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Bring on the Fun!

It is pretty awesome to witness students getting excited about a class, activity, something they learned, or content area. It is my belief that creating an engaging environment starts with offering a place where students feel safe but are also able to have fun. The Neuqua Valley Business Department brings the fun on a daily basis, and the students love them for it! How do you create this type of awesome learning environment, you ask? Read on for some tips and tricks...

1. Set the Tone
Lighten the mood and make the students smile before they walk into your classroom. Play some music, hand out candy, and encourage the students to step out of their comfort zones. Watch the video below to see the Business Department's Dancing Fridays in action.

2. Get to Know Your Students
Learn more about your students and their unique character traits. Ask the students to fill out Google Forms throughout the year in order to learn more about their passions, struggles, and hopes for the future. Collecting this information will help you make connections with them before, during, and after class. Hate looking at a spreadsheet? Use the Save as Doc add-on! In Mr. Joe Moreau's College Test Prep class, he tailors the class based on the students' needs and plans for the future. He was able to show me a spreadsheet with information about his students that he uses to help them grow as learners and also prepare for the future. It is obvious, through his interactions with the students, that he is trusted and respected. 

3. Differentiate Activities and Make Class Content Relevant 
Students need variety when it comes to what they are learning and how they are learning. While a certain skill may need to be covered across multiple days, units, or even classes, it is up to the teacher to take it to new levels to make the lesson meaningful and relevant. In Ms. Amanda Dunham and Mr. Chris Cebrzynski's AP Macro classes, they have a lot of content to cover in order to prepare the students for their future AP test. In order to differentiate, they vary how they present their information and also how they ask their students to demonstrate their learning: Direct instruction, group work, Chromebooks for research, and at times, some creative assignments to get them thinking in a different way.

Also, in Ms. Jen Yavorski's Business Internship class, the students are researching various interview techniques. Their Chromebooks made this research easy, as they were given multiple sources and also had the ease of searching different business sites to see what they are looking for when it comes to employees. Similarly, in Ms. Robin Franczyk's Business Law class, students were using their Chromebooks to research real-life cases regarding illegal business affairs. Students had to identify problems and read about what happens when people make poor choices in the business world. As these students get prepared for the real world, these activities are relevant and meaningful. 

4. Give the Students Choice and Voice
We all appreciate being able to make our own choices. Our students are no different. They like options when it comes to learning, and a student-centered environment provides various opportunities for them to make choices for themselves. In Mr. Kevin Geers' Finance classes, he is trying to decide how to have his students create short presentations based on some of their research. We talked about various resources that will help the students accomplish this goal. Why not let them choose which tool to use? WeVideo, FlipGrid, and Screencastify are just a few options that he is considering for his class. In Mr. Joe Moreau's Marketing classes, students work throughout the semester to complete a marketing project. Students get to choose their company for this project, and since they will be spending much time researching, writing, and analyzing their marketing plan, giving students choice allows them the chance to actually enjoy the project they are working on.

In addition to choice, students need to be able to voice their thoughts, opinions, and questions in the classroom. How do you foster this type of community? Give them chances to write, talk, share, question, and reflect. What about having each student start a blog? Did you know that all Google users have a Blogger account? Empower students to use their voice through writing to reach a larger audience. 

5. Make the Student's Work the Center of the Class 
Students should be proud of the work they are completing and their progress in a class. What better way to build up this pride but by putting the students' work at the center of the class. In Ms. Patty Marszalek's Marketing Tech class, students work on a daily basis to learn how to use technology effectively for marketing in the real world. As students use different tools and learn how/why they are useful, their work becomes the center of their learning as they are hands-on, using the technology at hand to create a product.

In Ms. Beth Schmidtgall's VEI class, the students just received their positions in their virtual business and are starting to get items situated in each department. A senior student helped get the Human Resource Department organized and ready to tackle their tasks for the day. Why did I visit that class, you ask? Because she invited me in. She asked me to come see what they are doing in her class. How awesome is that? She is proud of the work they are doing in that class and excited to attend on a daily basis. Now that's #whatsup! 

Bonus Tip - Give Out Stickers
Yes, seriously. Stickers are fun and kids love them! Now, they can share their love for your class with the world by sporting the sticker. #NVBusiness #whatsup