Monday, November 3, 2014

Anchor Activities via the Digital Playground

An anchor activity is a differentiated learning tool available to students once the intended class lesson is complete.  These activities are meant to tie to the curriculum and support the learning goals for the unit.  Anchor activities offer students extended learning opportunities to reinforce what they should Know, Understand and be able to Do (KUD).

Back in the day, anchor activities may have been displayed on a classroom bulletin board in folders housing worksheet practice and (if the students were lucky) tactile learning games.  Fortunately, the 1:1 classroom now offers a whole new look.  While pencil paper activities have their place and tactile games can still spike interest, game based learning, gamification and digital or online textbook resources also offer a vast array of options for anchor activities.

Here are a few ideas to welcome your anchor activities to the digital playground:

Digital Playlists

Consider having a "Digital Playlist" that houses the anchor activities for the learning goals.  You can arrange them any way you choose!  Here are some platforms great for creating your digital playlists:
  • Create hyperlinks and/or games and activities via any of the following platforms.  
    • Google docs and/or Google Spreadsheets
    • Wikispaces (Create a space by units for anchor activities)
    • Livebinder (Create a binder with folders for each unit)
    • Symbaloo (Create a Symbaloo board of urls)
    • Padlet (Create a Padlet wall for each unit)
    • Blendspace (Create a Blendspace of activities by unit)
    • Socrative (Create your own activities for students to access)
    • Quia (Search for teacher made activities and/or make your own)
    • QuizletStudyBlue (Search for already made flashcards or make your own, but both site turns cards into practice with games/activities)
    • Memrise (A shoutout for my fellow world language teachers. This site is great! You can create a course, find a course and/or have students create their own courses by units!)
  • Embed a table of your hyperlinked playlist into class blog and/or website. Below is an example:
Social Media & Back Channels for KUDs
Many social media sites can serve as a dual role for back channels.  First here are a few social media sites that are perfect

  • EdmodoGoogle Communities (Share playlists and/or pose questions for students to show off KUDs by posting to the community)
  • Twitter (Let students show what they KUD in 140 characters or less! Add this to a playlist)
  • Tagboard (Create a class hashtag that students can show off their KUD via any social media platform using your class hashtag. This site then collects all responses using that hashtag and collects them onto one online Tagboard)

Back channels are an interesting way to let students extend their learning time.  Consider having a parking lot of questions to get the students thinking about the learning goals for the unit.  This would be ideal for several students or more ready for extended learning time as the more the merrier in this platform.  When creating questions for the back channel you may want to offer questions that push students beyond simple yes/no responses and encourages conversations about the learning targets. Here are a few sites to use:

  • Backchannel (While this does cost money, it is relatively cheap at $15 per month.)
  • Today's Meet (Pose questions for each unit for students to respond to throughout the unit)
  • Tweetdeck (Use the scheduling feature to push out questions, videos or links for students to comment on)
These are just a few ideas for you to toss your anchor activities into the digital playground!  At the front of a unit, let your students know where to find the anchor activities.  Every minute counts! It is up to you, the teacher, to encourage students to stay "anchored" in learning from bell to bell. Help students find the value in filling every minute of class with activities that support their learning! When you see a student wrap up a lesson direct him/her to your digital playlist for the unit.  Student voice and choice makes all the difference in students guiding their own learning. Let them choose which activities to play and/or work on.  Let them offer new activities to add to the digital playlist or even allow them to develop their own games to support the learning goals!  The more activities and encouragement you provide your students the more you will begin to see them guide their own learning using anchor activities.