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Why I Review with Students and How You Can Too

Why I Review with Students and How You Can Too

It’s the beginning of a new school year and you’re anxious to jump into the new curriculum. However, as many veteran teachers will tell you, before you jump headfirst into the new curriculum, it may be helpful to take some time to review. Of course, you can also review during the school year – before midterms, after covering a difficult subject, or simply when you want to see where your students are. One thing’s for certain – reviewing can you save you a lot of time and headaches during the year. In addition to saving time and headaches, reviewing previously taught material offers other benefits as well.

Review Helps Students Gain Confidence

You don’t start an AP Calculus course by having students find the derivative of a function. Instead, you build up to that skill by reviewing trigonometric functions and discussing limits. By starting with something students know, you help build their confidence to tackle more complex tasks.

Review Shows Where Students Are

Reviewing with students, also helps you gain a sense of where students are and what gaps may exist in the learning. For example, you may hope to move into a lesson about writing complex sentences and realize that students still don’t understand the basic parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives). While you may not be able to fill in all of the gaps before introducing new content, you will know the areas where you may have to spend a bit of extra time as you introduce new concepts throughout the school year. If only a few students have gaps, you may be able to provide them with worksheets, video lessons, and other resources to help catch them up.

Review Improves Retention

As a teacher, your goal isn’t just to cover the standards, it’s to ensure that students retain the information as well. By reviewing previously taught material with students, you help that material to begin to take root in their brains so that it’s more likely to stick with them. For example, if students hear once that a comma goes inside quotation marks, they’re not as likely to remember it, but if they hear it multiple times throughout the school year and are required to practice putting the comma inside quotation marks, they’re more likely to remember that bit of information.

Strategies for Review

When it comes to reviewing material with students, the level of review will depend on the level each student is at and the amount of time you can build in for review. Pick and choose the following strategies based on your students’ needs.

Let Students Conduct the Review

Give students a chance to show what they know and to make sense of the information themselves by allowing them to conduct a review. A few ways you can do this include:

Summarize
Give students a concept or briefly review information with students and have them summarize what they’ve learned or what they remember in their own words. As students share their summaries with one another, they’ll gain a better understanding of the concept.

Organize
Give students a set of information and have them organize it in a way that makes sense. You could give students a paragraph that needs to be put back into order or a group of animals that need to be organized by habitat. As they organize the information, students will get the chance to review the material and make meaning out of it.

Elaborate
Give students a task that requires them to use information they need to review in a new way. For example, students could use the laws of physics to solve a problem.

Info Dump
At the beginning of a lesson, give students a chance to complete an info dump, where they write down or say everything they remember about a particular topic. Have students work in pairs or small groups so they can learn from one another. When you get into the actual lesson, you can touch on topics students remember and clear up any misunderstandings they may have.

Incorporate Short Video Lessons

Short video lessons are a quick way to help students review a concept before introducing a new one. Help Teaching’s self-paced lessons feature short videos accompanied by practice questions and worksheets. Best of all, you can assign individual students lessons to watch based on their needs.

Play Fun Review Games

Download a slideshow template to create your own version of Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? that includes questions related to material students need to review. If you don’t have time to create an entire slideshow, just create a list of a few questions and have teams of students take turns answering them in the classroom. You can add excitement by letting students try to shoot a basket every time they get a question correct.

Choose a Topic of the Day

Start each day or class period with a particular topic students need to review. You may have students answer a question in their journals, read a short paragraph and complete reading response activities, or even complete a short worksheet, such as a daily grammar review or number sense worksheets. You only need about five minutes a day to conduct a short review.

Integrate Old Material with New Material

As you teach new material, build upon previous knowledge. You can do this through an info dump, short bell-ringer activities at the beginning of every lesson, or by simply pointing out how the skills build upon one another. Not only will students review the concepts, they’ll begin to see how different skills and topics work together. This will help them begin to make critical connections on their own.

Very few people can read or hear something once and remember it forever. Instead, they need to regularly review material to keep it fresh in their brains. Don’t think of review as a waste of time. Instead, try to build time in your schedule to review with students at the beginning of the school year and throughout the year.

Do you have any strategies you use to review? If so, we’d love to hear them. Share your ideas in the comments!

A to Z: The Best Books for Teens

A to Z: The Best Books for Teens
Step into the young adult section of your local library or bookstore and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of books written just for teens. From paranormal romance and dystopian tales to stories of identity and social justice, there are plenty of options. The problem is, most teens aren’t reading them. To help teens wade through the masses, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks.

How’d we choose the books on our list? We looked for books that were exciting, books that teens could connect with emotionally, books that told about real-life teens, and books that would encourage teens to think a little deeper about the world. Some are fun, some are serious, and all are great reads.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novel that focuses on Jin Wang, a Chinese-American student who just wants to be an American boy. It’s a quirky story that deals with identity, disaster, and The Monkey King.

Blubber by Judy Blume is one of those classic novels teens have loved to read for decades. It takes on bullying and asks teens to consider how far is too far when it comes to making fun of someone.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a slightly odd, but enjoyable book about a character name
Christopher John Francis Boone. He is intelligent, but very little, and has no real understanding of human emotions. The novel was recently adapted into a Broadway musical.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is one of Amazon’s 100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime. The book tells the story of Steven, whose younger brother is diagnosed with leukemia, and how he and his family navigate life in the wake of the diagnosis.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler has a humorous title, but it takes on very important issues that teens face, such as eating disorders, self-esteem, and rape.

Feed by M.T. Anderson, which is set in the future, imagines what would happen if televisions and computers were implanted into everyone’s brain. Teens will be able to connect many of the novel’s events with today’s focus on technology.

The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian introduces readers to a teen prophet, Larry. In a humorous way, this book discusses issues of self-identity, popularity, and what it takes to conquer the masses.

Hoops by Walter Dean Myers is a great book for teen boys. It follows Lonnie Jackson who dreams of being a big-time basketball player one day, but must deal with the pressures of life that get in the way.

For a bonus H pick, check out The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which tells the story of an African-American girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend.

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman shows a teen standing outside her body and considering her life up until that moment. It’s a powerful story that will encourage teens to consider what makes their lives worth living.

Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume is a story of friendship. Stephanie and Rachel have been friends forever, but their friendship is altered by the addition of a new friend, Alison, and by life changes, but they learn to navigate it all together.

