We have the ideal schedule in our middle school. We have flexible blocks, and most of the time we choose to work with our students for 100 minute long periods, every other day. I love the "long block" format, and find the days that we choose to do short, 50 minute periods tiring and less productive. The one disadvantage to having students every other day though, is that it can be harder for everyone to recall what we did during the last class. Since our school works to design curriculum that permits in-depth investigation rather than quick examinations of many topics, remembering what happened in the last class is truly important.
Taking inspiration from my Hudson Valley Writing Project Summer Institute in 2009, I have used photos to help students relive the most recent class. I assign a digital documentor at the start of class and hand that student the camera. It is a popular job! Last year the digital documentor, or "DD," chose a couple of photos to represent the class. This year I have been using slide show making programs and not limiting the number of photos.
I have tried several slide show making programs and the students and I have settled on two favorites: Animoto and PhotoPeach. Animoto gives a slightly edgy and sophisticated final product, and allows short video clips to be incorporated to add movement to the production:
Teachers are eligible for a free proaccount that permits "full length" slide shows. I am always grateful to web based developers who show such generosity to educators!
PhotoPeach is a little "cuter." In PhotoPeach you can put captions right on the pictures. It also allows you to search through YouTube for music. This was helpful when in a recent class about air pressure I found myself moving through my day with David Bowie in my head. Having his music as background to the slide show was a great relief (and enjoyable to the students too!) Here is an example:
Under Pressure... on PhotoPeach
My slide shows are loaded daily onto our class blog, and in the fall I sent all parents the link. Judging by the number of hits, I definitely have parents who have been checking to see the photos.
I usually show the slides early in the period, and sometimes the DD serves as the host--especially early in the year. By June we will have a photographic log of just about every class period we spent together this year.