Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Find the Numbers Object Lesson

Last night at a professional development meeting, my supervisor, who is about to complete her PhD in education with a focus on teacher development, had us do this effective object lesson to demonstrate the difference between affective and cognitive learning. She gave us a paper similar to the one above, with numbers 1 through 50 in a random assortment. She instructed us that we had 30 seconds to circle each number, in order, no skipping. She said we needed to get to 28 to pass the assignment.

After we all failed the assignment, she said we needed to "go faster" and "try harder" and again told us we would not pass unless we got the next 28 numbers in 30 more seconds, so we needed to "step it up" and "do better." Almost all of us did about the same, or in some cases (me!), worse. She also asked if we thought the people who did better were smarter than the rest of us.

She then taught us a trick. If you fold the paper in fourths, you could find the number 1 in the top left quadrant, then going clockwise through the quadrants, you would find the next number in turn. (See the photos below). Then she had us try again, with no pressure to do better, but of course we all finished the assignment.

Her point was about how when we focus on finding different ways to explain things, and providing an environment where they feel comfortable and successful (affective learning), they perform much better, regardless of natural intelligence of IQ level.

I'm sure this activity has a plethora of uses for object lessons with students. I'm going to use it with my students as an example of how it's best to look for patterns, ask questions, understand the assignment, and tap into their own learning styles before beginning an assignment. If you think of any other uses, or have seen this in the classroom before, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Figurative Language Matching Card Game

I finished the Concentration-style game for figurative language examples and terms that I mentioned in my last post. I took off the color coding from the trading cards, made everything into 2 1/2" squares and added term cards. I like the way it turned out, and I'm already thinking I'm going to use this as a quiz rather than a traditional multiple choice quiz for the terms. My students who get test anxiety are going to love this!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Trading Cards in the Classroom

 My students have mentioned that the posters and Power Point I use with visual clues and examples are a great way to help them remember figurative language terms. When I noticed them making flash cards to study, I thought, why not shrink the graphics to flash card size to help out my students? When I made the cards, I sized them to fit inside a trading card protector, and realized that what I had created were trading cards. Of course they can be used as flash cards, but I have found many other uses for trading cards in the classroom.

 Concentration: For younger students, a simple matching game will breed familiarity with the terms and examples. For older students, you could create cards with examples and cards with the terms, and ask students to match the examples with terms. For the cards I made here, I'm going to create cards without the terms at the top, and matching term cards for the game.

Rewards: You could pass out the trading cards as rewards for quiz scores or answering questions in class etc... Even my older students secretly get excited about this.

Reference: If the cards are laminated and put on a ring, they could be permanent fixtures in the classroom as a study/reference tool.

Interactive notebooks: Printed out on paper instead of card stock, these could be glued into a notebook for reference with activities for that particular term.

 The possibilities are endless! If you want to create your own cards, there are numerous templates available for free online. The standard size is 2 1/2" x 3 1/2", but if you are going to use them primarily for matching games, it wouldn't hurt to go larger. There is also a fun trading card app from the International Reading Association found here.

If you want these figurative language trading cards, they are found in my store here for only $2.00. They are inexpensive because I had already made the posters (found here) so it was just a matter of shrinking them to size.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cell Phones in the Classroom - What Do You Do?

I've always been fairly tolerant of cell phones in my classroom, as long as they aren't a distraction to other students. Since my students are paying to be there, I figure it's their money wasted if they don't pay attention. Lately, though, the level of rudeness and distraction has been unreal. I've had students answer the phone in class, text while I am talking directly to them, or cheating on tests with them. (During a vocabulary test, I had a student with on his phone....) I'm rethinking my policy.

I'd like to do what this woman does in the video. I'm sure that ended the phone problem in her classroom, but I don't have the guts or a tile floor to accomplish this task. Plus, I don't want to banish cell phones entirely, because students do use them to take pictures of notes on the board or record certain parts of my lectures. I check my own phone on every break for text messages from absent students, and often use the calendar or calculator function during class, so I appreciate that they can be useful.

I am, however, going to banish them during certain times in the class period. Here are a couple of ideas I'm mulling over. If you have any good ideas, please send them my way. A new quarter starts in October, and I want to have my policy in hand.

1. Basket drop. One teacher at my school has a basket at the front of the classroom where students drop their phones at the beginning of class, then they can pick them up and use them on breaks.

2. My online teacher acquaintance Scipi is using the "Sock it Away" method. She describes it on her blog post here. This seems like a great idea because it seems effective, but also uses a little humor.

3. One of my college professors told us that if he saw or heard a cell phone in his class, we would be asked to leave. I could modify this to lecture or presentation times, because as I said earlier, if they waste their own work time, that's their problem, not mine.

Any other ideas? Post them here. I'm all ears!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Spaghetti Tower Group Dynamic Exercise

For some of my students, twenty percent of their grade is determined by group work. They have "learning teams," which are governed by a self-written charter. How they cooperate in these teams is essential to their success.