The Kill Order by James Dashner is part of the popular Maze Runner series. This prequel provides teens with a welcome introduction to the events of the series and helps them learn more about Mark, Thomas, and Teresa.

Looking for Alaska by John Green is an award-winning book from one of young adult literature’s hottest authors. This particular story deals with sexuality, fitting in, grief, and controversial life choices.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers is written as a screenplay mixed with journal entries that detail Steve Harmon’s life in prison. Is he really he monster he sees himself as?

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer is part of the infamous Twilight series. Like it or not, many teens love Twilight, so that earned this book a place on our list.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is one of those classic novels that every teen, especially teen boys, should read. It tells the story of the Greasers and the Socs and shows how they navigate some of life’s toughest moments.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a coming-of-age story that was turned into a major motion picture. It is written as a series of letters from a character named Charlie who must handle a whole host of social and psychological problems.

The Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof tells the story of two teenagers, one with a fatal illness, who learn major lessons about life and about love.

Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper takes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet and sets it in Cincinnati, Ohio. The couple, from two different cultural backgrounds, must fight their families and their friends to maintain their relationship.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson follows Melinda, a formerly popular girl who has become an outcast. Readers will learn a lot about high school, the power of rumors, and what it means to stand up for yourself.

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper is part of the Hazelwood High Trilogy, a series of books about a group of African-American teenagers and the struggles they face. In this book, Andy deals with guilt after his best friend is killed in a drunk-driving accident.

For a bonus T title, check out To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, a story about a teen girl whose high school existence is turned upside down when letters are secretly mailed to her five crushes. It was also made into a movie for Netflix.

Uprising: Three Young Women Caught in the Fire that Changed America by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a historical fiction novel that centers around a fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City. The book helps teens learn about the Industrial Revolution and its effects on many different types of Americans.

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin focuses on two friends, Owen and Natalie. Near the end of their senior year in high school. Owen narrates the novel as he figures out what their friendship means and whether he really knows as much as he thinks he does.

WTF by Peter Lerangis is an edgy book that tells of two parties from six different points of view. It’s a high energy, action-packed story that focuses on some of the worst-case scenarios that can happen to real teens.

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon that tells about Malcolm Little’s younger years. The book, which was co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, helps explain the life decisions that he made before becoming the famed civil rights leader.

YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright and William Shakespeare takes the tale of Romeo and Juliet and puts it into terms teens today can understand. While it may seem a bit crazy, it’s actually a very clever take on classic literature that can help get teens hooked on the Bard.

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts shares the story of two teens who meet in the pediatric cancer ward of a hospital. Both have very different personalities and perspectives on their illness, which means they each have something to offer the other.

We’re sure many of your favorites didn’t make this list. What do the teens you know love to read? Share them in the comments and encourage teens to pick up a book and get reading this week! Also don’t forget to check our our printable worksheets based on popular young adult novels or create your own literature quizzes using our Test Maker and Online Testing options.

11 Prime Days to Celebrate Math Holidays

Math Holidays
If you’re a math teacher, every day is a reason to celebrate math, but did you know that there are also a multitude of “holidays” centered around math? Using a math holiday as an angle to get students excited about math adds up to a whole lot of fun! We hope this list will inspire and energize your math teaching throughout the year.

1. e Day

If you teach any high school students with irrational math fears, then help them transcend their fears on February 7. Euler’s number, e, which is both irrational and transcendental, rounds to 2.7, thus we have e Day on 2/7. Show students the practical use of Euler’s number by introducing them to continuous compounding interest. A little lesson in financial literacy is always valuable!

2. 100th Day of School

The number of creative ways to celebrate this day is certainly not limited to 100! Ask students to bring in containers of 100 small objects and display them around the school. Have students create a list of 100 reasons why they love their school or community. Explore what life was like 100 years ago. Collect 100 food items and donate them to your local food pantry. Visit Help Teaching to use our 100 charts and lessons, as well as all of our counting worksheets.

3. Pi Day

Pi may be infinite, but Pi Day is not. Celebrate Pi Day on March 14 in recognition of its common abbreviation, 3.14. Plan a party with your students, but wait to sound the party horns until exactly 1:59 in the afternoon (3.14159)! Double the fun and make it a party for Albert Einstein, whose birthday is also on March 14. Be sure to check out Help Teaching’s worksheets featuring the number pi. Pi Day also kicks off World Math Week.

4. Mathematics & Statistics Awareness Month

Use all 1 + 4 + 9 + 16 days of April to celebrate the beauty and fun of mathematics. Focus on bringing math alive by making math relevant for students and connecting math and statistics to real-world problems. Elementary students can record daily weather data throughout April, then graph and analyze their results. Middle school students are at an age where decision making becomes more independent. Connect daily decisions making to probability with the game-based activity SKUNK. High school students have enough mathematical background to develop statistical questions on topics of personal interest, then collect, interpret, and present their data. Get started with this collection of statistics worksheets.

5. Square Root Day

The only thing square about Square Root Day is the date. When the day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits of the year, we have a Square Root Day. April 4, 2016 (4/4/16) was a Square Root Day, but the next one won’t be until May 5, 2025 (5/5/25)! Get radical and make these special days square-themed.

6. Palindrome Days

Palindrome days aren’t just for students named Bob or Hannah. Palindrome days fall on any dates where the numbers of the month, day, and year are the same both forward and backwards. For example, June 10, 2016 was a Palindrome Day (6/10/16), but only in countries where dates are written month/day! Challenge your students to formulate lists of future Palindrome dates. Start with five-digit Palindrome dates (M/DD/YY) and work up to eight-digit dates (MM/DD/YYYY).

7. Pythagorean Theorem Day

As proof that the squares don’t have a monopoly on the math holidays, Pythagorean Theorem Day comes around periodically. Also known as Right Triangle Day, recognize Pythagorean Theorem Day whenever the sums of the squares of the month and day equals the square of the last two digits of the year. August 15, 2017 (8/15/17) and December 16, 2020 (12/16/20) are both Pythagorean Theorem Days. Make sure to check out our self-paced lesson on Solving Right Triangles.

8. Math Storytelling Day

No need to divide your instructional time between math and ELA on September 25 (9/25), it’s Math Storytelling Day! There are many ways to teach math through storytelling. Start the day by reading Math Curse, The Grapes of Math, or Sir Cumference or any math story to your students. Try a math story lesson like The General Sherman Tree or Let’s Go to the Zoo. Then, provide a writing prompt and ask students to write and share their own math stories.

