The only real consensus our 2nd grade team had on the needs assessment was that they thought their students needed lessons on…well…how to be better students. People often call this “study skills” but I try to use the term “learning skills” or “learner skills” because I think it better captures what we mean when we’re talking about elementary age kids.
Faced with a boring topic and a tricky grade level, my co-counselor and I decided we needed to make these lessons super, extra, engaging. Our students actually have very little screen time during the day (we don’t have much technology in our building), so we thought animated and interactive PowerPoints would be fun for them. We wanted to provide as much continuity between the lessons as we could as well (see this post on how we do our core curriculum for more on this) so even though there is some overlap between the skills, we added in a theme as well: Super Students. I give some credit here to my fantastic co-counselor who went to Ron Clark Academy last spring and really convinced me to up our game in “setting the stage to engage.”
The first lesson provided students with an introduction to the unit as well as an introduction to the idea that their habits/choices as students effect their learning. We set the stage by introducing our fictional “Ms. Lurnur” and her class of students that had somehow fallen off the track towards becoming “super students.” I’m not sure what the best way is to blog about a lesson that is predominantly PowerPoint, so I’ll just include several of the screenshots as I write out what we did!
And then we invited the students to become detectives to investigate what the problem was! We got them up out of their seats with prompts like “go put a detective hat on a classmate”, “make sure everyone has a magnifying glass”, and “pull your notebook out of your pocket” (all imaginary of course). We considered bringing min magnifying glasses for everyone but realized that with this group of kiddos, that would prove super distracting!
For the investigation, we showed students graphics of students engaging in poor study habits and then asked them to discuss what they saw and what the consequences of the choices would be – first whole group and then with different partners (in order to incorporate peer interaction and movement).
With the mystery solved, we told our students that if they completed a challenge, they could get Ms. Lurnur’s class closer being back on track. With the exception of a couple nuggets, they were hooked and jazzed for a challenge. This lesson’s challenge was to “spot the super skills”. We showed them slides filled with people doing various things and told them to find the one showing a skill that would help them learn their best. They spotted the skill, wrote it on a whiteboard, and then stood up to show us they were done. When about 3/4 had spotted it, students held up their boards and then we went to the next slide (showing the correct picture enlarged and the skill/behavior listed).
Once they’d spotted them all (we did about six of these), we showed them how they’d gotten Ms. Lurnur’s class closer to becoming super students and did an exit ticket. When we had time, students actually wrote these out. When we were more limited, they shared with a partner and then a few shared out with the group. We listed potential responses on a slide for them because, at least at our school, second graders in October need a lot of scaffolding.
This really stretched our brains – and I’ll admit it was a lot of work to create it all – but it worked out so well and having this no prep lesson ready to go for next year will be worth it. Although I love working with elementary kiddos, I don’t tend to go “cutesy” with things, and I don’t do much pretend play either. That said, I’m really glad I pushed myself and got creative with this. I’d love to hear from some of you about how you set the stage and make ‘boring’ lessons both engaging and effective!
Want to buy this PPT already made (but editable) for yourself? Click below to find it on my shop.