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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Teachers, from left, Amy Richards, Kathy Prater, Linda Wunderlin and LouAnne Pillers participate in a math game to strengthen their teaching strategies Saturday at the Best Practices Showcase at the University of Saint Francis.

Using games to improve teaching strategies

Saint Francis program offers best practices

– With the familiar musical theme included, it was time to play “Jeopardy!” in the 7:45 a.m. session of Saturday’s Best Practices Showcase at the University of Saint Francis.

Each of the five tables in the third-floor classroom, with five or six educators around the tables, had a communal buzzer to hit before providing the answer – or, in “Jeopardy!” fashion – the correct question. Categories were famous authors, math, ISTEP, book titles and fine arts.

One teacher took ISTEP for 400 points, which asked what words make up the acronym ISTEP. No one provided the correct question: What is Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus?

The workshop session, one of two presented by Fort Wayne Community Schools district instructional coaches Barbara Boggs and Kim Heinz, was a portion of the seventh annual Showcase on the Saint Francis campus.

Three hundred eighty-five attendees and 58 workshop presenters participated in sessions in which educators from Indiana shared teaching strategies.

“It’s very positive,” said Saint Francis’ Nancy Hankee, the Showcase’s organizer. “The teachers like the fact that it’s on a Saturday. For five hours, they get a wide variety of professional development.

“I have an advisory board of teachers and administrators from Allen County and local schools, and prior to actually coordinating and organizing this, I meet with them and talk about their needs and what should we be addressing in the Showcase.”

The sessions conducted by Boggs and Heinz centered on engaging students, including putting FUN (Focus, Understanding, Nurturing) into the classroom through learning games, with “Jeopardy!” as an example.

“When they’re engaged, they learn better,” Boggs said of students.

So Boggs and Heinz shared their games with the teachers in attendance.

Because many of the games encourage teamwork, chatting within the classroom is encouraged – to a limit.

Before she began a game called “Who Has It?’ Heinz said all of the questions came out of a fifth-grade social studies book.

“I’m going to start, so you need to listen,” she said, settling down the buzzing group of teachers.

At the end of the session, Heinz said, “This is something you can’t do the first week or two of school. This is something that you have to set your classroom procedures and have things in place before you can do something like this activity.”

Among the early morning attendees was Julie Houser, an instructional coach at Lindley Elementary.

“I’ll take this back to my teachers and share these strategies with them so they can implement them in their classrooms,” Houser said.

“The really neat thing is Fort Wayne (Community Schools) is adding an hour onto our day, and so our plan for our school is that Grades 3 through 5, we’re putting in as much help as we can, and we’re going back – it’s called instructional recovery – and we’re trying to pick up what we lost on those days lost. At the end of the day, kids are not going to be as easily engaged, so these engagement activities will support math and English arts; those are our two focuses,” she said.

“And getting our kids to catch up on those skills they missed with the snow days.”