9. Powers of Ten Day

Although 10/10/10 has passed, each October 10 can still be used to illustrate the powers of tens. Show your students the power of magnitude by screening the classic film Powers of TenTM. Spend at least one-tenth of your class time this day doing hands-on decimal or base ten exponent activities.

10. Mole Day

No, this day doesn’t pay homage to the subterranean dwellers. Rather, it is a special day for anyone with an interest in math or chemistry. If you remember Avogadro’s number, then you may guess the date of this math day! Mole Day takes place on October 23 each year between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m. (6.02 x 10^23) during National Chemistry Week. Use Help Teaching’s Chemistry Lessons and this TedEd video to introduce students to mathematical moles.

11. Fibonacci Day

Quick, what number comes next: 0 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 + ___? If you said five, then embrace your inner math geek and celebrate Fibonacci Day with your students on November 23 (11/23). Take this day to let your students explore the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio in nature. Mensa for Kids offers a nice selection of activities perfect for introducing students to the elegance of Fibonacci.

Visit HelpTeaching.com and utilize our growing library of K-12 math worksheetslessons, and math generators!

Brain Breaks: Helping Students Reset, Refresh, and Get Moving

Brain Breaks: Helping Students Reset, Refresh, and Get Moving
Let’s face it, learning can be overwhelming. With so much information coming in at once, sometimes students just need a break. That’s where brain breaks come in. Brain breaks are short, focused activities designed to help students recharge and refocus. Although typically used with preschool and elementary grades, brain breaks can be used with students of all ages.

Why Brain Breaks?

Brain breaks have found their way into thousands of classrooms around the world, and it’s not just because they’re fun. Research involving children’s brains shows that movement and exercise can improve behavior and academic performance in the classroom. That’s why you’ll often see preschoolers spinning in circles, climbing around, and touching things with their hands as part of their learning process. Other types of brain breaks, such as breathing exercises, also have benefits backed by research. For example, deep breathing exercises can help decrease the symptoms of ADHD and anxiety in children.

Types of Brain Breaks

The goal of brain breaks is to get students to step back, clear their heads, and give them a couple minutes to recharge. This can be done in multiple ways. Some common forms of brain breaks include:

  • Physical movement
  • Calming exercises
  • Creative activities
  • Engaging media
  • Social interaction

While physical movement is the most common type of brain break used in the classroom, teachers can incorporate different types of brain breaks based on factors such as the time of day, the time of year, and their individual students’ needs.

Physical Movement
Research shows that students need to move throughout the day. Physical brain breaks get students out of their seats and give them a chance to get in a bit of exercise. Examples of physical brain breaks include:

Calming Exercises
Learning can be stressful, especially during testing season. Calming exercises help students release any anxiety and tension they have built up inside. They also teach students techniques for handling stressful scenarios in other settings. Examples of calming brain breaks include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Guided imagery
  • Listening to calming music
  • Sitting in silence
  • Yoga poses

Creative Activities
Creative activities give students the opportunity to exercise a different part of the brain. A lot of learning involves logic and reasoning. Bringing creative activities into the classroom can help students connect the two sides of their brain. Examples of creative brain breaks include:

  • Drawing a picture
  • Answering a creative prompt
  • Completing a role play activity
  • Playing with clay
  • Making music

Engaging Media
Students love the Internet and one particular activity they enjoy is watching videos. Sites like YouTube are full of short, highly entertaining videos. Since brain breaks are all about getting students to relax and refocus, showing a funny video or playing a popular song can be an effective way to get students, particularly those at the secondary level, to recharge in the middle of a class.

Social Interaction
Similarly, giving students, particularly those at the secondary level, a chance to simply sit and talk to one another can be exactly the break they need. Give students 2-3 minutes where they can talk about whatever they want without the stress of having to have all the right answers. To keep conversations from getting out of hand, consider choosing a random question for students to discuss with one another. You can also play a game such as “Would You Rather?” or “Two Truths and Lie” to give students something to talk about.

Resources for Incorporating Brain Breaks in the Classroom

Lots of teachers and educational organizations use brain breaks on a daily basis. Here are some resources you can use to find brain breaks to incorporate into your own classroom:

20 Three-Minute Brain Breaks from Minds in Bloom includes activities that range from physical to social. Our favorite is 5-4-3-2-1 which has students do five different movements in descending order. Example: Five jumping jacks, four arms up and down, etc.

20 Brain Break Clips  from Teach Train Love includes songs that teachers can play to get kids moving in the classroom. A favorite video that we think makes a good brain break? The Gummy Bear Song.

20 Brain Breaks from Beg, Borrow, and Teach are organized by time-limit. The site suggests writing the ideas on color-coded popsicle sticks and choosing one every time you need a brain break for the classroom.

12 of the Funniest YouTube Videos for Kids from Cool Mom Tech is a great list of videos to use as brain breaks. We think the Mr. Raisin Toast series is a great pick!

How to Do Yoga in Your Classroom is a nice how-to guide from Kids Yoga Stories and includes a list of other calming activities for kids.

20 Themed Brain Break Ideas from Pink Oatmeal includes over 20 activities involving yoga, dinosaurs, and an alphabet theme.

67 Kid-Friendly Brain Break Songs and Musicians from Really Good Stuff is a great list of songs to play when you want to encourage kids to get up and dance for a few minutes during the day.

Brain Breaks Guide is full of different activities to use with kids in elementary and middle school.

GoNoodle is a site that provides tons of brain break activities for teachers. Sign up for a free account, and then set up a class to get activities organized by grade-level.

Do Nothing for Two Minutes is a two-minute timer with relaxing images and background music. If two minutes seems like a long time, work up to it. Start with 30 second, then a minute, and then two minutes.

HelpTeaching’s Physical Education Worksheets offers free games and other activities to get students moving in the classroom.

Whatever brain breaks you choose, there are few things to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the brain breaks short. 2-3 minutes is enough to get students ready to learn again.
  2. Explain to students the purpose of brain breaks. This will help main control in the classroom and may get more students involved.
  3. Choose activities that benefit students. You may like yoga, but your students might think it’s crazy. If you can’t get them engaged in activity, it won’t benefit them.

Don’t let your students experience the brain breaks alone either. Adults need brain breaks too, so jump right in and enjoy them with your students.