I like to do this exercise at the beginning of the class, before they form learning teams, to help students recognize how they, and others, work in a group dynamic.

1. Divide the students into teams of four to five.

2. Give each team half a package of spaghetti, a jumbo box of Dots candy and one regular size marshmallow.

3. Tell the teams they have 18 minutes to build a tower. The tallest free-standing tower at the end of 18 minutes wins. When time is up, hands off.

4. The only rules are:  the tower must be free-standing (no propping), the marshmallow must be at the top of the tower, and teams must use only the materials provided.

The exercise is a variation of one that a friend participated in at a police academy. They also use it in business schools, and in various employee retreats. If you search "spaghetti team building" you will find the original exercise using 20 spaghetti noodles, a length of string, a length of tape and one marshmallow. I modified the materials to get more inventive, taller towers.

After the exercise, I have students write a few paragraphs of reflection:

1. How did your group work together?
2. Did someone emerge as the leader? How were decisions made?
3. What was your role in the group dynamic?
4. Was someone primarily a creative thinker? A practical thinker? An analyzer?
5. What could your group have done better?
6. How could you better contribute to the group dynamic?

Students love this activity, and it gets them thinking about the different ways people approach group work. The discussion is afterwards is always interesting.

Most recently, one group said they worked together seamlessly because they were all ex-military and had a similar mindset, with no problem trading off leadership. Another group had some contention because one of the members was eating the Dots and the self-appointed leader was trying to convince her that the group needed every Dot. One all-male team finished two minutes early and sat back. One all-female team fussed with their tower until the very last second. Every team is different, but there is always plenty to analyze.

 The winning tower!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ender's Game - Perfect Timing

 Ender's Game the movie is coming out this November. This is a book I teach in my Humanities class because it draws in the male readers, and it's a big hit with science fiction and fantasy fans, and also those who don't normally appreciate this genre (including me!).

The characters and themes in Ender's Game are classic and compelling, making this novel a good choice any year, but since the movie will generate excitement, using it this fall in the classroom makes sense. You could also assign it or suggest it for summer reading.

A movie/book comparison is perfect for the common core standards that ask for comparisons between books and other mediums. (CCS RL; R17)

 My current class is about 1/3 of the way through the novel. I showed them the trailer for the movie, and the discussion afterward was amazing. I can't wait until they've read the whole book, then watched the movie. Here is the trailer:

I have heard that the reason is took so long for Ender's Game to be made into a movie was because Orson Scott Card didn't want to give up creative control, and he wanted the integrity of his story and characters to stand. Let's hope he got what he wanted with this film. So often a movie is far removed from its roots, and usually not for the better. I have high hopes for this one.

If you choose to teach Ender's Game, I've put together a packet you might be interested in. It's got quizzes, discussion questions, graphic organizers, etc....everything I use in my classroom. Click on the image to get to the packet.  It will save you a lot of preparation time!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Calming the Chaos

I like to use engaging, small group activities toward the end of the year as opposed to individual work. Let's face it - the students have ants in their pants and engaging socially in a worthwhile activity can settle things down. Here's an activity that I can't take credit for creating, but have been using for a few years. I've found it several places on the internet, and I can't nail down the original creator, so if you know who it is (or if it's you!) please let me know so I can give credit. It's become a favorite, and I look forward to it every year.

The exercise is meant to help students understand that although we may all read the same text, we all react differently, based on our experience, culture, perceptions, emotions etc...Pass out Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks" (link here), divide the students into groups of three or four, and pass out paper and markers. Have the group read the poem, and then create an artistic rendition of the socks. Post each piece of art on the board and have the groups explain why they made the decisions they made and which images spoke to them. A great discussion generator!

FREEBIE! Here is a link to an SQ3R note-taking freebie that will help your students study their textbooks for finals. 
Blog Hop Participants
Check out this Great Giveaway!

Friday, April 26, 2013

End of Year Blog Hop and Giveaway

We've all experienced the almost-the-end-of-the-year restless class syndrome. One strategy I've used successfully to get students to focus and finish strong is to pass out raffle tickets for doing well (getting a certain score on a pop quiz, participating in a class discussion etc...). I also give out tickets after reviewing each student's grade sheet, and making a plan for the rest of the year.

The raffle takes place the last week of school, and I display some of the prizes early on to motivate the students. I keep an eye out all year for interesting prizes, and have found they don't need to be expensive or fancy--a plate of Rice Krispie treats was the first to go last year. It's worth it to ask for donations from local companies--many are happy to oblige.

 It's also always a good idea to introduce fresh material at the end of the year. Below you will find a blog hop and giveaway (April 27 - 30) where you can win a plethora of free classroom materials, a $35.00 Amazon gift card, and an additional three products from Lessons from the Middle TPT store.

The product I am donating for the giveaway is a set of 20 figurative language posters. Click here for a freebie sneak peek at the product (5 free posters!). Below are all the participating blogs where you will get great end-of-the-year ideas and the giveaway information. Good luck!


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