Day 10 Bonus! Meet the “Family”

My students are so funny.

We are at a K-8 school, so I have known my eighth graders since my first year, when they were in second grade.  They used to be so little and adorable, now they are big and adorable.  Most of them seriously tower over me (despite evidence to the contrary, I’m not very tall).

GTA Atlanta.  Photo credit: Danny Silva.
GTA Atlanta. Photo credit: Danny Silva.  I was standing on a chair.

Anyway, since we are a French immersion program, my students began taking English class in second grade.  I was the first English teacher many of them had, and will be their last one at the school.

Throughout the years, I have become super-close to these amazing kids and their families.  Our school is truly a family in many ways.

Last year, the “family” took a very humorous turn.  At a middle school basketball tournament (6th grade vs. 7th grade vs. 8th grade), I was joking with one of the seventh graders (now in 8th), and told her that she acted like a grandma.  She insisted from that moment on, that I refer to her as “Grandma,” so she has been Grandma ever since.

Once the word got out, a sixth grader wanted me to call her Grandma as well.  That makes two grandmas.

Grandma #1 extended the family by telling me that she has a “sister,” not her real sister, mind you, who is in third grade or something.  Grandma 1’s “sister” is another girl in her grade.  She has insisted I refer to her as Great Auntie.

Grandma #2 has a “daughter,” who is, ironically, a few months older than she is.  This is Mommy.  So Mommy and Grandma #2 are 12.  Stay with me, people.

I won’t go through the rest of the family history, but I now have a few uncles, some brothers, a sister, a Great Grandma, a Great Grandma Auntie, and a neighbor…lol, that last one had me scratching my head.  It’s hard to keep them straight, so I refer to them all collectively as “old people,” when I can’t remember.

All this is to set up the punchline for the big laugh of the night.  I received an email notification, that an Edmodo post had come in.  Here is the screenshot (name blurred out).

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 8.00.55 PM

Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.

Day 9 – Fumble Recovery

Last Friday, I assigned a collaborative assignment to be completed in class by my students via Google Classroom.  None of them finished it, so I assigned it for homework.  None of them finished it then, either.

Today in class, we had an honest discussion about why the work wasn’t done.  I told them that it was a no-blame situation, and that we would brainstorm ways to make things run more smoothly in the future.

Students provided the following reasons, among others:

  1. They are not used to the technology.
  2. They are not used to working in groups.
  3. It was hard having group homework on a weekend.

They were totally right.  It is still the beginning of the year, and I have completely uprooted my previous practice of having them work solo.  And to be quite honest, it really wasn’t fair of me to assign group work on a weekend, particularly at the beginning of the year.  If I were in the class, I probably definitely would have dropped the ball, too.  

So, I told them that we all learned something, and that we would cut each other some slack this first time.  I gave them an extra day to work on the assignment in class with no penalty, and said that I’d try not to assign weekend homework (especially group work) anymore.  

Third Period took the assignment very seriously.  Every now and then, I had to tell a few people to focus, but for the most part, they were extremely diligent.  One student even discovered the sharing feature on Google Drive to help them work faster, and more efficiently.  At that moment, she became the hero of the class.

Fourth Period, since there are more students, there was a little more confusion.  Most of them got the work done, but I noticed that one of the groups was very slow to start.  I had to constantly come by their table to cue them to begin.  They claimed they had it under control, but by the end, they were panicked and rushing like I knew they would be.  One member volunteered to come up for lunch and finish the assignment.  This raised a red flag to me.  I asked if anyone else was coming with him, but he volunteered to come up alone.

When he came up, he was very loyal to his team.  I asked him if he was doing all the work (which I could tell that he was).  He told me that other group members had contributed; however, I had witnessed them being off-task.  He wasn’t able to finish the entire assignment during lunch time.  

I went to the students’ Fifth Period class and had a quick conversation in the hall with the captain, and told him that everyone on his team needs to pull their own weight.  I asked him to reinforce that to the squad, and gave him a heads up about this awesome grading system that I learned about this weekend.  In it, group members self-assess for the most fair result.  I think I’ll create a Google Form to help facilitate this process.  If anybody has a script, that would work even better.  Can you even do scripts on forms?  #PLN, I may need backup 😀

In the meantime, fumble…recovered!!!

