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What to do at the end of the year when students are checked out?

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checked out

Every year I get to this point of the school year where the weather has changed, the students are restless and the ideas are running thin on how to keep their attention.  Even though I have done this job for 18 years this crazy end of the year phenomenon still sneaks up on me.  This year I have been planning and preparing for this moment and it feels good.  So allow me to share with you the ideas I have to re-focus those students and put all that summer energy into constructive use.  

Now, more than ever, is the time to get students up and moving and using the language.  Students need to be prepared for finals and as teachers we need to check to see where students stand…are they prepared to move to the next level?  Let’s take a look at a few activities that will add some freshness to the classroom and energize you and your students.  


Bluff-0-Rama: Start by separating the class into two or more teams.  Ask a question to one of the teams.  Students will stand if they know the answer, think they know the answer or are bluffing the other team into thinking they know the answer.  Count up the students standing.  This will be the points the team earns or loses.  The other team will choose a student to answer the question.  If the answer is correct, the team earns points. If it is answered incorrectly, the team loses points and the other team can steal the points by answering correctly.  This is a great way to review culture and grammar as well as signs.  I don’t allow the team to discuss the answers just stand. This lets me know who knows the information and who needs extra help.  I also don’t allow the same student to be picked twice in a row.  This means the student called on in round one can’t be chosen in round 2 and can stand without worry of being called on.  

Extended Activity: I have the students create the questions themselves as homework. They write the question and the answer.  This allows students time to review and again allows me to check what students know. I assign 4 – 6 questions for each students because you will end up with a lot of repeated questions.  

brackettemplateBrackets: I got this idea from the Spanish Mama and I love it.  Review any topic like foods, colors, countries, clothing…anything.  Create a bracket on the board with the words you want to review.  Sign a question to find out which word moves up in the bracket. Designate one side of the room for like and the other for don’t like or the yes or no.  This is a great activity for the last few minutes of class, daily review or to get kids up and moving.  It can be done without the bracket but the bracket is good for the visual learner.  You can go to the Spanish Mama’s blog and get her Powerpoint for the bracket.

Extended activity: Have a debate and have students try to persuade others to come to their side or have students create their own bracket and work in small groups. 

5signsParameter Review: There are a lot of ways you can review vocabulary but none are as fun as this “board” game I have created. The game has questions to get students thinking about signs, how they are made and what they know.  What I love about this game is that there is no limit on what vocabulary you review or at what level students are currently ranked.  This activity can take a full class period or makes a great sub plan for intermediate and advanced signers. I wouldn’t leave a more novice class this activity unsupervised unless they had built up a large vocabulary.   

Image Source: Cult of Pedagogy 

Chat Stations: Set up topics you have covered throughout the year and post them around the room.  Set a timer and have students move in groups of 2 – 4 students around the room and simply chat about that topic.  When the buzzer sounds students should move to the next topic until they have made it through all the questions you posted.  Time should vary depending on what level the class is.  Novice learners will need less time and more advanced learners will need more time.  

Extended activity: Have students summarize what each group member’s response was for each topic and turn in for class credit.  


Around the World: This one isn’t a new concept but it is a good end of the year review game that helps demolish the glazed over look in a student’s eyes.  Circle up desks for all the students in the classroom except one.  That one student will stand next to another student in the circle.  Ask for students to tell you the meaning of a sign, translate a sentence, answer a comprehension question or respond with the accurate answer to a culture question.  The student who answers the question correctly first  moves to the next position in the circle. The object of the game is to see how far one student can travel without making a mistake.  Students want to move around the circle and end up in their original seat.  The first person to arrive at their original chair wins.  Only two students can answer the question and compete at a time.

I hope wrapping up your year will be fantastic and both you and your students will be energized using these activities. If you like what you read, click the follow button to receive notifications with new posts.

Dice …Why I can’t live without them!

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Related image

I am constantly seeing posts in my social media groups about what is one thing in your classroom you can’t live without.  For years I have pondered this question and answered it a million different ways. There has never been one thing I LOVE so much I can’t teach without…until this school year.  I have discovered dice and so many ways to use them to get students signing and using the language. I can go on and on but it is getting close to the end of the school year so instead of me rambling on about my love of dice let me get right down to why you will love them too.  

Top 5 reasons to use dice in your World Language classroom:

  1. Student engagement
  2. Getting students talking
  3. Creating a fun environment
  4. Detour from the mundane
  5. Giving options and variety


Give each group member a dice and have them roll.  Based on what number they roll, students will tell something about themselves.

