. Be sure they include plenty of pictures!
Or if you’re strictly working on key terms, have your students create a word wall including pictures!
A favorite game in many households can be adjusted to fit into your classroom! Divide your class into teams of 4 or 5. Write down vocabulary words or phrases on cards. Have each team send up their first artist to you to show the first card. Start a 60 second timer when they are ready to go! Walk around the room and listen for the first team to guess the word. The first team to say it, gets a point on the board.
Warning: Shut your classroom door. It may get noisy!
Visual Vocabulary techniques are great opportunities to make connections with learning material through drawing. These vocabulary visual prompts act as printable doodle note templates where students can create drawings and visual memory triggers to move terms into long-term memory.
The graphic layout of thesestudy guides allows students to mentally organize the information in their minds, understand the relationships and connections between ideas, and remember the lesson material better! There are plenty of opportunities for drawing. Students get bonus brain benefits by blending text and graphics to take advantage of dual coding. Click here for more info on "visual vocabulary" strategies where students develop and sketch graphic memory tools.
Interactive Tasks in Doodle Notes
Whether you choose to create your own or buy premade doodle note sets, there could be plenty of opportunities for drawing learning material. Interactive tasks are an essential component to doodle notes. They are tasks embedded throughout a doodle note sheet that ensures students are interacting with the material, like color-coding or sketching. Go here for examples of how to incorporate interactive tasks into doodle notes.
Interactive Notebooks can be another great way to get your kids drawing. My friend, Brittany, wrote a guide with everything you need to know about Interactive Notebooks you can get if you subscribe to The Colorado Classroom. If the particular task doesn’t include drawing, encourage your students to draw pictures or charts in the margins of their notebooks.
Sketch-Friendly Graphic Organizers
Teach your students how to visually organize relationships between key ideas. Thisfree resource will help them develop graphic organizers.
Also, check out this full card deck that has 100 graphic organizers ready to print and distribute. Kids can add notes, sketches, and color.
Do you have any different suggestions on incorporating drawing in your classroom? Drop your ideas in a comment below! Also, I send lots of info just like this out through email, so if you are interested in updates, more articles, ideas, and printable resources, subscribe here. I'd love to support you in teaching your students with creative, brain-based methods!
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This is why now, the most recent push is to go from STEM to STEAM (the "A" is for incorporating art). Of course I am all for this idea, since my biggest goal is blending math and creativity effectively, while retaining the mathematical rigor. I have pulled together a few ideas to help you get started in your own classroom.
WHY Add the "A"?
The NCBI tells us why it’s necessary to add the “A”. “While the demand for a strong STEM workforce continues to grow, there are challenges that threaten our ability to recruit, train, and retain such a workforce in a way that is effective and sustainable and fosters innovation. One way in which we are meeting this challenge is through the use of the arts in the training of scientists.”
Know that adding art into your lessons is not just for the fun of it, or to make your program look good. There is so much value you can add by incorporating art into your Science, Math, Engineering, or Technology curriculum.
Go here or here to read more facts about STEAM.
Incorporating the Arts
Here are some creative and engaging ways to incorporate art into your content in a PURPOSEFUL way. You do not have to worry about "sacrificing" precious instructional time by throwing in an art project just for the sake of doing art in class. Art class has infinite merits on its own, but these additions will fit right into your curriculum and offer an additional daily dose of art for your students!
1. Choice Boards / Project-Based Learning
If you are not already using choice boards in your classroom, you may want to give them a try. When you use project-based tasks, students have freedom to complete an activity or assessment in the way that best suits their individual learning preferences. When I create a choice board, I like to offer six options and allow students to choose three of the six to complete. Usually, most of the tasks involve some sort of art. Here are some sample ideas:
2. Photo Scrapbooks
My middle schoolers loved making the Geometry Scrapbook Project! I gave out a list of key terms (vertical angles, parallel lines, isosceles triangle...), and the students had to find each in the “real world”. They had to take photos and create a scrapbook!
There are plenty of other lessons where students can go on a real life scavenger hunt, as well. For example:
3. Graphic Design / Graphic Organizers in Your Content Area
Another fun idea is to have your students create their own visual representation of a concept, instead of passing out premade graphic organizers or study guides. They can develop a visual aid or infographic.
