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[Student Engagement] Extending Learning Over the Winter Break with Study Island

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 -- Regina Waddell

Winter break is an opportunity for students and educators to get away from school, recharge, and spend time with family and friends, but two weeks can be a long time for students to go without practicing their skills. When I was teaching, I would remedy this by sending my students home for break with a packet of work. But, this meant lots of resources to search for, copies to run, and post-break grading for me, and the students were less than enthusiastic about it.

Looking for a better solution? Study Island is an excellent resource to keep your students working over the break without the hassles of traditional take-home packets. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It's web-based, so students can access it anywhere they have a device and an Internet connection
  • It helps students practice skills they will need for high-stakes assessments in the spring
  • Immediate feedback allows students to understand what concepts they have and have not mastered as they are working, instead of having to wait for instructor feedback
  • Games keep students engaged and motivated
  • Student progress data is saved in the system and can be used to make instructional decisions
  • Teachers save time that would have been spent creating and grading packets of winter break homework

Ready to get started? Try one of these two strategies to help keep your students sharp over the winter break with Study Island.

1. Blue Ribbon Contest - A Blue Ribbon contest is perfect if you just want to keep things simple. Assign your students Study Island topics to work on over the break, and the person who earns the most Blue Ribbons (masters the most topics) during that timeframe wins a prize. This contest setup works best if your students all have Internet access at home and are at similar performance levels. A level playing field helps ensure that everyone has the same chance of winning and that the hardest worker (or workers if you give multiple prizes) will prevail.

If you have a group of students who are more widely varying in their access to Internet-connected devices and in their performance levels, it's best to take a slightly different approach to setting up your contest. Set a minimum number of Blue Ribbons to earn (try 5 or 10), and then everyone who gets at least that many will be entered into a drawing for a prize. Setting up the contest this way gives students who may struggle with mastering topics, or students who have limited access to the Internet as much chance to win as more advanced students and those who are able to get online whenever they want to.

Tip:After the break, run a Blue Ribbon Report in Gradebook Format and filter the dates to only show the winter break timeframe. You’ll be able to see how many Blue Ribbons each student earned in each subject and use that data to inform your instruction once you’re back in the classroom. Pinpoint where specific interventions might be needed, and get a feel for which subjects you should spend more time on with your class as a whole.

2. Activity Calendar - If you want to have more control over the specific topics that your students work on in Study Island over the winter break, consider using an Activity Calendar. Simply create a calendar of the days that your students will be off, and for each day, write in the topic or activity that you want them to complete. Choose topics that students often struggle with on high-stakes assessments or ones completed earlier in the semester that students may need to review. We’ve included a sample:

Study Island Winter Break Activity Calendar 

If you use this approach, be sure keep in mind that students are on a break. Only assign one or two topics per day so that they can still enjoy their time off. It should take students about 30 minutes to an hour to complete, which is plenty of time to keep them practicing but not too much to overwhelm them by the workload in the midst of family plans and holiday events. After students come back, offer some kind of reward for everyone who completed the work over break like a class party, movie, bagel breakfast, or anything else that will get your students excited.

Tip: Add in a few writing assignments to allow your students to practice their writing skills over the break. Writing assignments are easy to set up, and your students' work is saved to their writing portfolios for you to review and send feedback.

No matter what kind of format you choose, Study Island can give you options to keep students practicing and improving their skills over the holiday break, and it will give you access to valuable data on their progress in the process! Looking for more tips to keep your students engaged in the midst of the holiday chaos? Check out these three ideas to effectively use incentives in your classroom!