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73rd Annual Convention 2020: GIFTS Sessions

Great Ideas for Teaching Students (GIFTS)

The Professional Development Committee has arranged for a number of the highly popular “GIFTS” sessions to be held at the TCCTA convention in Frisco. These brief programs offer specific ideas for teaching and are designed to be of practical use to educators in all disciplines.

Friday, 8:00-9:15 am
Engaging Online Students using Google Forms
Melissa Blankenship, Professor of Government and Economics, North Central Texas College

This session will describe/demonstrate how to use Google forms to create a weekly check-in for online students. This check-in provides students with an opportunity to ask questions, and often those questions become a way for my students to get to know me better. These weekly check-ins have received very positive feedback from online students.


Dealing with the Devil: Game Theory and the Dictator Game Explained
Benjamin Vail, Adjunct Instructor of Government, North Central Texas College– Corinth

The “dictator game” is a classic game theory scenario, which predicts one outcome, but often results in another. What does this tell us about how differences in values and ranking of priorities leads to different outcomes? Participants should come away with an understanding of how game theory predicts behavior, and have a ready exercise to demonstrate this principle.


Falling in Love with Your Technology: A Survey of Different Features & Technologies to Streamline the Writing-Evaluation Process
Ashleigh Brewer, Assistant Professor of English, South Plains College

The goal of this GIFTS is to help streamline the standard technology instructors use to evaluate our students’ writing so they receive feedback more quickly and efficiently. This session will help streamline the evaluation and feedback process for composition courses. For computer-based grading, some of the features available in TurnItIn© will be presented, including naming Quickmarks© so that they correspond to specific rubric criteria, as well as the text expander and Grammarly plug-ins. The presenter will provide a brief presentation and best practices for grading with the Apple Pencil in Microsoft Word and TurnItIn©. Some of the highlights and features of this discussion will include using the speech-to-text capabilities, inserting a rubric, grading offline, and utilizing a text expansion add-on.


10 High-Tech and High-Touch Teaching Strategies for Engaging and Retaining Students in 10 Minutes!
Anthony Edwards, Professor of Biology, Panola College

This session will provide 10 strategies to help instructors retain and engage students in a variety of disciplines. Some strategies may be used during class while others may be used outside of class. Strategies include:

  1. Pre-class activities
  2. Bell ringers
  3. Hook
  4. Mini lectures
  5. Graphic Organizers
  6. Concept checks
  7. Think-Pair-Share
  8. Guided reading or activities
  9. Exit Ticket – clear point muddy point
  10. Post-class activities

Don’t miss these GIFTS! 


Eradicating the Exam Review Blues
Bryant Evans, Department Chair of Anthropology and Geography, Houston Community College– Northwest

A test review does not have to be a monotonous experience for instructors and their students. Developing an engaging review can enhance the test preparation process for all while helping students more effectively retain pertinent subject material. This presentation will involve the sharing of some ideas to help in the development of interactive test reviews. 


How to Register and Access STARLINK for Higher Ed
Pamela Daggon, STARLINK PD, DCCCD

STARLINK’s online courses provide exceptional professional development to higher education communities. The easy online format allows faculty, staff, and administration to take responsibility for their growth and development, giving them the ability to personalize their learning with on-demand courses. STARLINK provides courses that maintain academic rigor, technical knowledge and skill sets which drive positive growth from the finest institutions from around the country. This session with provide attendees with access and information on how to use this valuable resource.


Teaching is Sharing Yourself
Jackie Johnston; and Doug Richey, Professor of Mathematics, Northeast Texas College 

This presentation will include numerous non-traditional instructional strategies, techniques, and procedures readily adaptable to lecture, hybrid, and on-line classes. One demonstration will involve using videos to help  students feel “in touch” and not isolated from their teacher and classmates. A multi-page handout will be given to each participant with numerous ideas regarding the why and how of establishing learning relationships that enhance student motivation, enthusiasm, and success. 


They’re Really Taking Notes!
Karen Killion, Professor of Biology, Blinn College – Brenham

This session will highlight how “Foldables” (introduced by Dinah Zike) are a great way to make students create study tools without realizing they are taking notes! Even the kids that don’t bring a pencil to class will do it. Many students have previous experience with foldables, and love making them. Join us for this GIFTS session to help your students raise their test scores.


Best Practice for Dual Credit Students
Amy Montoya; and Brianne Sardoni, Professor of English, Brookhaven College

This presentation will touch on what mediums work best to help students think critically. It challenges instructors to rethink their role in the classroom and to go outside traditional texts.


Academic Posters for Assessment
Sandra Melendez, Department Chair of Engineering Technology, Temple College

Academic posters are a way for students to present information for an assessment grade that is project-based. This session will provide examples of posters students have completed and brainstorm ideas to use in your academic area.


4Chunks
Doug Saffel, Professor of Government, Texarkana College 

Faced with new student needs and expectations in today’s classrooms, using a method of classroom instruction called 4Chunks creates special blocks of time that engage students and promote higher order thinking.

Typically, the class period (1 hour 20 minutes) is divided into four chunks of time and task:

  • a reading quiz to reinforce prior learning
  • an activity that works on soft skills and engages social students in creating, critiquing, investigating, gaming, or presentation
  • a lecture, similar to a TEDx talk, is used to engage students through stories, questions, and pictures and used to explain a difficult concept or connect details to the big picture
  • critical thinking used for students to analyze, evaluate, judge, predict, or summarize the lesson, giving an opportunity for learning checks and summative assessments.

Thinking Outside the Box
Gladys Scott, Professor of Developmental Mathematics, Houston Community College

Participants will create a beautiful box and discuss how it can be used in the classroom. During the 10-minute activity, participants will create a box and there will be a robust discussion of how the box can be used in the classroom. For example, a math class can measure the box and find the perimeter, area, volume, and surface area. In other classes, notes can be placed in the box of empowering words. Or stories can be created about the box in a speech class. The possibilities are enormous! Let’s all think outside the box!


Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices Through Oral History
Justin Willis, Professor of History, Tyler Junior College

Oral History is the systematic collection of living people’s testimony about their own experiences. Oral history can provide second-language learners and all students the opportunity to connect previous understanding and real-world applications across multiple disciplines. Biemans and Simons (1996) conceived of previous knowledge as “all knowledge learners have when entering a learning environment that is potentially relevant for acquiring new knowledge.”

This session will provide research-based strategies to increase student engagement utilizing oral history to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Learning happens when we reflect upon what we have experienced. Oral history is interactive and can put the student in the center of learning.


Bio Poems: Ice Breakers to Signature Assignments
Raj Chekuri, Professor of English; and Nancy Herschap, Professor of English, Laredo College

Bio poems make excellent “Ice Breakers” to help students “loosen up” and approach the creative process without trepidation because the assignment is giving them an opportunity to take a keen look at themselves as well as community, society, and public concerns as they celebrate their successes and failures.

We provide word banks, idea worksheets, and templates to guide them in the process. Initially, the students adhere to the templates, but soon they abandon them, and to our surprise, explore and provide the most creative renditions of their work with art work, photographs, and paintings.  The project enables them to delve into their own lives and write about their goals, dreams, joys, fears, and anxieties. The outcomes are equally fascinating because their approach to reading and writing about literature changes dramatically as they become more interested in studying and analyzing than merely reading and summarizing.

Soon these ice breakers become Signature Assignments. Signature Assignment 3 allows students more freedom; thus, students morph into critical readers, thinkers, writers, and creative artists in their own right.