Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday's Five - My Favorite Lessons

Every teacher has a few lessons that they get excited to teach every year.  I'd bet that for the majority of teachers these are lessons that do not come from a textbook, are engaging, and get students excited to learn.  They probably have nothing to do with preparing students for standardized tests.  In today's post, I'd like to share five of my favorites, and encourage you to share your favorites in the comment section.
  1. Pasta Mining - I love this lesson because it allows me to combine social studies, writing, math, and science into one lesson, makes my students use higher order thinking, and gives me an excuse to dump 16 pounds of pasta onto my classroom floor.
  2. You Be the Supreme Court - Every year when we finish learning about the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I give my students the opportunity to listen to overviews of actual court cases dealing with each Amendment (except #3, which has never been relevant in a Supreme Court case).  They then get to vote on what they believe the Court's decision should be based on the facts.  I then tell them how the Supreme Court actually ruled.  The case overviews come from a beat up, highlighted, and written on book that I bought for 25 cents at a garage sale about fifteen years ago.  It's the best quarter I ever spent.
  3. π Day - On March 14th we celebrate π Day in my math class every year.  The activities vary from year to year, but there's always an abundance of pie, excitement, and learning.  You can see what we did the past two years here and here
  4. Book Reviews - I always hated book reports, both as a student and as a teacher.  There didn't seem to be a purpose for either reading or the report that came afterward.  Since I've started having my students write book reviews and publish them to our class wiki, I've seen a great deal more interest.  Since many of my students refer to book reviews from past years when they are choosing books to read in their free time, they understand that publishing a book review will help others in the future.  It's also refreshing to them to be able to say, "I really didn't find this book interesting or entertaining at all" if they feel that way.  I simply ask that they back up any of their opinions with examples and details from the book.
  5. State of the Union Address - For someone that teachers American History, there is no better event than the State of the Union.  Regardless of who the president is, there is always a plethora of material for students to discuss and learn ranging from the content of the speech to the historical significance and procedure.  My students always love learning about the presidential line of succession and the reason one cabinet member is always hidden in a secure location.
What are your favorite lessons to teach?  Share with us in the comment section below.  Feel free to steal my lesson ideas; I'm sure I'll steal yours if they fit what I'm teaching.  Also, please share the post with others in your network so that we can steal their lesson ideas as well.  After all, imitation is the finest form of flattery, right?