Fast & Curious Teams

In the first Eduprotocols Field Guide by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo, they describe one of my favorite EduProtocols: Fast & Curious. I use this daily and the kids love it. Recently, the website I use, Quizizz, made some updates and they are AMAZING!!

battle board game challenge chess
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First of all, the students are loving the ‘teams’ play. We don’t play teams each time, but when they play it creates a fantastic bonding experience with the groups. The app places students into 4 teams randomly. Now, add in the newest feature: redemption question. This means that if a student gets a question wrong they have a chance to redeem themselves by trying to answer it again. There are so many reasons that I LOVE this feature. Immediate feedback, better retention, and not a ‘gotcha’ situation.

NOTE: There are a few other new features that have enhanced the app. Check it out at quizizz

If all that wasn’t amazing enough, I have implemented ‘Classroom Economy’ in our class this year. One of the bonuses we agreed upon was 100% (on selected items like quizizz) earns a student $50. So the stakes are even higher and more fun. What my class does with this information and teams is beautiful. They sit in their teams and help one another in order to get 100%. If someone on the team needs help, it’s freely given. They are also aiming to get 100% as a class (this comes with a $100 bonus for all).

They don’t think I see or hear what’s going on. I do, of course, and I how could I ever stop such wonderful energy?

EduProtocols + Hyperdocs = Dream Lesson

I have been in school for 2 weeks now. On week 3 I decided to jump in with Social Studies lessons. I have been doing a Hyperdoc, Google My Maps lesson on Native American Regions for several years. Each year I tweak the lesson. This year was no different.

Dream Lesson

2 minutes before class, I revised my lesson once again. As I was walking the class back from lunch I was retooling it in my head. This year, I was going to have the students do an Iron Chef AND THEN have the students create a group My Map to record information. Brilliant!

In years past, students were given the hyperdoc, took notes, and then created the group My Map. This worked, but always took waaaay too long. This time, we completed the first region in 2 days! Do they have the information and understanding that I’d like? No. However, I can now do other projects to help solidify this information. Again, more interesting and fun.

Another advantage of doing the Iron Chef Protocol first is that the student heard the information several times BEFORE digging into the task. It really was so much more enjoyable, at least on my end, this year. I’m sure that the hiccups we encountered will lesson we continue this process with the other regions.

All The Sales!

Here it is, early July. I should be enjoying some well deserved time off, yet I can’t stop prepping, reading, researching, and thinking about how to make next school year even better. It doesn’t help that on many social media platforms, teachers are posting pictures of classrooms, libraries, and resources. Then, there are the ones that post about sales and purchasing items. This is where I get a bit uncomfortable.

I have been teaching for over 20 years so I know all too well the amount of money a teacher invests in their classroom. I was a beginning teacher who spent more money than I ever should have fixing up my classroom, investing in books, and supplies. No beginning teacher earns enough to do that, yet we buy these items.

More recently I have adopted the attitude of, “Naw.” As in, “Naw, I’m NOT buying pencils, notebooks, lined paper, folders, etc. for my classroom.” I have not moved schools or districts. I still teach in a Title 1 district.

man wearing pink polo shirt with text overlay
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So what changed? I changed; my attitude changed. Maybe I’m a bit more enlightened and less naive than I use to be. Trust me this is a new thing for me. I have students who can’t afford back to school supplies. I have students whose parents choose not to purchase supplies. I understand that it’s not the child’s fault. But, when did it become MY responsibility to purchase said supplies? If I have 30 students and purchase 2 folders per student (1 for classwork and 1 for homework/home communication) at a cost of $9.99 for a box of 25 (according to Office Depot), that means I need to purchase 3 boxes (I need 60 folders). That means I just spent $27.97 (plus tax) on my classroom out of MY OWN POCKET. What?! That wasn’t even for the ones with prongs. Then there are essentials like pencils, pencil sharpeners (that NEVER last), bulletin board border (gotta make the room look pretty), organizational tools, and other basics. Then if you want to do flexible seating in your classroom, most districts won’t pay for that so there’s more money out of your pocket (yep, did this one last year). Some of the costs might be minimal. I bought bed risers for raised desks for around $10. Not a big deal, right? Again, when did THIS become my problem?

Teachers, by nature, are generous and nurturing. The system has totally exploited our kindness and has, in some cases, come to expect that we will purchase what we need out of our own pockets. We need to STOP this! I know what you’re thinking: “Schools aren’t funded properly”, “My students can’t afford ____”. And you’re right. Schools aren’t funded properly. Many families can’t afford supplies. However, why should schools be funded properly when we continue to fill in the gaps? Why should schools offer to buy the folders when we happily do it and then feel great when we hit a sale (yeah, hitting a sale and saving money feels great, not gonna lie)? But we need to step back and realize that we are part of the problem.

