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A Tool for Active Learning

Side Study allows teachers to make their own custom, interactive assignments that allow students to actively learn—by doing and thinking.

Expensive publisher assignment platforms are no longer needed. Side Study can do it all at near zero cost and has incredible features like peer review, embedded videos, detailed reports, and automatic grading!

 

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“Read the Next Chapter for Tomorrow!” said every teacher  ever.

You might as well add every day. In response, what do you suppose every student thinks? No homework tonight! And maybe that’s a good thing. Sending students to read without purpose, modeling, and guidance might be counterproductive and lead to stress, frustration, and disinterest—not to mention your exasperation when students don’t comply. 

However, students who read can do better. How do you get all of them to read and all of them to do better? It begins by examining what you really expect when you say, “Read.” 

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What is Passive Learning?

Passive learning isn’t a way students can learn. It’s a teaching strategy, and, as you’ve probably heard, not a very good one when compared to strategies that use active learning. However, it’s a core part of many classes because, in spite of the negatives, passive learning meets real needs. The definition you’re about to read helps identify the parts of passive learning you can keep and those that need to be improved.

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The Homework Round Table: Stop Correcting and Start Learning

Is there a bigger waste of time than spending the first half of class “going over homework?” Sure, standing at the front of the room giving the correct answers while students follow along is an efficient way to correct homework and correcting it helps ensure completion, but is any learning taking place? Will students who had incorrect answers really gain understanding? Probably not. Try the Homework Round Table activity as an active learning alternative that helps students actually learn and help each other while they go over homework.

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Do No Harm: Tips for Assigning Homework

Try these techniques to get the most out of homework assignments:

  • Consider homework may have negative effects.
  • Reset your homework to zero, and carefully reconsider what you do assign.
  • Enrich learning during class before assigning more homework.
  • Based on age level, don’t assign too much homework.
  • Give students everything they need to complete homework.
  • Make homework for practice, not evaluation.
  • Tie homework back to class.

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Think-Pair-Share Strategies for More Active Content Delivery

A common threshold I hear among educators is students stop paying attention after 10-15 minutes. They obviously did not survey me as a student or threw out my fifteen-seconds as an outlier! In a review of studies completed on student attention, researchers found that, yes, attention does vary, but the 10-15 minute threshold does not have supporting research (Wilson and Korn, 2007). It seems to be a number that has been cited over and over without a sound empirical origin. A more recent study of college chemistry students found their minds wandered increasingly throughout class with some lapses in attention beginning at 30 seconds (Bunce et al., 2010)!

Think-Pair-Share is a strategy that can be used keep student attention and increase learning during your content delivery.

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The Ultimate First Day of Class Icebreaker Activity

Picture your yet-to-start class as a ball sitting completely still on a surface. When the very first student walks in the door, the ball starts moving in a certain direction based on what they see, hear, and especially feel (emotionally). By the end of the first day, the ball has a velocity and direction that’s extremely difficult to change! 

Since you only get a reset once every year or semester, try this simple first day of class icebreaker activity to establish a positive direction from day one.

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Three Activities to Help Students Follow Directions

“Does anybody have any questions?” Silence. You just gave crystal clear directions to your class and their stares must confirm their complete understanding. But fast forward to when students need to apply the directions and it seems like their memory was erased! 

How do you get students to follow directions? Usually directions are given and that’s why they don’t stick. Instead, directions should be learned.  Before pulling out more hair, try one of the active learning activities below that help students care about directions and realize their purpose.

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Who is Responsible for Learning?

Every Teaching Interview. Ever.

If you’re an educator preparing for an interview, this question will come up: “Who is responsible for learning?” Instead of telling the committee what they want to hear (“Learning is 50/50.”), tell them the question is flawed. It assumes learning is something that will happen, or not. However, learning is not a switch that the educator, students, or both have to turn on. Learning is always on. 

What Do You Mean by Learning?

Though it’s the most complex process in the natural world, one-sentence definitions are plentiful. They usually

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