Too sleepy to write, so I vlogged instead.
Whoops, I dropped the ball and forgot to post yesterday. I’ll write two posts today. This one will be really short, because I’m getting set up for class.
This post is dedicated to everyone who makes the world a better place. I really want to thank all of my family, friends, students, PLN, school family, and just everybody for all of the birthday love. It really made me smile, and I’m so fortunate to have all of you in my life. You mean the world to me. It gets me choked up sometimes to think of how lucky I am to be blessed with so much awesomeness around me. Thank you for continually inspiring me. Words aren’t nearly enough, but at least it’s something. Have a fantastic day, everyone!
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).
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).
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:
- A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
- Photography: Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
- Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
- Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only. My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
- 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.
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:
- They are not used to the technology.
- They are not used to working in groups.
- 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!!!
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!
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 Zondle.com. 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…
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 😀
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:
- I don’t think they read my blog, and
- 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.
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 🙂