So, I am trying VERY hard NOT to spend any money in my classroom this year. I will ask my site to purchase needed materials: folders, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. This is not going to be easy, but there really aren’t any other professions (we have bachelors and masters and doctorates; we ARE professionals) that spend their own money to make their environment better and successful. Yes, there are certain items that a professional, such as a nurse who buys her/his own stethoscope, but do they need to purchase paper, folders, pens? No. And neither should we.

I know this was a long rant and most likely not so popular, but I hope it made you think. Until we demand to be treated like professionals, we won’t be. Until we stand up for ourselves and demand districts spend their money on students rather than admin, buildings, etc. nothing will change. If you can’t pay your electric or heating bill will your district do that for you? Most likely not. So why do we pay for things that the district should be paying for?

NOTE: I am fortunate enough to have an administrator who will pay for the basics out of site funds. However, many are not as fortunate. This post was spurred by ALL THE SALES that I see being shared ‘for teachers’.

States & Capitals Memory Game

img_0564I love to incorporate games into the day. I mean, we begin the day by playing board games! So why not use games to help students learn their states and capitals?

We have been playing a few games in regards to this subject. Using a few items that I have collected through the years, students are practicing their knowledge of U.S. geography.

Most recently we have been using cards with a state or capital printed on each one to play memory. I have 5 groups of cards so that students can play in small groups. Each group of cards is printed on a different color. I have separated each deck of cards into groups of 4. This way the students are familiarizing themselves with approximately 12 – 14 states and capitals at a time. Students use the aid of a few maps that I acquired along the way. Fortunately, the maps were from an old curriculum set and there are several sets in the classroom.

This is such a fun and easy way for students to learn. They are really getting into it! One student even begged to play it (I had it in the plan for later in the day). She was NOT happy to hear that we weren’t playing it at that moment. THAT is how you know you have a winner on your hands!

End of Year Gifts

It’s nearing the end of the year and many of us are thinking about giving gifts to our students. Years ago I began creating word clouds for my students.
Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 2.36.17 PMI use Google Forms to collect adjectives from students. The students don’t know why I’m doing it. I ask for three adjectives to describe their classmates. We brainstorm a list of positive qualities that could be used to describe someone. I do 3 students at a time. Any more than that and the students start to repeat themselves and it’s less personal. I take the adjectives, check spelling, and place them in a word cloud generator. I use Wordart. I try to pick images that match each student’s interest, passion, or personality. The secretary at my school is kind enough to print them out for me. I cut them to size and place their school picture on it and put it all in a frame that I purchase from the Dollar Store. Adding a short message on the back of the frame is also a nice touch. It’s a personal gift and easy on the wallet.

I love this gift so much!

Tic Tac Toe Math

I have been on a creative streak lately. I LOVE #EduProtocols by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo. I LOVE #MathReps which were inspired by Jon Corippo’s 8 p*ARTS of Speech (read the full story). As a result, I have been working on Math EduProtocols. My latest one, that is ready to share with the world and receive feedback, is Tic Tac Toe Math.

Tic Tac Toe Math (1) This is a sample I created for my class. My intent was to review some basic math concepts while having fun. The rules are simple:

Each player writes their name and chooses either X or O.

  1. Player 1 chooses a square to complete. BOTH Player 1 and Player 2 independently work out the problem in the chosen square.  If Player 1 is correct, Player 1 gets the square and circles their symbol (X or O)
  2. IF Player 1 is incorrect, Player 2 has a chance to ‘steal’ the square. Player 2 MUST complete the problem correctly AND explain where Player 1 was incorrect.
  3. Player 2 chooses a square, even if they stole Player 1’s square. BOTH players must work independently to solve the problem. If Player 2 is correct, Player 2 gets the square. If Player 2 is incorrect, Player 1 has a chance to ‘steal’ the square. Player 1 MUST complete the problem correctly AND explain where Player 2 was incorrect.
  4. This continues until someone wins or all squares have been completed.

I tested it out on my students. They liked it and had some good feedback. Some wanted ALL algorithms. Some wanted harder problems. This was a fair statement as I purposefully chose easier problems. I wanted to hook them before going all in. Two students worked on the middle square together and decided that they both claimed it; that worked for me. Overall, it was something that they all enjoyed.

The set up of the problems was purposeful. The four corners are meant to be easier problems (DOK 1). This allows all students success. Those that are between the four corners are meant to be a bit harder. Finally, the center square is to be the hardest. A challenge problem. A player can still win without choosing the challenge problem. I did like the modification my students came up with for that middle square. It takes the pressure off one particular player and allows for collaboration, problem-solving, and communication between players in a friendly manner.

I have created a template with directions and the above sample. Feel free to copy and create your own. I would love to hear how you are using it and how your students feel about it. What modifications have you made? Please share!