Day 8 – Genius Hour for MEEEEEE

Today I had my own 20% time. This year, I’m teaching half of the school day, and the other half, I serve kind of as an Instructional Coach for tech integration in our building.  I’ve structured it so that Monday-Thursday, I am at my colleagues’ disposal.  My buddy Dr. Will gave me the fantastic idea to use SimplyBook.Me to help me keep my sanity…er, I mean to schedule professional learning sessions.

Fridays are my days.  Oh, I’m a poet and don’t even know it.  But anyway, I am claiming this one day of the week to handle everything that I want to do.  I have three hours of professional learning with…myself lol.

Today, my project was to fix all of the laptops in the mobile lab that could be saved, in order to use them with my classes.  Prior to that, we had issues with some error message popping up.  It said something along the lines of, “no logon servers are available,” or some infuriating garbage similar to that.  I was able to save all but two by hardwiring them to the school Internet, logging on, then shutting down.

Third and fourth periods were cool.  The kids were a little amped, I’m guessing because it’s Friday.  Also, there were some major changes to the leaderboard since yesterday.  Two players hit 50 points today.  I’m going to need to slow up on giving out points, or make items in The Item Shop a little more expensive.  Good thing they have a lot of options, or things could get chaotic.

One major takeaway that I learned from ELA class today is to save all of the high-energy fun stuff for the end of class.  I allowed them to play each other’s Zondle games right after our warm-up with Edmodo’s Snapshot.

I’ll come back to Zondle in a second, but I just have to say that two of my kids are now meeting last week’s standard (8.RI.10), which I threw back in the mix just for fun.  Last week, not a single solitary kid scored “meets standard.”  The funny thing is that 8.RI.10 was only in the curriculum once last week, and the students are supposed to hit that mastery level at the end of the year.  I think all of the Actively Learn warm-ups are helping.  We also did 8.RI.1, which we did work on this week, although not much.  Five students have hit the mastery level there.  I’m expecting better next week.

As for Zondle, the students were so hype to play each other’s games.  I was walking around, looking over shoulders, and I found some of the games were on things like cell division.  Ha!  Not exactly what I was going for, but I’m glad it’s academic.  Next week, I will be very clear with them that they should be using academic vocabulary words while in my class.

We then used Google Classroom and the online textbook for a group classwork assignment.  Both periods ran out of time, so I assigned the rest as homework.  We are going to have to work on the collaborative teamwork thing.  It will go more smoothly as the year goes on.

For sixth period, Technology, we played Kahoot to review digital citizenship.  This was a final activity, before I give them my blessing and set them loose on their gamified journey in Tech class.  Speaking of that, I will work on the challenge board this weekend.

Kahoot, for those of you who don’t know, is a website that is very similar to bar trivia, but it’s educational.  That’s probably the best way I can describe it.  Thanks to my buddy Carla‘s awesome idea, we used Kahoot as a way to educate parents on new tech developments in our county, including GAFE and BYOD, yesterday at BTSN.  The parents had a great time, and this planted the seed for today’s activity with the students.

By the way, the seventh graders totally called me out today on not giving them their Xbox party last year.  D’oh!

Day 7 – Ok, I’m reloaded!!!

I woke up this morning feeling really overwhelmed.  My alarm rang at 5:15.  I hit snooze once, then woke up for the second alarm at 5:20.  Then, I laid there in the dark until the snooze rang at 5:24.  Finally, at 5:30, I opened my eyes and participated in #BFC530.  Usually, this is my signal to get up and start my day, but today, at 5:45 when the chat ended, I just hid under the covers.  

This week has been intense to say the least.  I love teaching my kids, but there’s so much other, beginning-of-the-year type stuff going on.  In addition to the regular teacher stress, I am also the Master Scheduler, and the Tech Liaison.  We are in the middle of an Internet hardwired outage.  D’oh!  Honestly, I was pretty close to feeling burnt out, and it’s only the second week of school.

Thanks to my buddy Crystal Morgan from TX, I was able to get my behind in gear and make my exit by 8:15.  I can’t begin to thank her enough for her Voxer pep talk, which started my day off right.  

It continued to get better from there.  Third and fourth periods were the highlights of my day.