Do you use brain breaks with your students? If so, we’d love to hear some of your favorite activities and resources.

Top Strategies for Teaching Anatomy and Physiology

Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Weird But True, and other enterprises like them have made an entire business of highlighting the odd, wacky, and incredible things the human body can do. Yet, engaging high school students in a topic that they may feel they already know enough about (after all, don’t we walk around in these bodies every day?!) can be a challenge. Bring anatomy and physiology alive in the classroom setting with these strategies and resources that will draw students in, hold their interest, and maximize their learning.

The Importance of Anatomy & Physiology

Anatomy, or the study of the structure of body parts, and physiology, or the study of the function of body parts, may be offered as a separate course in some high schools or may be integrated into various topics within a biology course, including botany and the human body. Therefore, neither anatomy or physiology is completely new for students in the upper grades. The key is to explore this wide range of topics in a way that students find fresh. But why are anatomy and physiology so important?

  • The study of the structure and function of the body is crucial for the basis of health and medicine. Today’s technology for diagnosis and management, pharmaceutical development and application, and techniques for the treatment or prevention of disease—all depend on anatomy and physiology. Understanding the anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of our own bodies make us all more science literate—more capable of asking the right questions, understanding relevant concepts, and making sound decisions about our health.
  • An anatomy and physiology course integrates both the life sciences and the physical sciences of physics and chemistry—much like biochemistry—and provides a natural interdisciplinary approach to topics from the simple to the complex, allowing students to begin to understand the relationships between various branches of science.
  • The field of anatomy and physiology is a wonderful example of exploring a single entity—the human body—by breaking the overwhelming expanse of it into systems. The systems can then be examined independently and relative to one another. The skills of analysis, synthesis, and making connections can also be applied across disciplines.
  • Learning anatomy can be a huge exercise in memorization because of the many structures in the body, such as the skeletal and muscular systems. Developing techniques and ability for memorization will serve students in any subject.

An Approach to Teaching Anatomy and Physiology

Not every student in a biology or anatomy and physiology course is interested in pursuing a career in health and medicine in college or professional school. So how do you keep all the students in your classroom engaged in learning? First, students need to feel that the subject matter has relevance in their world. That’s the easiest part; every student in your classroom has a body!

1. Introduce material with a story. Be clear about objectives for the lesson or unit. This may include a list of vocabulary terms and key concepts. Then find resources that will lay a foundation of interest while touching upon these terms and concepts. A news story, podcast, or segment from a network program could fit the bill perfectly. A quick online search can bring up interesting stories that cover just about any organ system.

  • Body Pods podcast. A series of seven podcasts, each is a unique focus on a part of the body and is produced through a collaboration of an artist and a scientist in the field.
  • LiveScience online. Read about some of the strangest medical reports, affecting systems from the eye to the gut.
  • ABC News online. This article covers baffling medical conditions.

Present only the portion that is relevant to the current topic. While some students may find themselves squeamish with any content dealing with the body, do exercise caution in avoiding exploitative or insensitive material.

2. Conduct laboratory activities that allow students to use their own bodies. Everyone has been medically examined using equipment that they may find intimidating and foreign, so allowing students to use simple items to take physiological measurements makes real science reachable. When students understand what these numbers mean and what normal ranges and abnormal values indicate, concepts can be solidified. Get started with these classroom activities:

3.  When real-life experience is impossible, look for the next best thing. Images, animations, videos, and simulations abound in the world of anatomy and physiology for both states of health and disease.

  • The Visible Body. This website has apps of images and simulations that cost, but there is also free content available.
  • Videos Medical. A YouTube channel, this video series shows blood moving through a beating heart or bones and muscles putting the body in motion.
  • MedLinePlus Surgical Procedures. These videos show actual surgeries, from angioplasty to knee replacement. Warning: Some videos can be quite graphic, so preview thoroughly before introducing to students.

4. Explore and solve a medical mystery. Use case studies as a culminating activity to reinforce vocabulary and concepts. Alternatively, case studies could be the primary method for covering a unit. Although a complete inquiry process would most likely take much longer than allowable in a course, allowing students to form groups under a system of their choice would allow for more in-depth examination and understanding. Groups work independently then present their case study, course of action, and conclusions to the entire class. Students work together to learn the anatomical structures and major physiological concepts of their system, common disorders and diseases of the system, and methods and techniques used to examine and assess the system. Students could broaden their resources, reaching out to experts in the field locally or digitally, as available.

Remember to make instruction effective by engaging students right from the beginning, checking in using assessments and questioning, allowing for collaborative learning, and providing feedback throughout the learning process.

For more great anatomy and physiology teaching resources, try our biology worksheets and online biology lessons.

Dana Johnson is a freelance editor and writer specializing in science education. Using every bit of her experience as a corporate and government scientist, high school science teacher, and academic specialist, Dana creates, reviews, and edits premium science materials for secondary and higher education. She currently serves as Help Teaching’s biology subject matter expert. When not working away at her laptop, Dana loves reading, journaling in long hand, gardening, and patronizing the arts.

Chemistry & Forensics: Increasing Engagement Through An Integrated Approach

Chemistry & Forensics: Increasing Engagement Through an Integrated Approach

Popular television shows like Law & Order: SVU have captivated countless audiences by providing a bridge between chemistry, forensics, and the law.  Help Teaching understands the challenges of engaging students in chemistry as a discipline and as a practice. Here are some ideas and strategies to help make chemistry come alive through forensics during National Chemistry Week and throughout the year.

The Importance of Chemistry
Without chemistry, many modern-day forensic techniques would not be possible. Spectrophotometry, for example, uses knowledge of the reaction of substances with light to identify specific drugs, like morphine, present in corpses. Connections like these can help students to see the connection of chemistry to solving crimes and can serve as a way to motivate students every day. When presenting concepts in chemistry, try to find connections to forensic science that put real-world applications of chemistry into perspective. Some examples might include the following:

  • The use of chromatography to identify tartrazine (yellow #5 dye in M&M’s that can cause allergic reactions)
  • The use of atomic emission in flame tests to identify compounds that are fatal to humans, like potassium chloride
  • How arsenic’s chemical and physical properties are used to identify it as the poison responsible for various murders

When making these connections, also be sure to include one or two real-world case studies that involve the concept being explored. This can help students to find concrete meaning and relevance in the topics that they are learning, no matter how abstract. As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, That’s all well and good, but how do I find these connections? It’s important to consult a variety of web-based resources, both formal and informal, for this purpose. Here are some invaluable resources to help bridge the gap:

  1. Careers in Forensic Chemistry – What better way to kick off the beginning of the year than by introducing students to the possibility of a career in forensic chemistry? Students will love the idea of being able to work with and analyze blood, poisons, and metals in bullets.
  2. Chemistry & Forensic Science in America provides a historical timeline of how chemistry was used to make important advances in the field of forensic toxicology. This timeline can be consulted throughout the year as a resource to motivate and intrigue students. Some possible points of interest include an exploration of chemical and physical properties of the element radium in early 20th Century America and an introduction to types of chemical reactions through a discussion of the Marsh Test in detecting the presence of arsenic in human tissue.