Check out this post for more about creating visual representations of key terms, or this post about infographics in the classroom.
4. Art-Based Assessment
A lot of classrooms already do this. If you have not done anything like this yet, try adding just one artistic assessment this year. Teachers have come up with great ideas over the years, from the typical 3-D cell model to a skeleton with all the bones labeled. Think about what unit in your curriculum could be assessed in a different way.
Maybe your genetics unit could have an alternative assessment in which students create a beautiful tree representing traits within a family.
Maybe your fractions unit could end with an artistic display where each student uses a material of their choosing (clay, paper, beads...) to represent three sets of equivalent fractions in different forms.
Remember that theater is an art as well! Can your class act out what they have learned? Get your own creative brain thinking and really take a look at your assessments.
5. An End Result to Display
Students love to create something beautiful if they know that you will display it for everyone to see (yes, even older kids)! My absolute favorites are giant constructions (using a compass and straightedge). This activity was such a motivator. I only taught constructions at the end of the year if there was enough time, and this truly motivated the kids to keep on pace all throughout the year. They were so excited to be one of the classes that got through everything and got to finish the last Geometry unit with the colored constructions they had seen in the hallway the previous year.
Students completed a series of constructions on a large sheet of paper and ended up with a beautiful design. I then allowed them to erase whatever lines they wanted and color their design. They were each unique and looked great on the bulletin boards, and thoroughly helped their geometry skills!
Another idea for a display-friendly activity in geometry is holiday ornaments made from polyhedron nets. Print out some nets for your students here. The students can decorate and then fold them to create 3-D ornaments. You can have them find volume and surface area as well.
6. Tweak a Current Project
During our Pre-Engineering class, we were learning how to write programs for the movement of our robots when one of the girls saw a picture showing that a pen could be gripped in the robot's claw arm. We tried it right away, and then developed a very simple pattern of movements that turned our robots into spirographs. We kept adjusting the code in the program to make different designs on the paper.
Try making adjustments to a current project in your own classroom. Do you have students model viruses on paper? Try giving them more freedom to display their work in a more artistic way if they wish.
Do you have your middle school classes draw out floor plans of houses when you study area and perimeter? Add to this project by having your students design a geometric rug with a certain area for the floor and dilating and rotating the artistic design on the rug to make a matching similar figure in a different orientation for a larger room.
7. Drawing FROM Famous Art
Find a famous artwork, song, or poem that portrays the concept your class is studying (tesselations by Escher, "Starry Night" for learning about stars) and ask students questions about the accuracy or content of the art. Ask your 5th graders which phase of the moon may be occuring in certain songs about the moon ("like a big pizza pie - That's AMORE!"). Ask your 10th graders to find a piece of famous art that contains a pair of congruent triangles.
Do you teach fractions? Have your students investigate some sheet music for a tune they are familiar with. Teach the basics of half notes and quarter notes. Ask them to make connections to the math behind the music or even write out the note values for another song they know based on the beats.
8. Swap out your traditional quiz with a creative “Create your Own Quiz” version
It is great to have your class come up with quiz questions as a review. Students have done it many times, and often they write more challenging questions than the teacher does! Your students may enjoy an artistic adaptation of this. Try having them create a simple color-by-number review activity for a partner instead.
The image should be something representative of the content, and multiple choice answers can correspond to certain colors for regions of the picture. Your class will still be reviewing and writing questions about the same content, but they will also be thinking about what elements are most important to include in their picture. They can then swap and enjoy answering and coloring as a review activity.
9. Doodle Notes
In case you haven’t heard, doodle notes provide tons of learning benefits! Students will integrate art while connecting the two brain hemispheres. This leads to better focus, memory, problem-solving skills, and even lower stress levels. Just check out this post or go to doodlenotes.org to learn more.
If you want to try it out for free, you can download these “Engage Your Brain” Doodle Notes. It will help you teach your students about using the doodle note strategy and how their brain works!
Do you have any other unique ways to add art into your classroom? We’d love to hear your thoughts, below!
If you are working to add more creativity into your teaching, enter your email address here to hear more from me, get support, and download resources to help you along the way!
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