Friday, July 13, 2012

Academic Challenge Time

This is another technique that I learned from Cassandra, the teacher I'm paying to observe and guide me. Academic Challenge Time (ACT) is really easy to set up. All you need is a piece of 8.5 X 11 paper, a pen, and a paper clip. On the left hand side starting from the bottom, start with number 1, write 2 above that, 3 above that, and so on until you reach 10. The paper clip is clipped so that it horizontally overlaps with 1.

Before you begin with this system, you should have three general rules in mind that the class must comply with to earn these points. Let's say that the general rules are "Be Ready," "Stay Focused," and "Be Respectful." "Be Ready" could mean have only a pencil and eraser out. "Stay Focused" could mean that every student only works on the in class assignment. "Be Respectful" could mean that students work quietly and keep their bodies and objects to themselves. Whatever rules you choose, make sure you model them so the students know how to comply with the set rules.

When you observe that the whole class is following all of those rules, then you move up the paper clip from 1 to 2. You should limit yourself to giving 3 or 4 points per day. After about 3 days, if your students have complied with the rules satisfactorily, then as soon as the class reaches 10, everyone immediately stops what they're doing. For 5 minutes, the class gets to do some fun non-academic task. That could include tasks like drawing, playing a class game, or whatever else you can think of.

Something important to keep in mind is that if you don't have the entire class following the rules that you set to earn a point, then you don't give the point. The purpose of ACT is to have complete class cooperation.The advantage of that is that students will pressure others to follow all the set and explained rules. Also, if you have about a third of the class not complying with the rules after two reminders, then take away a point.

I've been finding ACT useful, but I haven't reached its maximum effectiveness just because I need to practice with it. Cassandra is a pro with it though.

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