Using Forensic Science to Promote Rigor in Chemistry
With increased demands for rigor in the classroom, chemistry teachers also are faced with how to incorporate discussion and literacy, while still delivering content in a relevant and accessible way. Books and literature directly relating chemistry to forensic science provide vantage points from which to plan activities that can promote college and career readiness. Specifically, by identifying the chemical principles and properties involved in forensic techniques, like the Griess test for ballistics analysis, students can begin to think more actively about why knowledge of chemistry matters. At the same time, students can be taught important skills, including annotation and asking questions showing evidence of critical thinking. Having students engage in laboratory activities and write reports centered around the scientific method builds a classroom culture of inquiry-based learning. To foster a culture of rigorous learning that’s also fun and engaging, start with these resources that you can start using in your classroom today:

  1. The Poisoner’s Handbook can be used as a video to kick off a unit on nuclear chemistry or on the Periodic Table, with a focus on early American medicine. The Poisoner’s Handbook has also been published as a book, which could serve as a book that students refer to throughout the year to encourage discussion and literacy in chemistry to support the Common Core Learning Standards.
  2. Chymist – Forensic Chemistry provides a list of invaluable resources from which to download class readings and investigations as they relate to important topics in forensic investigation. These articles help to encourage literacy and can serve as introductions to experiments that students conduct in the classroom.

Resources for Forensic Science Lessons in Chemistry
Incorporating forensic science into chemistry requires careful planning to ensure that delivery of content and skills does not fall to the wayside. With this in mind, it’s important to find resources that will help to build and enhance your units of study most effectively. To that effect, below are some key resources that we’ve compiled here at Help Teaching to help you get started:

  1. ACS: Celebrating Chemistry provides a list of fun and engaging forensics-based activities to try with your class.
  2. Forensics from nclark.net provides links to a multitude of resources that relate forensic science and chemistry to one another. Using these resources, you can find various experiments and activities to cover topics and skills that are being taught in your classroom, while simultaneously engaging students.
  3. CSI Web Adventures offers a collection of interactive cases based upon the television series. Cases range in difficulty level and make for engaging activities to hook middle school and high school students interested in learning about forensics.

Teaching chemistry to students who have no prior experience can be a daunting task. However, approaching chemistry from the perspective of society and the law can open new doors and leave a lasting effect on students.

Have other ideas about how to teach chemistry through forensics? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below. Also, make sure to check out Help Teaching for chemistry worksheets and online chemistry lessons.

Looking for more great science teaching ideas? Read our Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science!

 

How to Encourage Positive Social Media Use for Students

How to Encourage Positive Social Media Use for Students
Social media is a regular part of students’ lives. They use it to communicate with friends, share photos and post status updates on a regular basis. In fact, 92 percent of teens, ages 13-17, report going online daily.

Unfortunately, this shift to more online communication has also brought more bullying into schools. Around 80 percent of young people believe that bullying is easier to do online and 43 percent of kids have experienced cyber-bullying, according to DoSomething.org.

However, teachers don’t need to make students to put away their phones. Instead, teachers can use these tools in the learning process. Not only will this help make learning more relevant, but it’s also an opportunity to encourage positive social media use – something students don’t learn about enough.

You don’t need to drop all the books and completely change course. Rather, bring social media into the classroom in small amounts, using projects or research as a chance to talk about positive and appropriate use of social media. Here are a few ways to make this work in your classroom. 

Bring it Into Your Lessons

You don’t need to create social-media specific lessons to teach students how to use social media in a positive way. Simply bring these tools into your current lesson plans, giving them a chance to learn by doing.

Here are a few fun and simple ideas to do just that:

Use Twitter to Research: Show students that Twitter can be used for more than sharing their personal thoughts. Ask them to research and source at least three tweets for their next project. This will also give them a chance to practice deciphering between good and bad sources of information.

Use Blogs for Work: Teach students that they can put their thoughts onto “paper” and share the final product with the world by bringing blogging into your classroom. Not only will they get a thrill from sharing the work they put so much time into, but this also gives them experience with using various blogging tools and writing web content; skills that are quickly becoming required of 21st century students.

Use Social Platforms in a Different Way

Students use Pinterest to share funny memes and products that they want to buy. But this tool—and others—can be used in so many different ways in the classroom. Use the following ideas to show students how multi-dimensional these social platforms are.

Historical Figures’ Facebook Pages: Have students create a Facebook page for a historical figure of their choice. They’ll need to show you that they know everything about this character by creating status updates and filling out the varisous sections such as, “about me” and “interests.” (Idea from EdTechTimes.com)

Current Events Pinterest Boards: Each student creates their own board and adds a new current every week—or with whatever frequency you assign this task. Encourage students to go onto Pinterest and comment on their peers’ posts, allowing them to collaborate and socialize with an educational mindset.

Create Class-Specific Social Groups

For most students, social media is used to chat with friends and share photos. With a classroom account, students can still do that, but within the framework of education and school. While you can use these groups to share homework, give test reminders, and further cultivate your classroom community, classroom social groups provide you with a great opportunity to encourage positive social media use.

For example:

Create group rules: Every student must abide by the rules, including using appropriate language, proper spelling—you not u; your not ur—which may translate to their social media use outside of school.

Create an anonymous concern form: Many students won’t report cyber-bullying for fear of someone finding out—90 percent of teens who have seen it say they ignored it. Provide students with a Google Form they can use to share any issues they’re having in the classroom group with regards to cyber-bullying or poor language use. While you should be constantly monitoring these platforms, students could write something and delete it before you see it.

