As a language arts teacher at a partial STEM Magnet middle school in Southern Georgia, I have the opportunity to teach an amazing group of students; their willingness to expand their educational horizons amazes me every day.
While most of my students choose to come to our school because we focus on math, science, and STEM—the subjects they enjoy—I am tasked with helping them develop their reading and writing skills. So, how do I keep my math, science, and STEM-minded students engaged in the language arts? I’ve found that in addition to integrating STEM into language arts activities, using technology is a great way to generate deeper language arts engagement.
Here are five ways you can use technology to capture and hold the attention of language arts students.
Use Monster Quiz for assessments
If your district uses the SMART Notebook system, Monster Quiz is a great, easy-to-use formative assessment tool that gets students excited about their learning. Located in the “Activities” tab of SMART Notebook, Monster Quiz allows the teacher to enter up to 10 multiple-choice or true/false questions to assess.
The program automatically sorts students into teams, but students do not have to move to be with their teammates. The students work at their own pace from their own devices to answer the questions in order to hatch their team’s monster first. Even eighth graders love to compete against their classmates to win the first-place medal.
The program also allows the teacher to go over the questions at the end and see a pie chart that shows the number of students who chose each answer choice. This is a great way to quickly see where your students are struggling with the content and what their misconceptions might be. I find that Monster Quiz is especially useful as grammar review with skills like identifying types of sentences and parts of speech.
Use Discovery Education Experience’s Studio Feature to demonstrate creativity and content knowledge
Discovery Education Experience includes high-quality resources and instructional supports for educators that enrich student learning and extend it to the real world. One of the best features in Experience is Studio. Studio Feature is a fantastic way to merge creativity and content. This safe collaboration space lets educators easily create and assign activities and allows both teachers and students to design and share content in a way that works best for them while building confidence with digital learning resources. Students are able to demonstrate their understanding no matter where they’re working and receive feedback directly through the built-in chat feature.
Students can create a Board using text, images, video, and more to synthesize what they know about at topic. They are able to pull from Discovery Education’s other resources to create their Boards. I know teachers who have used Studio for everything from having their students create authentic looking newspaper articles to creating a kind of mood board based on a character from a novel. Teachers can also create Boards to share with students as an instructional tool.
Students can refer back to the boards as needed, so they do not feel rushed to copy something down as they would with something like a PowerPoint.
Insert videos into instruction strategically
Even though it seems like such a simple tool, a video can often do just as much, if not more, for students as a traditional lecture or worksheet. Watching an engaging video feels less like doing school work for most students, and they are more likely to pay attention to the content. Short videos–inserted strategically into language arts lessons work best as a hook to engage students, and you would be surprised at how many language arts videos there are out there.
Even better than watching a video is students creating their own videos. You could do this in a variety of different ways. Students could make a video teaching a concept, they could do a video analysis of a character, or they could act out scenes from a novel and edit them together to form a longer video.
Flipgrid is an awesome (and free!) tool that allows students to record and post their videos to the class board and respond to their classmates’ creations with even more videos. This allows them to engage with all four of the 4Cs of STEM (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity).
Utilize Google Docs
Google Docs is a vastly underutilized resource in writing classrooms. First of all, having students type their work on Google Docs prevents the “I saved it on a different computer!” problem. It also allows easy sharing of documents between students and teachers. When I shifted my writing instruction to be more focused on a small group, I made writing groups through Google Docs using folders. Each student shared a folder with their specific group. This way, they were able to conduct peer reviews without having to worry about a physical document or emailing files to one another.
Google Docs also has a commenting feature. That feature can be used during peer review, and it can be used by the teacher for conferencing with students. Teachers can use this to read students’ work during their planning period or at home, make comments, then meet with students during the class period. Realistically, using Google Docs is also preparing students for employment in the 21st century. Many companies are using Google Drive or similar services to stay in contact without having to meet face-to-face.
Give students real-world problems to research, solve, and review
When was the last time you consulted a physical book for information you wanted quickly? I am willing to bet that it has been quite a long time. Since we have access to technology at almost every moment of the day, we can simply search for the information we want on the internet. But the internet is a big place, so our students need to learn how to conduct internet research effectively, so they can weed out the good information from the incorrect information.
Language arts classes lend themselves perfectly to developing this skill. Giving students a real-world problem to solve and provide them time to research it before they write about their solution. This gives students the opportunity to practice finding information online and
weeding out information from misinformation, then having them present their findings to their peers for a review of the research and the findings.
Student engagement is critical to reaching all learners and in a STEM environment, using technology to engage learners in non-STEM related topic sometimes can help drive engagement. If you have ways you are using to engage students in instruction using technology, please add them in the comments below.