Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: February 2015 (page 2 of 2)

Mingling with Macbeth: Getting Students Used to the Language

Macbeth Tea Party Quotation Analysis


Students often struggle getting used to Shakespeare’s language.  (No, it’s not a foreign language; no, we’re not going to read a translated version like Chaucer’s.)  As an introductory activity to acclimate them to the language and realize that it’s not as hard as it first looks, we did a “Mingling with Macbeth” today.

Each student drew a quotation from the next three scenes (here are the ones I used), and then typed it into the first box of the Mingling with Macbeth form.  Then students interviewed two classmates about what they thought the quotation meant and wrote the results in the next two boxes.  Last, each student then wrote their final interpretation into the last box.

The activity forces students to examine the language of Shakespeare but encourages them to work with each other, think about what their classmates suggest, and make a final decision about their own interpretation.  Most of the students showed excellent understanding of the quotations afterward, plus it provided students some predictions of what was to come and a bit of a teaser for them to look forward to tomorrow.


What I’m Reading: Gamify Your Classroom by Matthew Farber



A few days ago, Matthew Farber’s Gamify Your Classroom showed up in my mailbox, and I’ve found myself absorbed in it twice-over.  The first time, I skimmed through it, bouncing around through different chapter, unable to repress my patience and my desire to absorb the entire text at once.

Now that the initial thrill is over, I’m taking my time on my second read through the book, and in the opening chapters, where Farber presents an overview of games, I highlighted several key statements that surprised me or resounded with my current thoughts.  Here’s one of them:

  • “Older–not younger–teachers” are actually more receptive to using games because “more experienced teachers saw the need to further engage students.” (23)

The lack of student engagement has been a frequent topic among teachers in my school.  A common complaint is that the current generation of students expect entertainment.  The cause?  Some say television, even going back as far as Sesame Street‘s origins, while others blame cell phones, ipods, and whatever form of handheld entertainment is hitting the shelves this year.  (Ah, cell phones–that’s a whole ‘nother issue I’m not about to tackle here.)

But the cause is a moot point, as far as I’m concerned.  Our task as teachers isn’t to solve the problem of students’ shortened attention spans.  Our task is to teach the students who land in our classroom on the first day of school and each day after that.  Somehow, we have to meet them, or at least do our best to meet them where they are.

While Farber’s statement surprised me, it makes sense.  Even in my 14 years of teaching, I’ve seen students working less outside the classroom and the importance of connecting what we’re doing in the classroom to the outside world.  Just expecting my students to read and comprehend Macbeth isn’t enough anymore.  I need to do more to connect it to the outside world.

What do games have to do with this connection?  It’s a method, a channel to get students there.  Games are like technology–they’re not a destination but rather a vehicle for teaching students, getting them interested in the subject matter, and once they’re interested and have gained a basic understanding of the subject matter, they can start making connections to the outside world.

As I continue on, I’ll share more of Farber’s writing that resounded with me.  However, I’d also suggest getting the book for yourself–

Anticipation Guides on Pear Deck

Ant Guide Macbeth


Anticipation guides at the beginning of a unit are now a staple in the teacher’s tool kit.  However, I “techified” my Macbeth anticipation guide with the help of Pear Deck.

To be honest, I started with paper.  I used Jim Burke’s Macbeth anticipation guide as a starting point for my own.  I made copies and students circled their answers.  Then they broke into discussion groups of 4-5 classmates, where they had to come to a consensus for each question.

Afterward, each group logged onto Pear Deck, and a member from each group, using the “draggable” tool, dragged the red line to their group’s response.  I then called on random groups to explain and defend their responses.

This activity could easily be done individually, too, rather than in groups, especially if you have classes who are very open and enjoy discussing.  For classes that are more reticent, however, the groups work well as a springboard into the overall class discussion.  I hear stronger comments in the small groups, and I also find more members of small groups are willing to share with the whole class because they’ve already “rehearsed” their responses in small groups.

Pear Deck provides a great visual aid for anticipation guides and emphasizes how beliefs can range throughout a class.