Use Social-Focused Tools

If you or your students aren’t ready to fully use social media in the classroom, use tools that have similar collaboration and social features. This gives you a chance to lay down ground rules and set expectations for social media use without allowing students to log into Facebook in the middle of class. Try one of these simple tools.

Whooo’s Reading: Students call this tool “Facebook for reading,” because it incorporates many similar features of Facebook including commenting and “liking.” However, it also uses gamification features to motivate students to read more, while using fun CCSS-aligned comprehension questions to ensure they understand the text.

Google Docs: Allow students to use Google Docs for peer reviewing. With this tool, they can collaborate and comment in real-time, similar to Facebook. Use this as a chance to talk about what makes an appropriate and helpful comment, versus one that is mean or inappropriate.

Diigo: Students use this web platform to tag websites, create a personal library, share with classmates, and structure research. This puts an educational spin on sharing and online chatting, while allowing you to monitor and guide the process and conversation.

Bringing social media into your classroom isn’t just about engagement, or giving students what they want, it can be beneficial in teaching how to use these platforms correctly. With cyber-bullying and teen social media use at an all-time high, teachers have an opportunity to change the course.

Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, a San Diego-based education organization that offers Read-A-Thon fundraisers and reading motivation tools for teachers and schools. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their new ebook, How to Bring Technology Into the Classroom, just $2.99 on Amazon.com.

 

Ultimate Guide to Crafts for Kids

Ultimate Guide to Crafts for Kids
Kids love crafts (and many grown-ups do too). Sites like Pinterest are full of craft ideas for kids, but sometimes you don’t feel like wading through all of the pins. When you’re short on time or aren’t quite sure what you’re looking for, there are plenty of craft sites ready to help you out. Whether you want to celebrate National Craft Month in March, find a craft to go along with a lesson, or just do a craft with the kids, we’ve rounded up a collection of the best craft sites to help you find the perfect craft for kids. With over 50 kid-friendly resources, you’ll be getting crafty in no time!

General Crafts

Many craft sites cover all subjects and seasons. These are some of our favorites both for the amount of craft ideas they offer and the quality of the ideas they provide.

Our Top Pick Red Ted Art’s motto is “Bringing Color & Art to Children’s Hearts.” This site is full or really neat ideas to encourage children to develop their creative side. Crafts are organized by category and range from making gifts to designing your own board games.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts organizes its craft ideas by time of year, category, and material. For example, if you have a wealth of empty toilet paper tubes, you can see a list of crafts that will help you use them up.

Enchanted Learning’s crafts section includes craft ideas for nearly every holiday and category. The crafts include a mix of printables and simple paper-based crafts. Most are appropriate for preschool and early elementary school.

DLTK’s Crafts for Kids is another quintessential crafts site, with a large selection of crafts for preschool and early elementary school. One section of the site is entirely devoted to printable crafts, which are ideal for those who want simple crafts with little mess.

First Palette includes a large selection of crafts searchable by theme, occasion, and age. Crafts range from toddler to ages 9 and up. While the site does have some printable crafts, many are slightly more involved crafts that will require grown-up participation.

Crayola has a great selection of crafts that can be made with Crayola projects. You can filter by age (12 months-12+ years), category, and color.

Storybook Crafts and Favorite Characters

Younger kids love to create crafts related to their favorite stories and characters. These sites take some of the most popular picture books and cartoon characters and pair them with great crafts for kids.

Our Top Pick Kids Activities Blog has gathered up 100 crafts inspired by children’s books. These include crafts from books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Knuffle Bunny.

No Time for Flashcards features a list of 25 books with crafts to match. Find a book you want to read with young kids and a relevant craft beside it. It can’t get much easier than that.

The Picture Book Professor offers many holiday and seasonal booklists that are accompanied by relevant crafts for kids.

PBS Kids crafts for kids page features crafts for many of kids’ favorite PBS shows, such as Peg+Cat, Sesame Street, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Many of the crafts are involved and require grown-up participation.

Disney Family offers many different craft ideas featuring favorite Disney characters. Many of the crafts are designed to be completed by families, which means they have steps that will be difficult for little kids.

Bible Crafts

Bible crafts can help kids learn more about key events and lessons in the Bible. These sites are perfect for Christian homeschoolers, Sunday school teachers, and parents who want to bring Bible lessons into the home.

Our Top Pick DLTK’s Bible Crafts features a large selection of craft ideas organized by animals, general Bible crafts, Old Testament crafts, and New Testament crafts. Their offerings include printable crafts and many crafts that use items found around your home.

Danielle’s Place offers a massive selection of Bible stories and crafts for kids. Crafts are organized alphabetically by story. Each story is also accompanied by fun games.

Christian Preschool Printables focuses on easy-to-use printable crafts for kids. Crafts are organized by Old Testament, New Testament, and Holidays.

Meaningful Mama created a list of 100 Best Bible Crafts for Kids. The crafts are organized by major stories in the Bible.

Edible Crafts

With these edible crafts, you can have your crafts and eat them too. These sites offer crafts for a range of ages, from young kids who like to play with their food to older kids who are starting experiment in the kitchen.

Our Top Pick EdibleCraftsOnline.com includes a large assortment of edible crafts for kids and adults. Many of the crafts are focused on special occasions.

Kinder Art shares a solid collection of recipes and edible crafts for kids. Many are simple enough to made by younger kids, with some grown-up supervision.

Cute Food for Kids features many neat ideas to help parents make kids’ food playful and fun. While many of these ideas are designed for parents, kids can help with the process.

Imperial Sugar offers many edible art projects that incorporate sugar and also includes fun science experiments as well.

Fun Family Crafts has an extensive archive of edible crafts, including some inspired by kids’ favorite movies.

Science and Nature Crafts

Science and nature crafts are a great way to get kids to have fun while learning more about the world around them. These sites include crafts made from materials found in nature and science experiments to help kids learn more about the world of science.

Our Top Pick Tinkerlab features a variety of crafts and other projects designed to get kids thinking. Its offerings include many crafts related to science and nature that are great for upper elementary school.

Science Kids offers many fun science experiments and crafts designed to help kids learn more about how the world works. Ideas range from making eggs float to building parachutes.

The Craft Crow features crafts designed to help kids learn about science while being creative as well. Many of the activities repurpose the same materials in multiple ways.

32 Awesome Things to Make with Nature from Buzzfeed is full of clever craft ideas. While many of the ideas are designed for adults, they can easily be adapted to be fun for kids too.