This was our lesson.  We didn’t get through all of it, but I kind of expected not to.  I detailed everything we did in yesterday’s blog post.  It rolled out according to plan in both classes…actually even better!

The big surprise for me today was how engaged my students were.  I always have high expectations for them, but today they displayed a maturity that far surpassed what they had ever shown before.  

Again, many thanks to my PLN for introducing me to  The students loved it.  I was brutally honest about my approach, telling students that my teacher buddies introduced me to a new tool.  In addition, I asked them for their help in learning this new tool.  They were so patient and focused, despite a couple of user errors on my end.  Eventually, we all figured it out together.

Today, the students’ behavior was quite remarkable, especially in Fourth Period, the larger class.  I’m not even going to question it, just going to chalk it up to maturity 🙂  And The Item Shop 😀

My batteries are officially recharged. Or in the words of one of my favorite movie characters…

Day 6 (Edited) – I Don’t Need a Nap Anymore

Okay, so today was day six of school. I am currently “voice-typing” this into my iPhone, if that’s even a phrase. Today would be the day that I would totally lose in my blogging challenge, but thank goodness for voice recognition.

I am “writing” this as I drive home in my car. It has been a very long and grueling day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day, but it was still very long, and I am still very tired.

In class today, we first worked on Actively Learn to help us with informational text. Afterwards we read about the different characteristics of genres in our online textbook. Then, we worked on a collaborative Google Doc about said characteristics of different genres. Third period did incredibly well. I was very proud of them. Fourth, well, they got a little carried away, and someone deleted everything after we were done. But it’s okay, we’re still learning Google Drive.

Then, we discussed the reading log that we’re going to use for the 25 Book Challenge this year. I found it from a template on Google Drive that I tweaked to fit the needs of my class. Now with the new upgrade, it should be so much easier to make the forms look awesome.

Afterwards, we talked about The Item Shop. The kids oohed and aahed over different perks they could purchase with their spendable points. My third mod got to see Sphero, the remote control ball that I bought for absolutely no conceivable reason. At least now I get to justify it to myself. Fourth period ran out of time.

In technology class at the end of the day, I decided to take my seventh graders to the cafeteria for an in-school field trip. There, we talked about the soundboard. This is partially because I need a new army to replace my A/V gurus who graduated from the school two years ago.  Last year, I did it mostly by myself.  It’s better for everyone if the students learn how to operate it.

These kids were particularly into the lesson, because they’re really big into music, something that we share in common. They were so hype over learning about EQ, as well as basic operation of the board. We had a good time, then we went to the gym for dismissal.

Today was cool, but I need a nap.

(Edit)  Ok, I don’t know if this is the new thing with me, but it seems like as soon as the school day is over, I’m wiped out.  Then, once I get home, I suddenly have this second wind as I am planning the next day’s lesson.  Very strange.

Anyway, this is the results of the planning for tomorrow.  I was planning to do an academic vocabulary lesson with the students, but I refused to make it dry.  Never will they copy words from a dictionary in my class.  No siree, Bob.

I was thinking about buying a vocabulary subscription for my classes in Edmodo, until I saw the price tag.  It was $50 per group, for a grand total of $100.  While it did come highly recommended, I can’t won’t spend that much for an app we will only be using sporadically.

Next, I took to the web with a vengeance to find a *free* app that I could use with my students.  I read many reviews and settled on Quizlet.  Prior to doing so, I had used Voxer to ask my teacher buddies from the GEG DC Metro Area about their experiences with the $50 app.  They echoed that it was a great product, but they also shared a free website called Zondle.  Big shout out to Rafranz and Jake for steering me in that direction.  What it allows you to do is create games based on any subject.  Jake and Rafranz both shared that they allowed the students to create their own vocabulary games.  #doublewin!!!

I called an audible and saved Quizlet as a plan B. We are so going to use Zondle tomorrow.  I was initially going to let students choose their own words, but I think I’ll hold their hand a little and assign words to various squads this first time.  Eventually, I’m thinking of using the TextHelp Study Skills Read and Write add-on.

In the curriculum, we are supposed to do level 3 words for grades 6-8, but I’m also going to throw in level 4 words for grades 9-12.  Being overprepared never hurts. These kids can take it…they’ve been flying through passages for grades 9-10 without even knowing it.  But I’ll never tell 😀

Day Five – (Edited) A Little Less Blah

Today was Day Five. There’s not much to report. We did a diagnostic writing pre-assessment from the county. That’s basically it. Hopefully tomorrow will be more exciting.  By the way, this is one of those short post days I was talking about.

