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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mondays Stink, Brownies Don't

I went grocery shopping while hungry the other day, mistake number one.  I can home with a box of brownie mix and decided to make it, mistake number two.  I knew that if I kept these brownies in the house, I would come to hate myself later.  What to do?  What to do?  I know!  Make a few people at work happy!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Student: "Why Are We Doing This?"

I have a student this year, who questions everything we do...unless it's a worksheet.  She's fine with worksheets, she understands worksheets.  At first is was "Why do I have to work in a group?" said with one of the sassiest faces I have ever seen.  Then "Why do I have to learn my classmate's names?".  "Why did we have to answer that question?".  "Why are we watching this video?".  Why? Why? Why?

She was really starting to get on my nerves.  How dare she question me?!?!?!  I kept my cool and calmly answered all of her questions.  I really thing God took over a few times because some of my responses to her were just plain genius.  I wish I could remember them now, but they're gone.  Anyway, as great as I thought my answers were, she thought different.  She would proceed to roll her  eyes, but comply with my request anyway.

She was even there during my lesson planning (figuratively).  As I sat down to write a lesson, I would try to anticipate her questions and how I would respond.  I was so sensitive to her reactions that I was just about to ask Twitter for help.  That's when things started to change.

Her questions haven't stopped, but her attitude has.  I think she is starting to see that even though she doesn't know why we're doing something, there is a she asks...and I answer.  No more eye rolling and she's smiling.

I'm really glad she's in my class.  I believe I would say that even if her attitude would have stayed negative.  I question myself more now:  Why am I asking my students to do this?  Why should the students learn each other's names?  Why is it important that they work in a group for this assignment?  And I need an answer for each one...a good answer.  Thanks eye-rolling student!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Day of School 2016-17

I did something completely different this year for the first day of school: I didn't try to WOW my students.  Every year I try to be the cool teacher and I want all the students to like me.  My thought process was that if they liked me, they would cooperate for me.  And to an extent, that's true.  But I started this year less dramatically.

Last Spring I was given the book The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong.  I started reading it right away and everything in the beginning of the book was obvious: dress professionally, have positive and high expectations, creates lessons for mastery, etc.  I do all this.  I even changed to SBG a few years ago to better implement mastery.  But one sentence really stuck with me, "The effective teacher establishes good control of the class in the very first week of school".  Having the students complete an activity the first day of school without having a chance to set procedures and rules has been my recipe for disaster the past few years (like 16 years).

I always make incorrect assumptions about my students knowledge of academics and behavior.  This one clearly falls under the behavior category.  My past is freckled with lack of classroom discipline, student misbehavior gone unpunished, and loss of control of the classroom.  I assume the students know how to act in a classroom.  I assume the students know how to take notes.  I assume students know how to walk into a classroom.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  All these things need to be taught....every year.

This year I went over this presentation with the students.  First Day Presentation.  I went over the class rules and procedures.  Well, at least the procedures needed the first week.  And we practiced them.  I posted all rules and procedures and attached the presentation to the schoology page.  I'm keeping myself honest too.  If a student breaks a rule I follow through with the consequence and keep emotions out of it.  It's not personal, it's the classroom rule.

It's only day three, but I'm having the best first 3 days I've ever had.  I'm not naive enough to think that this is a silver bullet, but I believe my students have more respect for me and feel secure in knowing that I'll keep control.  I hope I don't let them down.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Escape Room - Classroom Style

Today I conducted my first escape room with the students.  For certain reasons (I won't bore you with the reasons) I had to give my final exam last week and we still have 3 weeks of school to go.  Therefore these remaining days are full of fun activities and test re-take days.

Obviously I can't lock the students in a room (or can I?), so the students need to unlock this container to symbolize exiting the room.  The students find clues around the room to unlock to locks and win.

Yep, that's a hasp with four different locks on it.  A directional lock, a 3-digit lock, a key lock, and a word lock.  All found on amazon.  

And of course, a reward for opening the box!

I also have my safe that I use for code-breaking partners activity (click here to read about that) and decided to utilize this for the activity.  

A few action shots:

Materials Needed:

Purchase: Hasp, directional lock, 3-digit lock, 4 letter word lock, key lock, lock box with code, a box that locks, and prizes.  