1 Something about your family
2 Silly human trick
3 Embarrassing story


What you love to do when you have time
5 What you are going to do this weekend
6 Pets you have or had


This activity is based on the game Kaboom and was shown to me by my dear friends Jennifer and Shea.  Students are placed in groups of four.  Students take turn signing pre-created sentences or questions.  After the sentence or question is signed, they ask the group if it is correct.  If the other players agree the construction of the sentence was accurate, player will roll the dice and earn the points shown on the dice EXCEPT if they roll the Kaboom number.  The Kaboom number changes each round.  For example, in the first round if you roll a 1,  you lose all your points and then round 2, if you roll a 2, you would lose all your points. If the student signs the sentence incorrect they lose their turn and give the dice to the next student in their group. Rounds can be played for any duration of time you want.  I play for about 5 – 7 minutes.  Example of game


Creating a grid with images of vocabulary you want students to know is a great way to incorporate repetition and FUN into a class period.  In this activity students would need 2 dice and a partner or group.  Students roll one dice to represent the number on the vertical row and roll the second dice to determine the number on the horizontal row. Students then sign the word in the box on the grid.  

Extension activity: Students can use the word to create a sentence and reverse the numbers to use a different word to ask a question to the group.  This all depends on the vocabulary being used.  Visit my TpT store to see examples of this idea.  


This activity has endless possibilities.  It is similar to the above activity where students will need two dice and a partner or small group.  Topics can be given on numerous subjects like weather, shopping, travel, holidays or daily routines.  You can find activities like the example below at All Things Topics and A LOT of other conservation activities.

lets talk


Give students a list of in-class assignments or homework options and have students roll the dice to determine which activity they will complete.  This will pique student interest in the assignment and hopefully add intrigue and allure to the process.  Students can complete all assignments or you can assign a specific number to be done like 3 out of six determined by the dice numbers.  

1 Watch a video
2 Create a dialogue with a partner
3 Write a synopsis
4 Compare the differences and similarities
5 Debate the topic
6 Narrate the event

I asked parents for dice donations and I ended up with 50 pairs.  It is a cheap and easy way for parents to help out and a lot of families have extras around their homes.  If you can’t get any in your classroom, have students make some of their own. Learn how here.  

Pique Student Interest with QR codes!

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Although QR codes have been around for a while, I have never incorporated them in my classes.  I know other teachers that have and tell me kids love them.  I thought they were hard, complicated and time consuming. So over the course of the last week I have set out to find out what QR codes really are and just how I can use them in my classroom.  I am delighted at what I have discovered and I hope you will find this to be true as well.

If you are in the dark about what a QR code is let me help you out.  QR codes are simply a machine readable code that stores a URL and can be used for quick reference (see the QR there?).

I researched and came up with 10 of my favorite ideas for QR codes in the classroom.  I read many online articles and talked to some of my favorite online teacher pals.  I got may of my ideas from Mara Gust at School of Thought where she wrote a guest blog. Other ideas came from my ASL teacher group on Edmodo and the great Brandy Cables @Mrscablesclassroom. I just tweaked ideas to work for ASL.

Let’s talk about how to add some interest to lessons and pique student interest.  Here are my top 10 Favorites…

  • Scavenger Hunt –  Split the class into teams and task them with creating videos to various locations on campus.  Then students can make a drawing, cut it up into puzzle pieces. Videos need to be turned into QR codes and placed with a puzzle piece in the accurate areas of campus…one clue should lead to the next location and so on.  Set up equal teams so one class meeting 3 teams hid the codes and 3 teams work to solve the clues.  The next day switch roles.  While teams are hunting for clues the other teams work on a research project, studying vocabulary or completing a jigsaw activity. Possibilities are endless.
  • Guess Who – Use QR codes for a game of Guess Who. Students can create the videos or you as a teacher can have videos prepared.  Link the videos to a QR code and place around the classroom.  Students can view the videos and write down their guess with a pre made worksheet or just written on a piece of paper. Use to describe famous people students know, use descriptions of students in the classroom or use after the end of a famous deaf person unit.  Check answers at the end.  
  • Literature – Link the QR code to various pieces of literature you want students to study. Create a worksheet for students to analyze the meaning or summarize the author’s intent. Give each student a QR Code with a different piece of literature to watch, practice and present.
  • Showcase student work – We all come up with awesome projects for our students to do but how do we show them off to others?  With QR codes this is easily solved. Create QR codes and post to your website; Email the QR code home to the parent of your student;  Email blast it out to the school community; or Send it to your School Board and really toot your own horn.  The QR code is a great way to digitally show off what your students can do!
  • Internet based references – Use QR codes to give students a quick way to reference your class lectures. If you are talking about Gallaudet, link students to a virtual tour of the school or still images of what the campus looks like now compared to when it was founded.  Use QR codes for students to connect to various sign languages around the world as a way to reference them quickly or learn different alphabets.
  • Digital Praise – Instead of a good job or a happy face sticker place a QR code to the test or quiz.  You can pre-make these and slap them on all that A work you receive.
  • Email encouragement –  Send a QR code that leads to a special note.  Use these or create your own. Test them out on remind.com (not sure if this would work I haven’t tried it) or tape the QR code to each student desk every week…what a great ways to start off Monday!
  • Introduce yourself –  For the first day of school email the QR code that links to a captioned video that introduces you to the students before the first day of school. Think how much excitement that could generate in new students seeing ASL for the first time!  This could also settle some nerves of the new incoming students.
  • Introducing a new topic – if you are teaching about Laurent Clerc link to a tour of the city he was born, to the time period he lived, or the School he met Gallaudet at.  The QR code is a great attention getter to start the topic.
  • What is this sign? – Have a group of pictures that has the next 7 vocabulary words you want students to know. Adjacent to the picture place the QR code that will bring up the video of the vocabulary word on student’s device. Check if they know the signs by playing a game or have them take notes of the parameters for each word.  Or place the videos around the school to teach students how to sign the buildings and locations around the campus.  

