# Back To School Night

Last night was Back to School Night. We have it the night before school starts. I like it this way. It helps to alleviate a lot of anxiety for both teachers and students – and I’d suspect some parents too.

I’m no stranger to Back to School Night. I’ve done them for over 20 years. However, last night I had a first. And the nerd in me was so excited! A mom came to me with her phone explaining that the father couldn’t be there but wanted to participate. She had him on Facetime! We were able to introduce ourselves, talk for a bit, and have a ‘regular’ Back to School Night!

It’s the little things that make us happy. Being able to stay connected to parents is so important. I’m glad dad was able to ‘attend’. It make everyone’s night!

Don’t make copies, print workbooks.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, this image caught my attention. Yes, you read that right, “Don’t make copies, make workbooks. Get your curriculum professionally printed for less” This made me sad, depressed, and horrified.

Disclaimer: This is a local business and they do great, quality work. This is NOT against the printing company. They are doing what businesses do. They are not ‘in the business’ of education; that’s you and me.

So what’s wrong with this? Well for starters, a worksheet is a worksheet whether in a booklet form or not. Secondly, worksheets are boring and nicknames ‘shut up sheets’ for a reason. And since this whole thing called education is up to you and me, let’s make it better! Do you enjoy filling out paperwork? Yeah, me neither! So imagine how students feel. I know, your thinking, “But they need practice!” And I agree. But how about making it more engaging and interesting. For example, in 5th Grade, students need to find equivalent fractions. Now, I can either have them do DOK level 1 work via a worksheet – 3/6 = ?/2 OR have them manipulate fraction tiles to discover, and record, all the fractions that equal 1/2. Which would you rather do? Okay, so you might not have fraction tiles, right? But what if instead of printing worksheets, your district took that money and bought manipulatives? It’s all about where the district chooses to spend its money.

So while if I want something printed, I prefer going locally and will use this company. However, I implore schools to think differently. Let’s get away from worksheets and workbooks!

# Social Media & Genius Hour

Each Friday our 5th-Graders participate in Genius Hour. This year, there is a large group of students that either create slime – in order to sell – or draw. They hop on either Google Images or YouTube to hone their skills. I have encouraged them to create a website to showcase their work. Silly me, no one wants to do that. BUT, showcasing their work on their Instagram accounts, that’s another story.

Yes, I am aware that Instagram is for 13-year-olds and older. Each time a student tells me they have an account I remind them of this and ask if their parents are aware of their account and do they have the password. If their parents are okay with it the best I can do is teach them how to be responsible: no locations, birthdates, first or last names, etc.

When we were cleaning up on Friday, I watched one student pull out his phone, snap a pic, tag people, and post to one of his Instagram accounts. I thought this was a brilliant way to document and share his work! Now I need to work with the district’s IT department to unblock Instagram so my class can have an account and document our work.

# State Test & Slime: Perfect Pairing

Slime. A craze that is still going strong in my classroom. While many teachers find it the bane of their existence; I do not. Okay, fidget spinners might be the new bane of our existence. I don’t ban the slime, or fidget spinners, mainly because my students seem to understand that each has a time and place. My students, for the most part, have found a balance between work and slime.

This past week, my students began taking the state test. Again, I didn’t ban slime, nor did I encourage it. It’s just a ‘thing’ that exists in the classroom. As I was monitoring the students, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: while taking the test they were playing with slime. Let me be clear. It’s not all students, in fact, it’s about 5 or so and they were completely focused on their tasks.

One student kept the slime in her container, read, and simply played with it by dipping her finger in and out of the slime. She gets a bit nervous because she wants to do well. I believe it helped relieve some anxiety. I took a quick picture and texted it to her mom (our school’s secretary). We just giggled.

Meanwhile, a few other students had it on their tables, off to the side. They poked at it, rolled it, and kneaded it all while focusing on the test.

So if you’ve banned slime in your classroom, you may want to rethink it. Of course, there have been times where I had to confiscate slime because someone was focused on playing with it rather than working. However, if it helps calm students, why not let them play?

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# Coordinates Breakout Continued

Yesterday, my class began creating a Coordinates Breakout. They figured out which locks to use and what the codes would be. Today, I tasked them with creating the clues and a story to accompany the Breakout.

We had a bit of trouble coming up with a story so I had them creating some of the clues to the locks. They were RockStars creating the clues! They really thought out how to make the clues meaningful, with a bit of depth. One clue deals with the compass rose. We are still debating if we should have different ones on one page or split them up onto different pages and have them placed around the room. I think we will have to run the game with another class to work out some of the kinks.

Another clue, or three, deals with coordinate planes – first quadrant. Each group took a different approach in creating the coordinateplane. One group created a visually pleasing one with gradient coloring and took the time to draw each line. Meanwhile, another group struggled to create one; they needed four or five. The struggling group asked if the gradient colored group would mind sharing so they could copy their coordinate plane. And of course, the group was kind enough to share!

Then, while in the middle of creating, a student came up to me with a back story for our game. We bounced ideas off of each other and made it better. Tomorrow, I think I am going to have the students work together to make the story even better.

So far, this experience has been challenging, yet rewarding. It is our plan to submit the game to the Breakout EDU website. I think before that happens, I will share it out to make sure it’s in tip-top shape!

# Coordinates Breakout

This year I have done a few Breakouts with my class. To say that they love them would be an understatement. So this week when we started coordinates in math, the wheels in our brains started turning. Seriously, there are so many things a person can do!

As we were walking to lunch one student suggested that we do a Breakout based on coordinates. I thought this was a GREAT idea and told him that I would search to see if there were any already made. However, by the end of the 45-minute lunch break, I had decided that making our own would be more fun!

I have been wanting to create my own Breakout for over a year. I have had a few ideas. One was an entire Breakout based in Google Maps. Another was based on directions and graphing. Unfortunately, I could never really get clues and ideas that I felt were good enough. Today was a different story. With the help of 28 other brains, we began creating an exciting Breakout – if I do say so myself.

I posed the idea to the class and they went for it. We decided which locks and accessories to use, created codes, and clue outlines. They even designed a distractor that should be used. They had some great ideas! We’re not done yet, but we will definitely share when we are done. I will have them create the clues and the story. I’m pretty excited for what they will come up with.
They know that I introduced this concept – BreakoutEDU – to the staff last week. They want to run their Breakout with the staff. I don’t think there’s time for that, but hopefully, we can run it with the other 5th-grade class.

# Meaningful Homework

On a quest to find more meaningful work for students to do at home, my 5th-grade team has been toying with projects. We have refined our ‘Homework Matrix’ through the year. Basically, students are responsible for producing 4 projects per trimester. Some have been to look for the International Space Station (ISS). Others have been to create a sculpture that can be placed outside. However, I think my favorite has been the ‘Create a shadow box about someone who is important to you.”

The students have been creative, caring, and proud of their work. The shadow boxes range from an actual shadow box to a large wooden box, to an old drawer, to a picture frame that was painted. They have talked about their sisters, moms, aunts, dads, and cousins. I love seeing what they have to say, as presentations are a given in my class, and what they include. Even more fun, is hearing how families are working together to create these projects.