Edit: I’m back.  Ok, I’ll write a little more.  The magic for me happened today when I got home, and I was able to do my videos for the week.  I did two flips, one for all of my students, and a secret one for captains of the squads.  In case you don’t feel like watching them, the first video was a very general recap of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.  The second one is a secret mission for all of the captains.

Again, it would probably be smarter of me to keep this hush, hush so that my students don’t find out, but:

  1. I don’t think they read my blog, and
  2. I secretly want them to see the video, so everyone will want to be a captain.

Muhahahahaha.  I think everybody does want to be captain, but this will make it even more desirable.  One of the items that students can “purchase” with their Class Dojo points from The Item Shop is a change of captain, but this is by team consensus.  I think I’ll add an item to immediately grant themselves captain status.  This will cost them dearly, my pretty.  But it’s all good…to loosely paraphrase Chris Aviles, status is the most coveted reward.  Following that, there is access, power, and stuff, respectively.  Being a captain hits three of the four, but from what Chris said, the kids don’t care that much about stuff to begin with.

My first year using Class Dojo, I used a lot of stuff as rewards.  When you hit 100 points, you got a pizza party.  Boom.  It was ok…better than nothing, but it was costing me a bunch of money, and it probably wasn’t the most healthy thing to do.

Last year, I hit on access more.  When you hit 100 points, you got an exclusive invite to a Dance Central Party.  The kids loved this, but we ran out of time and didn’t get to everyone.  I felt horrible about this, because they earned it, but you can only have two players battle at a time.  Once the list started to pile up, it was a lost cause.  I think I’m forgiven.  Anyway, this year, I’m trying to hit all four domains, but focusing mainly on the first three.

I saw just how right Chris was, when I read this blog post this morning.  A student said that being captain, even for a short time, was “the best 60 seconds of this year!”  Wow, that’s pretty deep, even though we’ve only been in school for five days.

I loved the support that she gave to her classmate.  I think this year will be pretty cool.  The eighth graders are a phenomenal, talented group of kids.  They don’t like taking diagnostic writing pre-tests very much, but we will work on that.  We still have 175 days to go.  It’s already going by way too quickly.

Day Four – Leveling Up

In the words of Ice Cube, “today was a good day.”

Feel free to press play, and let the instrumental serve as the soundtrack.  Let me steal a page from my homie The Weird Teacher, and I will kick a funky rhyme.  I can’t wait to hear Sound Gecko read this one aloud.

Today everything went so well

Slept in, still got to work before the school bell

Said hello to my principal and colleagues

Gave a hug to all of my little buddies

My eighth graders grew and now they call me short

But it’s ok, I’ll still school them on the bball court

Did some Snapshot for warm-up, #edmodo

Then we turned around and talked about the Dojo

Fourth period figured out their squads overnight

Looked around the class, there’s no drama in sight

Then we took a look at the leaderboard

We brainstormed some Item Shop rewards

Not from Chicago, no Bull, but he’s the realest

Shout out to my homie Chris Aviles

Used his model and I told him he’s a genius

Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers

Class time flew by, both periods

No interruptions, so I wasn’t furious

I’m impressed the kids are so curious

Tech class: #digcit, the kids tried to Google us

They had lots of knowledge that they dropped my way

I gotta say, it was an awesome fourth day

Fiki fiki fiki. Take that, Sound Gecko 🙂

Draft Day, The Aftermath

Today was Draft Day in English Language Arts.  We had two different drafts, one in Third Period and one in Fourth, with opposite results.

Third period’s draft was awesome.  Everything went the way that I had envisioned it.  The kids were so hype over the draft, that some even found theme songs and made dances for their teams.  We even “squad[ded] up,” i.e. took team pictures.  They were pretty into it, and we ended that class period on a high.

Fourth period’s was a fail.  Looking back, I’m kind of glad it was.

It wasn’t an epic fail, but it easily could have been.  Still, we have our work cut out for us.  I’m looking forward to it.

What was the difference?

  • Third period: 15 kids.  Fourth period: 22 kids (with one absence).