I have 2 QR reader sites I like to use…Try Google URL Shortener or qrstuff.com 

I hope you find these ideas useful and easy to integrate into your teaching style. Leave a comment below to tell us what you tried!

Games! Banish Boredom in Your Classroom!

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If you love playing games in your classroom or if you are on the opposite spectrum and have no clue how to integrate games during class time, you came to the right place.  I am going to tell you why you should play games in your classroom or continue to integrate games as part of your teaching practice. Games are a wonderfully  tricky way to encourage students to memorize vocabulary.  Students have fun while playing and before they know it BOOM! Vocabulary is engraved on their brains.

The goal of teaching a language is to get students communicating in that language. Our job as teachers is to make sure we give students the tools they need in order to be successful in the communication process.  It is our responsibility to keep student motivated in that process. That is where games come into play (enjoy that pun?).

Games benefit students because they

  1. Banish boredom in the classroom
  2. Allow for repetition of terms
  3. Provide opportunity for quick absorption of many words
  4. Break up the monotony of the school day

Let’s face it, games provide a learning environment that is student-centered allowing for communication in the target language, discovery, problem-solving, engagement and analysis of their own knowledge in the learning process.  Simply put games are FUN and EDUCATIONAL.

So how do you implement games in your classroom?


Be motivated and hype it up

If you are bored, unmotivated, or are simply uninterested in an activity your students will feed off that.  They too will be turned-off with the activity.  When beginning a game, hype it up. Use a bigger voice, bigger gestures, colorful language…however you explain rules make it enticing.  The class tone is set by you the teacher.  The entire class environment is feeding off of you.  I often play the game myself to show them how fun it is.  This isn’t always possible if I have to monitor.  However, if it is possible, join in the fun.

Keep it on point

When choosing a game for the class make sure it is applicable to the unit. The reason we play these games is to provide the opportunity to review or use repetition of the vocabulary for memorization of terms. Keep vocabulary useful to what you want students to be learning.  If you are teaching clothing, the game should revolve around terms used for clothing.

Be encouraging

As students learn, they will inevitably make mistakes and that is OK. I can assure you missing a point in a game or getting the team sent back to zero because of not knowing the meaning of a sign will be a great learning opportunity. A student will never forget that word. How we handle the mistake as a teacher is important. Be encouraging and let students know its ok if they mess up, blunder, or completely bomb the task.  Let them know it is no big deal.  Through mistakes and failure is how we learn.   

Provide learning opportunities

If you see common errors happening during game time, seize the teaching moment and correct the errors.  After all, that is why we are playing games.  Don’t let the students continue to make the error. Students will learn from each other and before you know it they will all be making the same mistake.  Let’s say that you are in a game situation and the word is WOMAN.  You continue to see students using the sign for MAN. This is a good chance to remind students about placement of feminine and masculine signs.  

Vary the games played

If you only have one or two games in your repertoire, it’s time to shake things up and learn some new games to incorporate in your lessons.  The student’s favorite game will become stale and dull if you continue to use it and nothing else.  A game should elicit excitement when mentioned.  You can use the same set of words in 2 – 3 different games so students get various stimuli.  For example, you can play Win, Lose or Draw when learning words for buildings found around the school campus to draw in the visual learner and later use the same terms to play Baseball or Basketball to get the kinesthetic learners up and moving around.

Keep all students involved

Whatever games you choose to play try to pick the ones that involve all the students at one time.  Often times we play elimination games where students are “out”  if they don’t know the answer.  If this is the case, try to revamp the game so those “out” have a way back in. This way students are always “on task” and not chatting with their neighbor who is also out of the game. Incorporate games that are small group or one on one competition so students are always active and learning.  Remember your game should have a purpose to provide repetition of vocabulary to all students.  Not just the high achieving ones.   