Activity Village offers a nice selection of crafts designed to be used with leaves, pine cones, and other easy-to-find objects from nature. Many crafts can be enjoyed by younger kids too.

National Geographic features a selection of crafts designed for kids in elementary and middle school. Many of the crafts are designed to go along with National Geographic articles or programming.

Recycled Crafts

Rather than wasting paper and other items, why not make crafts from items you can find around your home? Kids can have fun and help save the environment at the same time.

Our Top Pick Education.com’s Recycled Crafts section includes tons of craft ideas, from using old Christmas lights to creating a classic tin can phone.

Fave Crafts shares its list of 1000+ Recycled Crafts. This extensive list features crafts for both kids and adults and all of them use recycled items.

Planetpals is all about saving the Earth and it continues its mission through its collection of recycled crafts for kids.

Math Crafts

Sometimes right-brained students have a hard time grasping math. Bringing craft projects into the math classroom can help students grasp difficult concepts in fun ways.

Our Top Pick Lalymom offers a list of 20 different math activities activities that all use the same main material – craft sticks! These activities are designed for preschool and early elementary school and help kids learn a range of basic math skills.

Nurture Store created a list of 100 hands-on, creative math activities for kids. Many of the items on the lists are crafts kids can complete. Activities are organized by skill, such as addition and subtraction and learning symmetry.

The Art Curator for Kids offers 13 Ways to Integrate Art & Math, a list of 13 different art projects connected with math. Ideas include tessellations and color wheel clocks. The site also includes a list of books that combine math and art.

We Are Teachers shares a list of 9 math art projects designed to help students love math. Ideas include musical fractions and place value pictures.

Social Studies Crafts

Craft projects can help kids experience the time period or event they’re learning about. Many of these sites offer projects that allow kids to make replicas of toys and tools found in history.

Our Top PickTime Traveller Kids is a British site that offers a wealth of free project ideas from different periods in history, including Ancient Rome, Japan, and Tudor Britain.

A Book in Time includes many resources for teaching social studies, including pages of crafts and projects organized by periods in American and world history.

Quatr.us offers a “What Should I Do Today?” section with a variety of social studies crafts. The site also has tons of articles on many different social studies topics.

Gifts for Others

Rather than spending tons of money on holiday gifts, why not have kids make gifts for friends and family? These sites offer some great handmade gift ideas.

Our Top Pick FreeKidsCrafts.com has over 10 pages of crafts that kids can make as gifts for others. Ideas range from candy towers to glittery acorn necklaces. Many ideas are great for upper elementary and middle school.

101 DIY Gifts for Kids from Kids Activities Blog includes a large selection of ideas for both kids and parents to make.

101 Crafty Gifts to Make from Instructables is a list designed for adults, but many of the ideas could easily be made by older kids and teens as well.

40 Useful Gifts Kids Can Make is full of great crafty gift ideas. It includes gift such as handprint aprons and handmade bowls. Many will require help from a grown-up.

101 Handmade Gift Ideas Kids and Families Can Make from the Artful Parent is a great collection of crafty ideas. The crafts are organized by gift type, such as art gift, gifts for play, and gifts for the home.

Coloring Pages and Cut-Outs

Sometimes instead of making fancy crafts, kids just like to color. Pick up cheap coloring books at the dollar store or print them out from these sites.

Our Top Pick Babadoodle features free coloring pages for kids and adults. Colorings pages are organized by category and include many mandala coloring pages.

Coloring.ws from DLTK is full of simple coloring pages organized by category and holiday. Print them out and let kids color away.

Crayola offers many free coloring pages, including pages featuring some of kids’ favorite characters, such as the Disney Princesses.

Educational Coloring Pages has thousands of coloring pages for kids featuring their favorite cartoon characters.

The Kidz Page has a large selection of printable and online coloring pages organized by category and holiday. They include many early elementary pages.

HelpTeaching.com’s Early Education printables feature coloring pages designed to help preschoolers learn their letters and numbers.

Craft Kits and Subscriptions

If even searching for craft ideas for kids is too much work, consider getting a subscription to a craft box or purchasing a craft kit.

Our Top Pick Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription box that includes a different craft or maker project each month. It is designed for children ages 5-8, but the company offers other boxes for kids from ages 3-16.

Green Kid Crafts features monthly subscription kits for kids ages 3-10. Each kit is focused around a different educational theme and comes with STEAM activities for kids.

Bramble Box is a pretend play and craft kit that is delivered to your door monthly. Kids will enjoy exploring and reading about a monthly theme, and then creating a craft related to it. Many themes relate to math, science, and social studies, so it’s educational too!

Science Buddies sells kits to help kids learn about science while making their own fun toys, such as vibrating robots and a magic bullet train.

Oriental Trading is known for its pre-made crafts for kits. Many of the kits come in multi-packs, which makes them great for play dates or classroom craft time.

Tips for Crafting with Kids

Before you start a craft project with kids, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Gather all of your materials in advance
  2. The kids will be ready to get started right away, so you want to make sure you have everything ready to go.

  3. Be patient and flexible
  4. It may take kids a long time to complete a step and they may not do it perfectly, but you need to step back and let them craft their own way and at their own pace. If their snowman comes out looking for like a snowball, who cares?

  5. Prepare for the worst
  6. Crafts are designed to be messy. Cover your dining room table, put newspaper or plastic on the floor, and let kids wear a large paint shirt so you’re not as worried about the mess.

  7. Have fun
  8. Why let your kids have all the fun? Summon your inner-child and have some fun getting messy and making the crafts with them.

Do you have a go-to craft site or a great craft idea with kids? How about tips for parents and teachers taking on a big craft project? We’d love if you shared it with us.

Get Ready for School with a Social Studies Reading List

Social Studies Reading List

The first day of a new school year is right around the corner! Ease back into learning mode with these social studies book offerings that will be sure to spark interest and prepare your elementary or middle schooler for another school year.

Geography

Geography is an oft overlooked, but essential component of learning. It crosses over into other subject areas, and provides a basis for learning about historical and modern events, particularly relating to their causes and effects.

The 50 States by Gabrielle Balkan (grades 2 – 5)

This fact filled atlas devotes an entire spread to each state, including an oversize map and tons of trivia. It even has an accompanying activity book that includes stickers and games!

When on Earth? (grades 3 – 7)

This compilation uses illustrated and annotated maps from around the world to explain major historical events across four distinct and chronological eras. The bright colors, historical facts, and connections across places and time makes this a wonderful primer for the impact of geography on history across time.

