Dear colleagues

I'm struggling with a year 9 social studies class (next unit is industrial revolution) who are inattentive a lot of the time. We do not have access to computers as we are in a mobile classroom, we do have a projector so we can show video clips etc. Previously the class have been copying a lot of notes from the board/powerpoint as there is no text book resource. My idea is to give them handouts with blanks so they don't have so much writing and using the last 20mins to maybe get them work in groups: quiz work (they come up with the questions and quiz each other). I feel this sort of variety and change of pace is needed from my previous observations. Can anyone give me any other ideas of activities we can engage in. I know I need to inject life into this subject so it is meaningful for them.  Many thanks!

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Wow. I certainly don't envy you -- it sounds like you're facing quite a challenge.


Obviously, technology integration is always a great way to engage students but it can also help them develop higher-level thinking skills. Without computers, tech integration can be difficult. But cell phones are a low-cost way to integrate technology, especially if you have access to wifi on your site. Cell phones are extremely powerful mobile computers, and they can be used to do a lot, specifically with regards to internet access. Do your students have cell phones? Are phones allowed in your school? If not, you might consider holding a cell phone drive and collecting old cell phones from community members. You can remove the SIM cards from these phones -- this means they can't make calls or send texts, so there's no monthly bill. But the phones can still take photos, videos, and access the internet via wifi. We use SIM-less cell phones in schools where phones aren't allowed because they're viewed as mobile computers by the administration since they can't make calls or send texts.


If you're interested in the how's and why's of cell phones in the classroom, check out this blog post.


Good luck!


Katy Scott

Stretch Your Digital Dollar

I had no idea that you could do this with old cellphones. What a great idea!

Hi Marie,

I suggest you begin with an inquiry rather than worksheets and notetaking.  

1. Start with small discussions in groups.  Where are they at in their learning?  What do they actually know about this topic, what do they bring to the table? What questions do they have?  Use the students starting point and questions to drive the instruction.  My grade 6's spent an entire term exploring this one idea through our social studies unit: How do we assess the validity of information that we view?  Rather than watching films for content, watch for critical thinking practice.  Content gets absorbed through the critical thinking process. I've blogged about our entire learning process and the rich activities we engaged in. Some of the ideas may be useful to you. We ended the unit by Skyping with an archaeologist in England. It seems to me that your topic would lend itself well to role play. Do your students have movile devices?  Bring them into the classroom. 

If you search collaborative learning or inquiry based learning, this is were education is heading. It is much more engaging for students and discipline issues tend to disappear.


I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.  Also if you join twitter and follow #edchat you'll find amazing ideas as well every single day.



I hope this helps.  





Thanks for your responses - very helpful. Was thinking along the lines of co-operative activities so will do some exploring here.

Hello Marie-

I have a very similar situation with my seventh graders. I try to find articles for the students to read that have some sort of relevance for them/relate to the subject we are learning. I find that there are many resources online that I can copy into word documents, print a few copies and create station learning: jigsawing, having students create their own graphic organizers, etc. Sometimes I break articles into parts and create timed stations around the room with them and students get so many minutes (individually or in groups) for reading each portion, picking out main ideas, answering questions (which could be tailored to suit your own needs, obviously), and fitting the pieces of the article together. We come back together as a class and discuss then. I often do this as a way to intro a topic.

The ideas aren't tech savvy, but are simple ways to get students out of their seats, talking about a topic and discussing what it means (and means to them). I'm sure you could springboard this into other activities too. I don't know if this helped at all, but good luck with the Industrial Revolution! What an interesting topic!


Hi Liz, thank you for your response!  I have started to think of ways like this - and group activities to make the learning more interesting.  We tried an activity on Friday which worked well. Students were placed in colour coded groups and given 4 Questions for each group. They had to find the answers to their questions (each group had different questions) and present them to the class. This worked well and points were awarded to groups. It also showed the gaps in learning, so was useful for follow-up activities.  I'm finding it helpful to have a starter, main content and then a review activity. This helps with maintaining focus and provides interest and variety too.
Another idea I've seen is to mimic posting.  Put up a large sheet of paper. Give students sticky notes. Put a provocative statement on the paper and have students post comments.  This is a great way to generate discussion and can lead to some wonderful writing. No tech required.



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