Following a regular, consistent unit routine works wonders in your classroom!
FACT: If students fall into a predictable unit routine in your classroom, chances are they will succeed much more than if your classroom is chaotic and unpredictable from one day to the next. Establishing a unit routine is of utmost importance.
Of course things can change from time to time and there will be unexpected circumstances that disrupt the routine. That's O.K. As long as MOST OF THE TIME your unit follows a regular routine, you are doing great.
The following are all of the important elements to a regular unit routine:
Whenever I start a new unit/topic of study, I always begin with the important terms for that unit/topic. I announce the new unit we will be covering and introduce it to the class by telling students a little bit about it. Then, I pass out a list of important terms related to the new unit.
It is very important to introduce the students to this new unit with a list of terms because it gets them familiar with the relevant terminology. The list of terms is given to the students and I allow that class period for students to begin defining the terms.
Term definitions can be found in any history textbook. This is about the only time I use the textbook in class. You may also have students look them up online, but I try to limit the amount of time that students spend on the Internet.
Because the Internet can be very distracting and students will be tempted to check out other things while working on their terms. It is important that they stay focused. Another reason is that it is crucial that students practice skills like handwriting, library research, etc. These are fast becoming ancient crafts. In your classroom you have control over how much of the Internet your students use. Encourage them as much as possible to limit their Internet usage in the classroom.
I ALWAYS require that the definitions be written on a separate sheet of paper, with the terms list hand-out stapled to the front of their work. This makes for easy filing in their binder and it also makes it easier for me to distinguish work from different classes. Plus, it just looks nicer.
I also require students to write a comprehension sentence for each of the terms. All this means is that students take the term and put it in a meaningful sentence that shows they understand the term.
Finally, it is absolutely paramount that the work turned in be neat and legible.
Terms are always due on the day of the test. This allows students to work on them and study them throughout the course of the unit. They are graded as follows: one point per definition & one point per comprehension sentence.
O.K., so every unit routine in most of my classes begin with a list of the important terms.
It is beneficial to you jazz up the hand-out a little bit. A little color and a relevant image is all you need. OwlTeacher.com supplies terms for every unit we cover.
But if you don't see terms for a particular historical topic/unit, let us know and we will custom-create them for you! Simply go to our Order page here and place an order with us.
Order complete unit packages on ANY topic/event/subject!
PowerPoint Lecture Notes
The next day of the unit routine, I present a PowerPoint lecture on that unit's information/material.
Again, I strongly believe in visual and audio stimulation when giving a history lecture to students. My PowerPoint lectures are filled with photographs, images, and color. I also include sound effects, song links, and video links where aprropriate and useful.
Gone are the days of the monotone teacher yapping his/her jaw to the class, oblivious to the lack of student interest. Remember the teacher on Ferris Beuller's Day Off?
That's exactly the kind of teacher you DON'T want to be!
OwlTeacher.com offers a wide array of PowerPoint presentations on numerous historical and educational topics.
When I am giving a PowerPoint lecture during a unit routine, I don't expect high school students to write down EVERYTHING I say, but it is very important that students take notes.
One thing I have found to work very well in my unit routine is the "Fill-in-the-Notes" method of note-taking. I print off a copy of the PowerPoint lecture for each student, using the six slide per page option in order to save paper and ink. The PowerPoint lecture slide print-out for the students has missing information that they must fill in as they listen and view the PowerPoint lecture.
This serves two objectives:
Students are not so overwhelmed writing down everything I say that they end up not listening to the extra relevant information I provide.
It is a timesaver.
At the end of the hour, I collect the student PowerPoint hand-outs and give points for the notes they take.
What is the purpose of giving a history lecture if students are in another world daydreaming or simply ignoring you? This method forces the students to pay attention and take notes. It also helps if you have a passion for what you are teaching. That enthusiasm shines through in your lecture and students will listen.
OwlTeacher.com has a PowerPoint slide show for every topic on our website. But if you don't see what you need, let us know and we will custom-create a visually engaging and complete presentation for you! Just tell us what you want it to be about and/or give us the standards that you must meet for that topic in your state!
To enhance student learning, I assign a hands-on project or interactive activity on day three of the unit routine.
There are two big reasons why this is important:
Hands-on projects and activities allow students to use their imagination and creativity in connection with the current historical unit, which in turn makes learning fun!
FACT: Students learn best when they can implement creativity with hands-on projects and/or activities.
Hands-on projects and interactive activities are a break from the norm for both students and teacher. Trust me, it is needed.
Every unit of study on OwlTeacher.com offers project and activity ideas/resources for you. Every project and activity comes with clear instructions for teachers to pass out in the classroom. These are tested, tried and true projects that have proven to be successful.
How do I know?
Because I've used each and every one in my own classroom!
OwlTeacher.com also offers grading rubrics for each project/activity so that students know exactly how they will be graded. Giving students a rubric helps them to visually see what they must do to earn an A (or in some cases, the very least they can do to avoid flunking the project or activity).
The grading rubric is also a valuable tool for you when it is time to grade the projects or activities. All you do is look at the finished product and fill in the rubric accordingly. That graded rubric is then handed back to the student so that they know what their grade is.
As part of the unit routine, I usually give students a few days to work on their projects or activities in class, depending on how much time they actually need. Students are also encouraged to work at home on these assignments.
When projects are turned in, I usually display them somewhere in the classroom. You'd be amazed at how much high school students enjoy seeing their hard work on display! They become proud of their work and this encourages them to try and do even better next time. Displaying student work is not only for elementary students. Not by a long shot.
The next couple of days of the unit routine, I use to finish up the PowerPoint lecture, ALWAYS encouraging student participation. Ask questions during your lecture and discuss the material with students. Asking questions and initiating discussions are extremely valuable in the classroom!
After the PowerPoint lecture notes are finished, I pass out a study guide for the test. My study guides are like assignments, really. I pose every test question and test topic in question form on the study guide. Students are instructed to complete the study guide just like any other graded assignment. I also remind students on the study guide to study their terms and definitions.
I allow students that class period to begin working on their study guides and then they take them home to finish & study for the test.
On test day, I collect the terms assignment and the completed study guides. Students are given the test.
You will find a study guide and test for each unit of study here on OwlTeacher.com. Again, if you don't see a study guide or test for your particular topic, just let us know and we will custom-create one for you!
This is how a typical unit routine is conducted in my classroom. Depending on the historical topic and material involved, some units may take longer than others. Some units last one week while others last three or four weeks. In any case, if you follow this pattern for every unit, you will see an improvement in student achievement and attitude.
FACT: Kids thrive on routine. The classroom is no different!
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Teach with Movies!
It's a fact: when you teach with movies, you offer your class a welcome break to traditional teaching methods. Not only is it a break for the teachers, but for the students as well. Students can sit back and enjoy learning history through the entertaining medium of cinema. The benefits of using movies in the classroom are numerous.