Featured #MSUrbanSTEM Sustainability Fellow: Melinet Ellison

Sustainability Fellow: Melinet Ellison

Bio: Melinet Ellison has 9 years of classroom experience in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). She is a CPS graduate and CPS parent. She currently teaches at Daniel S. Wentworth School of Excellence & Innovation located on the southside of Chicago in the heart of the Englewood community. Melinet teaches 7th & 8th grade math at Wentworth. She earned a Master’s Degree in Teaching from National Louis University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Evangel University. Melinet enjoys spending time with her family and attending sporting events.


How to Engage Students While the Internet is Down

It was Fix Fun Friday, the day that is reserved to review the week’s concepts, debunk misconceptions, and allow student to make-up any missing assignments. I directed the students to take out their laptops and to log into Quizizz.com so we can review identifying the adding and subtracting integers. Quizizz.com is an awesome website that engages students through competition around learning standards. It provides immediate feedback to students and teachers. Students love playing/reviewing on quizizz because it engages the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learner. I was ready to log them in when it happened……You know. The ever so convenient internet disruption. Yes, the internet was down-which meant Fix Fun Friday was going down, along with the internet.

My teacher instinct quickly kicked in and I prepared myself to improvise. I thought how can I attain the goal of re-engaging students in a fun way WITHOUT the advantage of the internet? With our students being heavily dependent on computers and with a new generation of screen babies, some might wonder…Is engagement still possible without the internet?  In this blog, I will discuss how my students were able to review learning in a fun way. I will also list highly effective key components for low-tech student engagement.

No internet, no problem! I turned our classroom to a basketball court using the garbage can as the hoop and paper for a ball. I divided the class into 3 heterogeneous groups. They were given 10 minutes to “warm-up”, collaborate over the questions from the day before, and then the fun began!  They competed by reviewing their math concepts.  More detailed directions for the game, Shooting for Success, can be found on CPS Knowledge Center. Of course, I added time outs, fouls, and half time to make it more interesting and my own, but the structure was simple. You can apply the following structure to any set of review questions and the students will want to play/learn more.

Highly Effective low-tech Student Engagement

  1. Competition: Students thrive off immediate feedback. They work hard for bragging rights. Points can be feedback. Keep score, reward first place.
  2. Teams: Teamwork, makes dream work! Working with others allow for accountability, support, and collaboration. Working in teams makes taking risk safer. It also gives students someone to celebrate with.
    1. Heterogeneous Grouping: Nobody likes playing in a blow-out game. Balance  competition is inviting and challenging.
    2. Fair: Although the groups are mixed, a student in the 50th percentile should compete against another student in the 50th percentile on the other team.
  3. Student Preparation: Give them questions they have been exposed to.  It shouldn’t be easy or above their capability. Give them just right questions. Make it a review.
  4. Time Limits: This makes the activity exclusive and increases time on-task.


How did no internet connection affect my planned Fix Fun Friday? I had to change my medium, but not my goal or level of engagement. We still had FUN learning and collaborating.