Provide rewards

Most of the time a game is reward enough and something students look forward to.  But students like to know that they are victorious. Offer a small token that can symbolize a student’s bragging rights.  Ask parents to donate small prizes like pencils or individually wrapped candy, provide a free homework pass for the victor, or the chance to sit anywhere they want for the day.  You can even set up a winner’s circle with a special chair and snacks for the champion. Let them wear a crown! You can offer points to the winner but I try to avoid this practice. I want a student’s grade to reflect their work and what they can do.  I want to try to avoid “padding” their grade. That is my personal opinion.

Whatever you choose to do for a reward, whoop it up and give the winner a sense of achievement!

I hope these ideas for using games in the classroom help you have some fun with your students.  My next post will incorporate games you can play in the classroom. Stay tuned…

What are your thoughts about games in the classroom?

Creating a Comic Book

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To piggy back on my post about how to use comic strips in the classroom, I have found this video discussing how your class can create a comic book. This can be a great individual, partner, or group project.  It is a fun task students can complete and show us what they know about Deaf culture.  It is a good expansion activity after a culture lecture.  So many times we talk about the culture of the community in a bubble or single lecture then never refer to it until we test students on the information.  How do we know they really understand?  A comic book can be a great way for students to show what they have learned and allow us a way to assess student learning.  Enjoy!

Comic strips in the classroom??? How does that work?

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Comic strips are powerful conversational tools that can be used in the classroom at all language levels.  Comic strips are short conversations that don’t need sophisticated vocabulary skills to understand or talk about the content. Comic strips are an authentic resource that can be used to motivate the reluctant student or entice the visual learner. Comics give students a glimpse into culture, trends, politics and current events in the community.

As ASL teachers, we are lucky to have a great resource with That Deaf Guy*.  Matt and Kay Daigle have created wonderful comic resources that can be used in your classroom.  Take a look at the comic below. How could you use this in your classroom?  How could  students use this to communicate?

comic clothes

What looks like a simple cartoon strip actually has numerous possibilities for conversations.  It can work as a dialogue starter with a simple question “What is happening in the picture?” Partners can discuss what they see and observe.  It is a culture conversation “Why are the shirts all solid? Why didn’t the patterned shirts work for this family?”  White out the conversation and have students create their own dialogue and share in class, record themselves or sign to a partner.  

Comic strips can be used in a variety of ways. Here are six of my favorites:

  1. Explore the theme of culture

comic alarm

Students can have a group discussion about culture. Post conversation questions for discussion or have students create their own:

  • What does it mean?
  • Why is it funny?
  • What aspects of culture do you observe?
  • What about this situation relates to Deaf culture?
  1. Analyze the humor

comic family

Every culture has its own ideas and rules of what humor is. Most of our students don’t know why certain situations would be considered humorous in the Deaf community.  Use a comic strip to help students understand deaf life and experiences that may be different from their own and why they may be considered funny or not funny from one culture to the next.  Incorporate them in your lectures, PowerPoints or homework assignments.  Students can even create their own comic strip to depict deaf humor. There are several comic strip generators out there try Make Belief Comix or Strip Generator.

  1. Tell the Story

comic dr

There are numerous ways to mix up storytelling with comic strips.

  • Cut up pictures of the comic strip and have students put them in order and tell the story to their partner.  
  • White out the conversation and have students create their own version of the comic strip
  • Cut the last frame off the strip and have students create their own conclusion to the story
  • Create their own comic strip using one of the sites listed above focusing on current vocabulary in your unit
  1. Analyze characterscomic traits

Use a series of the Deaf Guy comics or other well known comic strips so students get to know the characters. This will allow students to become familiar with the characters and be able to discuss them in more detail.  That Deaf Guy has a page that describes each character’s personality and family roles.  Students can check how accurate they were after the activity.

  1. Role play

comic 101

 Use comic strips that show culture, vocabulary or situations you want students to be aware of. Have students recreate the strip or base a skit of their own on what they take away from the comic.  

  1. Make comparisons

comic traits


You can use two comic strips to have students make comparisons and draw conclusions.  Many comic strips focus on stereotypes and you can exploit those aspects and provide students with lifelong lessons. Strips can be used to discuss clothing, politics, society, phone calls, and other real-world experiences.  Compare hearing Americans to Deaf Americans. Ask students “What are the similarities? What are the differences?” Use the comics below to discuss schooling or deaf and hearing parents.

comic school


I hope you love the idea of incorporating comic strips into your lessons. I think you will find that students will enjoy them as much as you do. Don’t forget to come back and tell us how you incorporated them into your lessons.  

*That Deaf Guy can be found at their website and on Facebook.  I receive no compensation for promoting them but highly recommend their use as an authentic resource that provides a lot of cultural information.