Reflection After Day Six of Gamification

3D GameLabI’ve put so much work into my gamification strategy in my Applied Comm class this week.  I’ve learned a lot, too, mainly on the logistics side of setting it up, ironing out the technology wrinkles, and working with the 3D GameLab portal.

Here are some things I’ve figured out (or wish I would’ve done):

1)  Use my same “lingo.”  I tried to use some fun “gamish” language for the quests, but it was too much change for my students.  Some of my students have been in my classroom for 3-4 years, and at this point in the year, I should have kept with my same phrases.  For example, I changed Vocab Notes to “Learning the Lingo.”  I should have kept it simple and kept it the same.

2) Number the assignments.  I learned this from one of Alice Keeler’s posts.  Numbering quests 001, 002, 003 helps students keep track of where they are, but it also helped with communication.  I didn’t make this change until midweek, and I wish I would have done it earlier.  Then we could simply talk about #4 or #6 and immediately understand each other.  Does this seem minor?  Perhaps?  But I assure you, it makes  a huge difference.

Ch 12 Game Chart

3.  Make a game map.  After I made one in pro, I used Block Posters to print it on PDFs and pieced it together on our bulletin board.  Then I created a caradstock tag with each student’s gamer tag, so they could move it along as they finished each quest.  That gave them and me a visual of how they were progressing.

4.  Indicate requirements/options.  I included assignments that were required, but I also added optional vocabulary reviews that would earn students points and give me time to look through student assignments and make sure they met my expectations before I allowed them to move on in the game.  Some students spent a lot of time on these reviews and not enough time on the other assignments, even though the other assignments clearly were worth more points.  Today I clearly marked “required” and “optional” on assignments.  Will I always have to do this?  I don’t think so.  This early on in the experience, however, I think my students need it until they’re used to this process more.

I’m sure I have hundreds, perhaps thousands more lessons to learn.  But the lessons got easier through the week.  Students adjusted.  Several commented how much they liked it.  Some commented they didn’t.  However, we’re only a week in, and it’s too soon to make a judgment.

Making Visual Aids with Pic Monkey



It’s been a crazy busy week.  Lots and lots and lots of essays to read and give feedback and speeches to coach and gamification quests to approve, and the snow keeps skirting around us and refuses to bless me with a snow day, even though Mother Nature has been generous with giving lots of other schools with plenty of days off.

Anyway.  I made a thing last night.  To be specific, a collage in PicMonkey.  And to be honest, it looks pretty cool.

Our assignment this week in my multimedia class was to create a photo collage that was connected to our content area.  Since my Brit Lit class started Macbeth today, I thought, “Is there a way I can integrate this into the Macbeth intro?”

So tomorrow, I will.  Today we discussed the anticipation guide in groups, and tomorrow they’ll make predictions about the play based on the collage (which is in chronological order with the story.)

PicMonkey was so easy to use–my students could use the web program for their own projects.  In lieu of the typical essay or report about a book, they could create a photographic storyboard.  To display poetry they’ve written or poems they’ve loved, they can create photo collages using photos that evoke the mood, tone, and symbols in the writing.  Students can create a biography about an historical event using a collage.  The more I use it, the more I’ll come up with more ideas.

My First Few Days of Gamification

3D GameLab


Today we finished Day 2 of our gamification experiment in Applied Communications 12.  We started last week.  At first, most of the students were excited about the prospect of creating their own gamer tags and avatars.

Then they realized that there were still expectations.  Assignments.  Yes, I started exchanging “assignment” for “quest,” but as one kid said, “There aren’t any guns.”  No, no there are not.

Other than adapting to new technology in general, the other issue I faced with some kids is that this system puts more responsibility in their hands.  Although I was there to help them if they have questions or issues, I wasn’t leading the class in the traditional way where I told them step by step what they needed to do.

Today I heard the first “non-gamer” say she liked this method of working at her own pace.  I think more will think this, too, as we continue.  I also faced much fewer complaints today about this being different and that they “wished we’d do it the old way.”

This is a process.  As one of my gamers said the first day, “You know this would be a whole lot easier if you started this the first day, right?”

Yep.  I know.  But I didn’t want to wait until next year.  If you’re excited about something and believe it will make a difference in education, then why wait?

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