A difference of six kids may not seem like a lot, but it’s just enough to turn a class with a high level of excitement from easily managed to “OMG!”  One of my strengths is that I know how to hype a crowd.  Calming them down, not so much 🙂  Next time we do something with so much inherent excitement, we need to go big or go home…it would have been easier to take this outside or to the gym, where the kids could spread out, and not have to watch their noise level.

  • Third period: uninterrupted class time.  Fourth period:  interrupted class time.

In third period, I taught straight from 11:15-12:15.  No interruption.  In fourth period, there was a scheduling issue where I had to take time out to handle kids being in the wrong place.  This led me to skip both of the videos that set the tone for The Draft, in the interest of time.  The whole thing felt rushed, and the atmosphere just wasn’t right.

  • Third period: seats were in rows.  Fourth period: seats were in groups.

I share my room with another teacher this year, since we have more staff members on our roster.  My “roommate” is awesome, and she has been very accommodating.  We’ve agreed that we can change the seating arrangement however we want, but to default back to the rows when we switch off.  Fourth period, though, the desks were already in the clusters of six, since that’s how we moved them in third period.  Again, I didn’t explain to the kids why the seats were suddenly different, so they sat with their buddies.  In groups.  Of six.  I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.

  • Third period: it was new to me.  Fourth period: it was a little stale.

Ok, I know that I didn’t have the same enthusiasm that I had for The Draft, the second time around.  The difference was probably imperceptible to the students, but I definitely felt it.  I guess it’s human nature.

  • Third period: I kept my cool.  Fourth period: I responded emotionally.

It wasn’t like I cried or anything, but I was definitely losing my temper by the end of class.  I think I was a little hangry.  It was much harder to be patient closer to lunch time.  I made a promise to myself to try not to raise my voice this year, if at all possible.  I really want to model appropriate behavior for the students, and it’s definitely not appropriate to yell.  Of course, we’re human, so I may slip up, but in general, I would rather keep calm as much as possible.

By this time, I’ve probably succeeded in my mission to build tension.  You’re probably wondering what happened during fourth period to make things go a little bonkers.  I would also write about third period, but it rolled out according to plan, which I detailed earlier this morning.  No need to reinvent the wheel.

Fourth period started out great.  Kids went on Edmodo and used No Red Ink.  They loved it.  I was just about to launch The Draft when I was called to my door to direct traffic consisting of about fifteen sixth graders.  When I got back in five minutes later, it took an additional five minutes to repeat what I had just said to introduce Draft Day.  Le sigh.  In our profession, you have to be flexible and able to roll with the punches.  This is an area where I can improve.  I’m a Virgo.  I like order.  I like schedules.  I don’t like disruptions…but such is life.

As I said, everything felt rushed.  We skipped the NBA and WNBA video, which in hindsight, I never should have done.  Those were my hooks.  That’s what the kids subconsciously craved.  They needed to really feel like they were in an NBA draft.

We began the draft, and it went smoothly for a while, until the captains began making secret deals among themselves for draft picks.  When one captain violated the oral agreement, the other captain wasn’t very happy.  Drama.  Scandal.  Trash talk.  It would have been entertaining, had it not been happening in my classroom.

I gave the students a verbal warning about the noise level, doing so in a calm voice.  They didn’t hear me.  I raised my voice about ten decibels, in order to be heard.  They settled down, but it wasn’t long before there was yet another scandal from a secret deal gone wrong.  I sent the students back to their seats.

They finished the draft from the desks, which wasn’t nearly as fun.  Finally, we started to pick team names.  One student asked me if their team could make a trade.  I told them they would have to wait until they earned enough points to do so.  Then another team asked about a trade.  I figured that it may save some pouting, drama, and major unhappiness to let those two teams trade one player each before we actually got started.  Big mistake…I should have stuck to my guns.  All of a sudden everybody wanted to switch.  “It’s only fair.”  Go figure.  I told them they had ten seconds to switch and that we would stick with whatever teams they were in when time was up.

By the time the ten seconds were over, there were four teams: two with six, one with eight, and one kid by himself (we had one absentee).  I told them that they needed to be in teams of five or six, and asked for volunteers to join the team of one.  No one wanted to move, so I started to split up the team of eight myself.  Lots of protesting and adolescent angst ensued.  This, my friends, is when I lost my cool.