Check-In with Flipgrid

Last week I went back to Michigan due to a family emergency. I didn’t think I was going to be out of the classroom, but as it turned out I was. I was out for an entire week. The week AFTER Spring Break. Not great timing especially since I was out the two days before Spring Break. I knew I had to tone set with my students. Some would be thrown off by my absence.

Ms. N's Message on FlipgridThe question became: How am I going to communicate with my students? At first, I thought about doing videos on YouTube. Easy enough. I could record on my phone and upload. Then, after talking to a friend, I decided that Flipgrid was a better option. I could keep it private AND use the students’ names. I wanted to remind O to clean up, remind A to do work and not surf the web, and give shout outs to those who I was sure were doing the right thing. This worked out well. I was in contact with the sub and could customize my message each day. The kids really enjoyed it and LOVED hearing their names in the morning.

How fortunate that we live in this time where we can connect with our students from thousands of miles away.

Kindness Coin

Ben's Bells Kindness CoinAt some point last year at a Google Innovator event I was given one of these. I liked the idea of passing along a note to recognize kindness in others.

I recently ran across it again and incorporated it into my classroom. I introduced the idea to my students telling them that when they saw someone being kind, it could be passed along to that person.

Fortunately, my students have really taken to the idea. Each day I see this being placed on someone’s desk. I love that my students do it without making a big deal about it. At one point it was missing for a few days. One of the students asked where it was and what happened to it. I reminded them to keep it going and it showed back up later that day.

A little kindness going a long way!

#MathReps Work!

Several years ago I created #MathReps (EduProtocols for math) for my classroom. The original idea was based on Jon Corippo‘s 8 p*ARTS of Speech. When I first designed it I was excited and blogged about it. Since then, the idea, and resources have grown. And being who I am, I constantly doubt myself and my creations. I constantly question whether I’m doing good or harm.

MathReps Logo

Yesterday, some of my doubts were cast aside and my creation was validated. Recently, I was talking to another 5th-grade teacher at my site. We were talking about some tasks that we have students do. She follows the curriculum to a T; I, however, do not. This is in NO way a slight towards her (she’s new and is doing as she is instructed). She shared that she pulled out a concept the students hadn’t seen in a few months (our curriculum doesn’t spiral. I have much more to say about it, but won’t do it here.). It was adding/subtracting with decimals. I thought THAT was a great idea, so I did the same. She reported her students having difficulty remembering to line up the decimals doing the task. As I gave my students a similar task, I observed that they instinctively lined up the decimals. I found this not only interesting but satisfying. My students had been exposed daily to almost 5 months of this concept on various #MathReps. Needless to say, I was elated and felt somewhat justified in doing what I do.

After completing the task I had a frank discussion with my class. I asked, even though I already knew the answer if they had any trouble adding the decimals. I asked about lining up the decimals. They all looked at me like I was crazy. Of course, they knew to line up the decimals….duh! I then shared WHY! I also shared that a class that doesn’t use #MathReps had trouble remembering that important piece of information. And that it was because we practiced these concepts DAILY that they had no trouble with that part. (They had trouble with the task but weren’t confused about how to perform the actual skill of adding decimals.) Because of the culture of our class, they focused on the fact that #MathReps actually do help them and not on the class that had trouble. It was so awesome to bring to light to them, and me, that this protocol really works. One student even remarked that while they may not like doing them it does help them to learn.

Just like with anything, if we don’t use newly acquired knowledge we lose it. In addition, John Hattie puts repetition at a 0.73 on the Hattie Check Scale. I would caution that there are different types of repetition and we need to make sure that our reps are meaningful.

I did share this with the other teacher. I assured her it was no slight on her, and she understood, rather it was a slight on the adopted curriculum.

Size Matters

Yesterday, Friday, I had 5 students absent. When everyone is present, we have 26 students in our class. They are an awesome group of kiddos. I’m really enjoying them, but when I had 21 yesterday in class, it was so nice!

close up of woman working
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Let me explain. First of all, it had nothing to do with which students were absent. It had everything to do with the number of students physically present. I know 26 isn’t a bad number to have (last year I had 31 – THAT was too many). However, 21 students made it so much easier to squash undesired behaviors before the student had a chance to fully commit to the behavior. It allowed me to target individual needs more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, we had some name calling and general playing around but it was easier to manage.

So when school officials, politicians, or policymakers say that handling 31 is the same as handling 21, they clearly have either never been in the classroom (as a teacher) or have been out of it for far too long. There is a difference. I felt so much more productive and impactful than I have in a long time. I felt as if I really was making a difference and reaching all students.

If you are in a position to make a difference in your community, I urge you to do so. Go to school board meetings or talk to teachers. Because in the end, size really does matter!

And yes, I will be happy to see all 26 of them Monday morning!