Primary Sources

Every social studies classroom uses primary sources to teach about historical events, while integrating the thinking skills of interpretation and analysis. Primary sources come in many different forms, as indicated by the list below.

A Primary Source History of the American Revolution by Sarah Powers Webb (grades 3 – 4)

This books uses newspaper articles, personal accounts, and other primary sources to put the reader in America as they fight for their freedom from the British in the late 18th century.

Dreams of Freedom: In Words and Pictures by Amnesty International (grades 2 – 6)

This collection lists basic freedoms that all should enjoy, accompanied by a quote from famous human rights champions, such as Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai. There is also an illustration depicting the freedom and the quote. Pairing words and accessible art is a terrific way to encourage analysis and thoughtfulness in young adults.

Biography

Accessible biographies are not always easy to come by, but those that integrate learning with easy to read text engross young readers in magical stories of those who dared to make a difference.

Heroes of History by Anita Ganeri (grades 2 – 4)

More than a simple retelling of history’s fascinating figures, this book aims to educate though entertaining. Fictionalized diary entries combined with important historical facts take young readers on an adventure with every page.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hammer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford (grades 6 – 12)

Hammer’s fascinating struggle is told in verse and in the first person. A seminal civil rights figure, her story should be read by many, and the unique storytelling model used in this book will surely hook young readers.

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown (grades K – 4)

For students aware of the Hamilton craze gripping the country, this picture book gives some further historical meaning to Alexander Hamilton and a score that was settled many years ago.

Taking Action

The social studies classroom aims to not only teach about the people and cultures of the world, but also to ingrain a sense of community among our students. Building better citizens is just as, if not more important than the facts, years, and events that so many of us cling to. The books below enlighten students to those who go above and beyond to help others, and hopefully, will encourage them to embrace service and good deeds.

Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities by George Ancona (grades 1 – 4)

Many schools are instituting service learning requirements, while other encourage students to be more community minded. This book chronicles real life kids helping the less fortunate in their own communities. An inspiring and educational look at those who make our world a better place.

The Great Depression for Kids: Hardship and Hope in the 1930s by Cheryl Mullenbach (grades 4 – 7)

Well organized account of the Great Depression with a special focus on how neighbors helped each other through extremely difficult conditions. This puts a historical spin on community service and service based learning.

As the beach and vacation filled days of August come upon kids, it’s important to subtly integrate learning into their lives. Finding the right way to do that is often a fool’s errand, but the books above will grease the wheels of learning as September approaches without destroying the joy of the last days of summer.

How to Motivate Students to Read More

How to Motivate Students to Read More
Many teachers struggle with motivating students to do more independent reading, especially when that reading happens at home. Whether students don’t like reading, or simply would prefer to play their favorite video game, it’s a head scratcher for even the savviest teachers.

However, you don’t have to take “Ehh, I just don’t feel like reading” for an answer any more. Use these strategies to motivate students to read more at home.

Make the Process More Fun

Students love video games and social media because they’re fun—and there’s no reason why reading shouldn’t be fun too. Use these websites to motivate students to read more at home without you pushing them to do so.

Bookopolis: The best book recommendations for students come from their peers. The website Bookopolis aims to give students the recommendations they’re looking for, with thousands of student-written book reviews. With the whole class signed up, students can recommend specific books to their friends and browse pre-made book lists to discover their next favorite read.

Whooo’s Reading: This online reading log platform motivates students to read more with extrinsic rewards. Students earn Wisdom Coins for logging reading, answering open-ended, reading comprehension questions and interacting with peers in their private newsfeed. These coins are used to “buy” accessories for their Owlvatar—students want to have the coolest Owlvatar in their class, motivating them to read and log more. You’ll be surprised how quickly these extrinsic rewards help develop an intrinsic desire to read more.
Storyline Online: This website provides audio books, with a twist. Rather than simply listening to the book, students watch a video of the person reading the book, so they see the actual book while listening. Some stories are even read by famous people, like Betty White.

Give Them a Greater Purpose

If students know they’re reading for a greater purpose—like helping impoverished children—they may want to read more. Here are a few worthy programs to join:

Read to Succeed: This program, offered by Six Flags, gives students free tickets to the nearest Six Flags after completing at least six hours of recreational—not assigned through school—reading. This program is free for teachers and schools to participate in.

Students Helping Students: Room to Read offers a fundraiser read-a-thon, where students read to raise money that goes toward helping impoverished children around the world gain access to schools and books.

Give Them Access to New Books

One of the reasons students cite for not reading more is not having a book or not knowing what book they want to read next. Luckily this is an easy battle to win—there are plenty of ways to get more books in the hands of your students.

Here are a few options:

Epic! Books: This service gives students, ages 12 and younger, access to more than 10,000 digital books. The program is free for elementary teachers and librarians to participate in, and provides students with a wide range of popular titles such Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See and the Goosebumps series.

First Book Marketplace: If you work at a Title 1 school, you’re eligible to purchase books through First Book Marketplace at 50-90 percent off below retail price. Books are available for children up to 18 years of age, with a variety of popular and classic titles available, along with STEM resources and college-prep materials.

Thrift Books: This online bookstore honors the work teachers and educators do with a 15 percent discount on book sets (20 or more titles). If you’re looking to stock your classroom, this is a great way to do it.

Reading Resource Project: Use this website to give your classroom library a complete overhaul. Educators can order a collection of 100 books—you choose the collection, whether it’s a mix of titles and genres, or books about specific things, such as animals, food, science and more—and then simply pay shipping, which comes out to $.88 per student. Books are distributed many times a year, including on Read Across America Day, National Drop Everything and Read Day and Children’s Book Week.

Free Audio Books: There are dozens of sites available that offer free audio books. Check out Ambling Books and Librophile. Get a full list of free audio book websites here.

Once you have all of these books in your classroom, you’ll need to implement a book lending process so students can take them home, if you haven’t already. Use these tips to create this system and making your classroom library more interactive.

Motivating your students to read more at home can be a difficult process. However, with multiple strategies at play, it becomes easier to get every student in your classroom reading more every single day.

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Whooo’s Reading, a San Diego-based education organization that motivates students to read more every day. It’s available to teachers, schools and districts. Jessica grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their new ebook, How to Bring Technology Into the Classroom, just $2.99 on Amazon.com.

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