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Teacher Tip: Fight the Third Quarter Slump

Keep your students motivated during the long winter months with these handy classroom tips and tricks

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can start our final countdown to the holiday break, which gives us teachers time to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate ourselves for the new semester. In my experience, the third quarter is always a tough one for students. To help get ahead of the curve, here are a few fun ideas to keep students motivated and help counteract the third quarter slump.

1. Introduce a new techie tool

At this point in the school year, class routine is set. Teachers may already use a few techie tools, but it never hurts to add a new one to your arsenal. I suggest these hot ticket items!

  • Padlet is a virtual wall that allows students to easily express ideas, post videos or documents, and collaborate. Although it can be used in any subject and in a variety of ways, one way to maximize its utility is for student study sessions. Post a video of a topic you are getting ready to introduce and allow the students to ask and answer questions. The best part is there is a free trial period!
  • Wonderopolis is a place of wonder, literally! The site provides engaging questions and peaks a student’s curiosity. There are a variety of topics to explore, including a math page.

2. Find a new way to motivate students

At this point in the school year, you know what makes your students tick. Ever had a small piece of candy yield BIG results or hold a peer competition to drive results? Sometimes that’s all it takes. Disclaimer: While I am big believer in the concept of practice (homework) improving skills, especially in math, I also have learned over the years that not all students need to practice every concept. When I was in the classroom, I typically leveled my homework assignments, which only took 15-20 minutes on average for students to complete. Here are some other great motivators:

  • Math Test Motivator: My assistant principal introduced this idea to me and I will admit I was very skeptical at first. Here is how it works: Each student who made an A on their math test receive a homework pass that’s valid until the next test. The student’s required to get a parent signature to “activate” the homework pass. Then, when teachers come around to check homework, the student presents the coveted homework pass on their desk in place of their work. It doesn’t take long for students to make the connection between homework practice and success on a test! It’s also a real motivator. It wasn’t long before I was a believer of this motivator method!
  • Classroom Homework Teamwork Competition: This often worked for my lower level students and the reward varied from year to year but usually involved food. The competition begins after the first five homework assignments of the quarter. Anyone who completes all five assignments benefits by choosing their team. Each student chosen has the right to accept or decline the invitation. Then work your way down from 80% complete choosing their team and so on. Once the teams are formed, have them exchange contact information so if they have homework questions, they can reach out to each other as well as motivate each other. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about ways to motivate others and not bully them into doing their assignments. Each time the entire team completes a homework assignment, the team receives a point.  We kept the tally on the board and after each unit test, the team with the most points was the winner. Then the team has the option to stay together or separate. This allows students to not get stuck with someone who never did their work but also helps them see the value in choosing a team in which each person participates toward a common goal (what a great life skill, right?). If students are caught copying homework, their entire team is disqualified for the remainder of the round. 

Battling the third quarter slump is always challenging. Find a new way to motivate your students.

3. Tap into current events

The spring semester is the perfect time to incorporate global studies into math lessons. There are many holidays and annual events to incorporate into curriculum to break up the monotony of long winter months. You can also work with your PLC to create cross-curricular activities.  You can incorporate these within your team, hallway, or school.

  • Valentine’s Day. Graphing, symmetry, and patterns—oh, my! Check out these lovely activities at MathWire!
  • March Madness. If you haven’t joined the Pinterest craze yet, this fun March Madness board may sweep you in! There are great math activities surrounding the annual college basketball tournament—just don’t forget to set a timer so you don’t get lost in the wild and amazing world of Pinterest! Looking for an additional activity that involves basketball, fractions, percentages, and probability? Then look no further than this great site.
  • Pi Day. Want a countdown clock to every math teacher’s favorite day? Check out this amazing Pi Day-focused site! It has a countdown clock, background information on Pi, lesson ideas from teachers, and videos! Another really great website that contains worksheets, puzzles, guided questions on the history of pi, and links to additional resources is indeed a goodie. It’s called Math Goodies. Worth checking out!
  • Summer Olympics. A great unit to end this school year or start the next. All things Olympics are included in this site and the lesson plans indicate the appropriate grade level. Some of these involve the 2012 Olympics but can be easily converted to match data for the 2016 Olympics.
  • Leap Year. 2016 is a leap year so now is a great opportunity to share random mathematical facts about it with students! Check out the quiz (geared toward upper elementary/middle grades involving the math around leap years) and don’t forget the additional practice within the quiz. It makes a good blended learning activity for students. This blog also features leap year math activities involving calendars, birthdays, planet orbits, salary calculations, and other real-world applications.

Between your renewed excitement and your perfectly timed snow day dance, work toward finding new ways to motivate your students and keep them on their toes. This will help foster their interest in math and help everyone wade through the third quarter slump. Want more motivators and classroom resources? Check out the DreamBox Teacher Hub!

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