In a calm voice (although I was erupting below the surface), I told the students that this obviously wasn’t working, so we would scrap the idea, because we already spent too long on it.  Then, I asked them to line up for lunch.  While they were in the line, I began putting back the desks to get the room ready for my co-worker’s next class.  I needed the time to cool off, and to figure out what our next move would be.  I decided not to give them the bad example of someone giving up at the first sign of failure.  After all, my PLN had taught me to “fail fast.”

A few students left the line to help me straighten up, without being asked.  This lifted my spirits a great deal.  After about two minutes, I addressed the class once again.  I told them that things didn’t really go the way that we had planned, but that we shouldn’t give up.  I asked them how can we make working in groups go more smoothly in the future.  One of my students (who had a few minutes earlier said Draft Day was “stupid”) suggested having more kids per group.  I told her that’s a great idea, and that we will add that as a reward they will be able to buy with their group points.  She smiled a little.

Collectively, we decided that whatever they had done and submitted before, I would honor.  However, they were each invited to send me a list of students with whom they would like to work, and that I would do my best, even though it wouldn’t be 100%.  They thought that was fair.

After reflecting, I think I actually appreciate what happened in Fourth Period today.  Yes, it was a bit messy.  No, it didn’t go according to plan.  However, I learned so much about what works and what doesn’t with my classes.  My students also learned that their opinions are valuable, and I think it was an unexpected bonding moment.  We were able to solve a problem together by collaboration.  I think next time I decide to plan a “best…day…ever!!!” I will also include students in the planning process.

Thanks for reading.  Nacho Mama out.  (P.S. they loved her!)

Day Two: Life’s Big Truths

Today was the second day of the 2014-2015 school year.  It was, overall, a great day.

In third period, we got set up on Edmodo.  We used the Actively Learn app to read nonfiction current event selections of their choice.  They had three options, one on entrepreneurship, one on sports, and one on stress.  They could pick whichever one they wanted.  Last night, I went through and added some questions to align with the Common Core State Standards.  I made sure to select texts one grade level up, because I want them to be ready for high school.  We might as well start early.

After we did this, we talked about what it means to be an active listener.  The curriculum wanted us to discuss it aloud, which is so 2013.  Instead we used our GAFE accounts to edit a Google document collaboratively.  The first group was having way too much fun, until they realized that we could see in real-time who was typing what.  I realized that, with the novelty of the technology, we wouldn’t go anywhere unless I let them explore for a couple of minutes.  Eventually, after they got the giggles out, we got to work.  I think they made it more about their goals for this year, which is totally fine by me.

Then, we looked at our textbook online.  That was pretty cool.  It worked on laptops, but not on tablets or smartphones.  We read a page together about life’s big truths, or something like that.  I can’t remember the exact wording.  At the bottom of the page, it said something to the effect of history repeats itself.  I asked the kids if they agreed with that statement.  One girl asked if the events in Ferguson related to the civil rights movement.  We decided to address that for about five minutes.  Some kids hadn’t heard of Michael Brown, and they educated each other.  I didn’t speak much during this time, but I did ask them what we can do to help stop injustice in the world.  Some said to protest and to spread the word.  I told them that I blogged about it, and they can, too.  This was the highlight of my day.

Fourth period was very similar, except I had to leave my class in the hands of another teacher for a while to handle a scheduling situation.  It’s only day two of school, so there were still some issues with kids knowing where to go.  When I came back, we also did the expectations for active listening exercise.  This class got to work right away, and stuck more with the original prompt; however, students were saying that other students were deleting their answers.  Hey, we’re still learning 🙂

Tomorrow, we are going to have a draft, since the class is having a basketball theme for the gamification.  More about that later, because I need to go home and dodge traffic.

But really quickly, I also had my B-Day Tech class for sixth period.  There are quite a few of them, and I was a little nervous about the size of the class; however, once we got the norms established, they were tuned in.  We did a few case studies of digital citizenship, and they shared their best practices for social media.  It was a lot of fun.  Next class, on Friday, we will talk more about digital citizenship.  Next week, we’ll move to audio-visual stuff, then after that, it will be gamified as well.

Ok, gotta go.  Thanks for reading!