Make/Print and Laminate:

1) Propaganda Posters (click here).  These posters have directions (left, right, up, and down) on them for the students to use on the directional lock.  

2) Hint Cards.  I gave them up to 3 hints.

3) 4-digit hints.  This will open the lock box. The answer is 4962.

  • I am a four digit number.  My ones digit is even and not 0.
  • My hundreds digit is 5 more than my thousands digit.
  • If you double my ones digit, that is my thousands digit.
  • My tens digit is equation to the number of chairs at each table in the commons. (You will need to create this to be something equal to 6).

4) Number Cards.  I used 7 of them.  The mean of the numbers is 678 which is the code for the 3-digit lock.  I also put on each card "__ out of 7" so they knew they needed 7 numbers total.  The numbers are 752, 930, 1301, 433, 716, 299, 315.  

5) Letter Clues:

Print one color one: MEAN
Print on color two: SLOPE 
Print on color three: LINEAR
Print on color four: GRAPH

Make sure that only one of your words is a 4-letter word.  The other three words are distractors.  The 4-letter word, MEAN, lets the students know that they need to take the mean of the 7 number cards in order to unlock the 3-digit lock.  

Set up:

Put the prizes in the box that will have the hasp.

Put the directional lock, word lock, key lock, and 3-digit lock on the hasp.  

Place one hint card, the key, 1 of each color letter, and two number cards in the lock box.  Close and lock.  

Keep two hint cards and one digit hint card to the side and hide the rest around the room.  
So, you're hiding 5 number cards, 16 letter cards, and 3 digit hint card.  
Remember to post the propaganda posters in order for the directional lock.  

During Class:

Here's the tricky part; you only want about 5-8 students working on this at a time.  I'm lucky enough to have a para-educator that has her teacher certification and takes the remaining students to another room.  

Before I set them loose, I tell them that they are "locked" in a room and in order to escape, they need to unlock the box with the hasp.  I tell them where to not look in the room (like my desk, inside the garbage can, etc).  I hand them the two hint cards and the one digit hint card and let them begin.  They have one class period to "get out".  

The Results:

This was the first escape room I've ever planned so I wasn't sure what to expect.  All classes unlock everything within 30 minutes.  I suppose it's better to have time left over rather than frustrate the students.  Plus it gave me time to set up for the next class.  

Here's what I overheard the students saying:

"If math class were like this all the time, I would participate."
"I feel like a secret agent."
"That was actually fun."
"Make it harder next time."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Survival of the Fittest (Gamification)

This is my go-to activity when I want to gamify my classroom: Survival of the Fittest.  This game takes place over one topic/unit or you can allow it to last as long as you like.  I created this when The Hunger Games came out and all my students were reading the books; the theme is woven around the story of Panem.

I start class by explaining to the students that they have been cast on a reality TV show called "Survival of the Fittest".  This is the letter I give them:  (all materials can be found in this shared document).  

Dear Students, 
In an effort to supplement my teaching salary, I have volunteered all of you to be part of a new reality show called Survival of the Fittest.  The producers of the show and I are very excited to begin this endeavor.
 Survival of the Fittest is a game where you are a member of a team and need to only stay alive for the duration of the show in order to win.  There will only be one winning team in the game.    Winners will receive bragging rights along with extensive knowlegde of     ___________________. 
In order to survive, you will need supplies such as water, food, weapons, and a bit of good luck.  Other teams may try to sabotage you, so be alert.  Anything could happen in this game as the “game-creators" are attempting to put on a good show and boost television ratings. 
 To begin, you will be flown to a remote location without any communication devices available to you.  You and your team will have the opportunity to earn supplies to help keep you alive.  Guard these supplies with your life, as you may need them to survive.
 I wish you luck and may the best team win!

To begin, I break the class into teams of 3 or 4 students, trying very hard to keep the academic skills of the teams even.  When creating teams, keep in mind the attendance levels of each students as well.  The teams will work together throughout the duration of the game/unit, helping each other learn and master the material.

