Week 1 Retrospective

Hello, friends!  I’ve been in high school (part two) for a full week now, and it’s better than I could ever have imagined.  Although it is a whole new ballgame, it takes elements from the two worlds that I’ve been living in for the past few years (middle school and professional learning), and splits them right down the middle.  I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I have to jet, but need to blog.  Here goes.

The Change

The opportunity to go to high school, after seven amazing years in my K-8 came along.  I realized that I had become good at what I did, but if I were to continue to grow, I’d need to try something new.  After making this creepily foreshadowing video nine days before I even knew about the opportunity:

I decided to go for it, with a little nudge from my PLN, as well as my family.

First Week with Staff

When I arrived at the first day back for staff, I was immediately struck by the happy realization that I left one familial environment, only to join another.  This was a huge relief, as I was going through major anxiety the night before, as evidenced by this blog post I wrote to process what was going on (lol…hey, we’re all human).

The entire staff was so welcoming, and I was happy to see many familiar faces: parents of former students, spouses of former co-workers, people who I’d been following on Twitter for years, and folks I had met through county workshops and conferences like ISTE.  I probably knew a good third of the folks there already, so this helped a lot.

My team was also on point.  I learned so much from them in the first few days, and am continuing to learn.  It was from our department chair that I got my first explanation of how 3D printers work, something I’ve wanted to learn forever and a day.  Everyone on the team brings the heat in his or her own way, and I’m so proud to be part of this.

The atmosphere was very high-energy and supportive, but it was still a major change for me.  At one point I started to doubt myself a little bit.  However, our final assembly of the week was all about how important we all are to students, and about moonshot thinking.  After watching an inspirational video and hearing the principal’s speech, I felt renewed and ready for Monday.

Time to Meet the Students

Sunday night, surprisingly I slept like a baby.  I woke up early to work out, which I incorporated into my daily routine before school (we have to be there at 9 a.m.).  I found that it helps me focus, and I’m in an overall better mood.

Monday was Freshman Orientation, and they stayed in each class for about 30 minutes to meet all of their teachers from both days (block scheduling).  In our class, we introduced ourselves, then played a game of Kahoot to go over expectations.  In it, there were questions specific to the course itself, the school culture, and random trivia about me to keep them on their toes.

The day went by fast.  Tuesday was the real first day, with the freshmen and upperclassmen at school.

Day One

Since we are on block scheduling, we have A Days and B Days.  So, this will be a culmination of both days.  I teach three different classes, but the first five days of each class is roughly the same.

Warm-Up

The students did a survey that I whipped up on Google Forms, which included info about their strengths, goals, and an anonymous gamer tag for our leaderboard.  When they were done, they signed up for EverFi Ignition, a free self-paced digital citizenship resource, and began completing the activities.

Class Time

After warm-up, I told students how important storytelling is, and how we each have a story and something to bring to the table.  I challenged them to prepare a presentation of no more than five minutes about themselves to introduce themselves to the class, and modeled what this could look like through an ignite(ish) speech of my own.

Afterwards, we played Kahoot again, because most students were not present on Monday.  Lastly, we went over class expectations.  On the last slide, there was a link to an activity, which we didn’t get to until Day Two.

Day Two

Warm-Up:

On the second day of class, students began the day with their EverFi warm-up, except for those who hadn’t yet completed the survey.  On Friday (B-Day #2), students were invited to vote for their favorite class more from the 3rd period A-Day class.  We have a new class showcased every day, and the public is invited to vote as well.

Class Overview:

I explained the routine to students, that we would reconvene after warm-ups to go over the leaderboard, as well as any relevant announcements.  By this time, I had updated the leaderboard with their pseudonyms and points earned on Day One, so then I told them about the items they could “purchase” with their points in the Swag Shop.

Next, we moved on to the Class Activity for the day, Balloon Cars!  (The site where the activity is described is hyperlinked on the last slide of Day One’s course overview.)  This was a great group work activity where the kids were able to get out of their seats and work together on the design process.

Some groups got it on the first try, and many more had to try and try again. Overall, it was a great learning experience.  I was really touched when groups who had success split off to help their classmates experience the same success.

In some classes, we were able to get started setting up reflective blogs via Blogger (thanks to the EduMatch crew for the sugestion).  In others, we jotted down notes for later blogging.

Homework

I’m not very big on homework, especially in a class pretty much rooted in PBL.  However, I am a huge proponent of flipping.  My school happens to have a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, so this will make flipping easy.  In addition, most students do have cell phones.  I took full advantage of this knowledge to craft my first 360 degree flipped video via my Ricoh Theta camera, to show students what is possible:

FYI, this video may not work properly in some browsers, but I had lots of success on my phone in the YouTube app, as well as on the YouTube site itself, where there is a directional control pad located in the top left of the window.

Reflections

I know I promised to be short and sweet, but I got carried away.  Here are a few take-aways that will drive me into next week:

  1. Find some comfortable shoes.  I’m not feeling heels.
  2. Stick to the model of one reading/writing day and one lab day.  This will help get students ready for the college model.
  3. Implement “Figure It Out” Fridays, where we all get together to…well…figure something out lol.
  4. Get the blogs up and running ASAP, so that students can reflect and comment on each other’s musings.

I’d love to hear what everyone else has going on the first week of school.  Please drop a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

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 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 🙂