December, for most schools with a traditional schedule in the United States, means a couple of things.
The end of the semester is close.
Final exams are upon us.
And if we’re not careful, we’ll have bored, disengaged and often rambunctious kids after they’re done with their marathon tests. Class periods for final exams in my school district, for example, last more than an hour and can go as long as 100 minutes with built-in study times.
Students have plenty of options to keep their brains busy after they turn in their tests (or hit “submit” for the electronic version). Here are 10 of them that have caught my eye. If there’s one I’ve missed, be sure to add it in the comments section below!
1. Free Rice
Free Rice is a great combination of educational learning and doing something to help the less-fortunate. At Free Rice, students can answer questions in a variety of categories — humanities, math, English, languages, chemistry, geography, sciences and test prep. With every correct answer, Free Rice donates rice through the United Nations World Food Programme.
As a world language teacher, Duolingo has a special place in my heart. Forget expensive Rosetta Stone software. Duolingo teaches world languages online for free. Plus, it does it with a greater purpose: translations done on Duolingo help to translate the web. Duolingo boasts “a college-quality education without the pricetag.” A study found that an average of 34 hours of work on Duolingo covered the same amount of material as a first-semester college language course.
3. TED Talks
TED labels its speeches as “Ideas worth spreading.” Many of them are certainly ideas our students could stand to hear and be inspired by. TED (which stands for technology, entertainment and design) is a group that produces conferences where “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers … are challenged to give the talk of their lives.” TED Talks are far-ranging and are almost always fascinating to watch, often prompting great thinking about the topics. With some free time after exams, fire up the projector or turn students loose with their earbuds. Here’s a good one to start with — “Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms.”
The Smithsonian gathers great exhibitions in its museums on an ongoing basis. If you can’t make it to one of them in person, the next best thing is a virtual exhibition. The Smithsonian gathers wonderful, media-rich collections of culture, history and more on its website. The institution offered 368 virtual exhibitions as of publication of this post. One exhibition I teach from almost every year is about the “Queen of Latin Music” Celia Cruz. The virtual exhibition includes audio and video clips of her music, a thorough exploration of her life and photos of her audacious wardrobe from her shows.
This is just one of the BBC’s great educational subsites that tackle an individual topic in an engaging, fun format. This one gives students a creative look at the body with quizzes and interactive activities. Students can learn about the psychology of pressure in sports. They can take a quiz on whether they have more of a “man’s brain” or a “woman’s brain.” They can also view video clips to determine whether someone is using a fake smile or a real smile. There’s plenty of content to keep students engaged!
If you haven’t checked out NBC Learn’s vast array of resources, you’re missing out on quality, professional digital video and interactive activities that can be implemented in your classroom immediately. (Plus, if you’re an Indiana educator, you have free access to all of NBC Learn’s content.) NBC Learn’s free resources include “Science of …” a number of different professional sports, which the athletes in your classes will love. The NFL section, for example, uses the Pythagorean Theorem and Newton’s Laws of Motion to explain — with stunning graphics and videos — how football happens. Other sports include golf, hockey and winter Olympics.
The New York Times is unparalleled in its quality writing and captivating photos. In this project, the Times’s journalists went into New York City and found 54 unique individuals with compelling stories to tell. They captured their stories in audio and stunning black-and-white photos. Subjects range from “The Boat Dweller” to “The Rookie Detective” to “The Sneaker Connoisseur.” There’s plenty of listening and viewing pleasure to be had in this selection.
As a teacher of high school students, I often end up slanting my examples and digital tools to those that high school students would most likely use (which I will continue to try to improve upon!). This one, however, is for younger students — younger readers, to be more specific. The Magic Tree House books are part of a New York Times bestseller by Mary Pope Osborne. This site takes students on a magical voyage to various locations around the planet like China and the Arctic on missions. My daughter loves this site and would spend hours on it. It’s a great interactive educational experience.
I can see how this one could get addicting in a hurry. The Blood Typing Game, supported by the Nobel Prize’s website, helps students see how blood types are figured and how the components of blood are important in transfusions. Students take the place of a doctor and must test blood and deliver transfusions to patients. The graphics in this game are great, and students can get the gist of how blood types work very quickly.
10. Darfur is Dying
This game takes students to Darfur and the oppressive living conditions that the Darfurians face. Using a well designed Flash interface, students can help refugees forage for water, plant crops and distribute medical supplies. Millions of people have played the game, and it shows students the life and survival of Darfur refugee camps in very little time. The game also connects players with opportunities to help the situation in real life, including writing letters and starting movements on their own campuses.
What are some other sites worth sending students to after their final exams are complete? Please share them with us in a comment below!
Matt is scheduled to present at the following conferences this school year:
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