Earning Supplies:

At the end of each lesson or class I give the students an exit ticket with three problems on it: one easy, one medium, and one hard.  Each student works on the problems individually as if it were a quiz.  After class I "grade" each paper by stapling supplies to their work.  This is the only feedback I give them.  Level 1 supplies are earned by getting the easy question correct.  Level 2 supplies are earned by getting the medium question correct.  And level 3 supplies are earned by getting the hard question correct.  When they receive their papers back the next day, they work with their team to go over the problems.  If there are lingering questions, I'll go over them with the whole class.  Each team pools their supplies together to use when necessary.

The Supplies:

The level 1 supplies are granola bars, water bottles, and beef jerky.  I printed them on pink paper to make them easier to spot.

The level 2 supplies are rabbit snares, sleeping bags, and belts copied on yellow paper.

The level 3 supplies are medicine, bow & arrows, and good luck charms on green paper.
Note - The good luck charm (the mockingjay) is wild, it can be used with any game-creator card.

I keep all the supplies in 3 Ziplock bags separated by color.  When I go to pick the supplies to staple to the students' papers, I take a supply out of the appropriate bag randomly.

Health Level:

Each team starts with a health level of 8 and when they reach a health level of 0 they are out of the game.  When I first used this game, I kept track of their health levels on the class white board.  However, that whiteboard is precious real estate 'round here and I think students were moving their team's icon when I wasn't looking.  So, I created this google drawing that the students can view and I can edit.  Each time a team goes down a health level (see below), I move their icon digitally.  The link below will give you a copy of the google drawing so that you can do the same with your students.  There is also the printable cards if you prefer something more tangible.

Note - All materials are in the shared google doc, the link is above.

Going Down Health Levels:

Every once in a while (and after the teams have had a chance to collect a reasonable amount of supplies) I read a random game-creator card.  These cards describe situations that require the students to have a certain supply (they have to hand in the supply needed, it can't be used more than once).  If a team doesn't have that needed supply, they go down a health level.  Of course alliances can be formed and if a team doesn't have a needed supply another team may give them that supply or trade.  
When I use the game-creator cards, I keep going until at least one team goes down a health level.  I also don't let any teams get to 0 before the end of the game, I keep them hanging on there.  Then on the last day of the game I use enough game-creator cards to have all teams lose except for 1.  

Some Fluff:

In the books there is what is called a 'feast' at the cornicopia.  I liken these to review games.  I like to play a review game with the students where they can earn random supplies throughout and I will read random game-creator cards throughout as well.  You can use any review game you like, Jeopardy, Bazinga, whatever.  


Can teams go up a health level?
No, they can only go down health levels.  You want this game to end eventually, right?

Can I use a belt as a weapon?
I usually say no, but I've been thinking about changing this.  Maybe a belt and two food items = 1 weapon.  It's your call.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Sine Game

The Sine Game is just like The Line Game except with sinusoids.  Click here to read about the line game.

For The Sine Game, you will project a sinusoid graph while the students find the matching equation, centerline, amplitude, phase shift, and period.

Click here shared google sheets presentation.

Click here for the 50 Game Cards.

Click here for the answer key.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bring Your child to Work Day

My youngest son is in Kindergarten this year and I decided he was old enough to accompany me to work this year on Bring-Your-Child-To-Work day.  He and I have been excited about this for weeks.  I was so wired that I practically jumped out of bed that morning when my alarm went off.  And he was so excited that he was ready a half hour earlier than normal.

Yup, he wanted to wear a crown and a cape.  But he's not too far off; teachers are super heroes and royalty.  

I know the shirt's too big for him, but the school was kind enough to give him the smallest size they have so he could participate in our dress down day.  All students, teachers, and staff have this shirt and we try to have everyone wear it on these days.  

We were invited to a Biology class to see sheep eyes being dissected during my prep.  It wasn't as bad as I thought.  Actually, the inside of a sheep's eye is very colorful.  We learned that the choroid looks something like this:

I wanted to make sure that the day's lessons continued and my son had a chance to participate.  He greeted students at the door, handed out papers, collected papers, put starts on students' work, and took attendance.  

He really enjoyed the day and I was worried about him having a lot of energy left over from not having recess, but I couldn't be more wrong.  He fell asleep early that night and had a lot of trouble waking up the next morning.  

When I came in the next day by myself I felt so lonely. It's strange how having him there just one day made a strong emotion in my like that.  It really hit me when I saw his hand-writing desk plate: