Friday, August 19, 2016

Beginning of the School Year Activities!



It's that time.
I'm sad summer is over, but, I am excited at the start of a new year!:)

Besides some of the typical activities I use every year, (e.g"Getting to Know You" Bingo), here are some new activities I will be using.

Two of the ideas I got from Matt Bergman's blog, "Learn, Lead, Grow." He created a Google Slides of class expectations and had the class work in groups to complete them. Can you say "student ownership?" I added some of my own expectations that I want them to work on. When they are done, I will print the slides, put them on posterboard and hang up our rules. (I have to have rules posted in my classroom.)

The other idea is the Flipquiz.me game. I created a game similar to this in a Jeopardy format, it's mentioned in another blog post. All you need is a device and somewhere to project the quiz. The quiz was very easy to make and I know the kids are going to have a great time!


I am beginning the year with a project. Boo!!! No, wait, this will be fun. It is the Selfie Project. Students are given items that they have to take selfies with or of. It's a way for them to have fun and for me to get to know them a little better. I purchased a selfie stick for my class, and I didn't include too many "at home" items, not knowing the phone and home situations. Many of my students are looping, so I was able to let them choose how they want to present.


If you want to combine Math and a "Getting to Know You" activity, "Figure Me Out" is a great, fun, way to do this. This one was shared by my teacher friend. Not only is it fun and educational, you can also hang it in the hallway or complete a bulletin board with the finished product.


Of course, I always have my "Getting to Know" you surveys. I updated it by using questions that I found on a paper survey and inputting them into Google Forms. I like these questions better than the simple "Favorites" questions because I think it will help me understand my students better.(As soon as I recall where I found the questions, I will give them credit.)


Goosechase is a Scavenger Hunt, brand new for me. I created a "mission" for the students to complete as a team. Getting my team building in. I made it very simple and they get points for each part they complete. The students will need a device. They also have an education version but I can't afford the $119 a year. :(


And last , but not least, BreakoutEdu! I think of it as an "Escape the Room" in a box. The students have to follow clues, digital or physical, that will help them unlock the box. You do need a box and locks. You can purchase it from the company or put together your own box/locks.. (Amazon). They have breakouts created, or you can create your own. Since this is my first time using it, I will stick with a ready-made version.

If you would like any of the forms, go to Files, click "Make a Copy", and it's yours. I will not use these activities in a day, they will be spread out over the next 2 weeks, mixed in with the curriculum. Hopefully, you can use at least one of these ideas in your classroom. Have a great year!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"Cheat Sheets" Saving My Voice and My Sanity!


One year I was being observed and the class I had was trying to sign into Schoology, again. I was frustrated because a. I was being observed and b. This was not the first time they had signed into Schoology. And to be honest if I wasn't being observed, I might not have been quite as frustrated. But that's another story...

So, during the post observation my administrator suggested that I create "cheat sheets." I  said, "I keep telling them how to do it, they should get it." And then, I went home and created the "cheat sheet", and I have been doing it ever since.

I make "cheat sheets" because, eventually, whether it's the 2nd time or the 20th time, the student is going to figure out how to get on, log in, post, or whatever it is you want them to do. And when they don't, they won't have to ask you, because they have something to turn to besides you or another student.( I do have "techsperts" in my class, but their purpose is not to help every single time a student has an issue, especially when they are trying to complete work themselves.)

Instead of having to walk over to the students's desk, I would say, "Didn't I give you a cheat sheet for that?" They would look at me, realize I wasn't coming over to take them step by step through the process for the umpteenth time, and find their cheat sheet, (which is should be glued in their notebooks), and do it themselves. If they lose it, they have to borrow one, I do not make more copies.

Eventually, they don't ask me. Eventually, most of them don't need the sheet.

Of course, you can always make a screencast, (video), that can accomplish the same thing, but I prefer paper in a notebook.

Tips for creating a cheat sheet:

  • make sure the directions are clear (I write the directions in steps)
  • add pictures. I used Snagit or Awesome Screenshot (Chrome Extension) to capture images
  • bold or highlight important parts
  • if possible, try to keep it to one page
  • walk through it after you have written it
  • Revise if necessary
"Cheat sheets" have saved my voice and my sanity!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Buffalo Wild Wings and Teaching!

Buffalo Wild Wings introduced a 15 minute lunch guarantee:

"Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. (NASDAQ: BWLD) today introduced a limited-time, 15-minute lunch guarantee across nearly 900 U.S. restaurants, designed to show time-strapped Guests that they don't have to sacrifice quality, value or variety for speed at lunch time.

"We want to prove to our Guests that they can get the Buffalo Wild Wings experience they have come to know and love within the limited time they have for a traditional lunch break," said Todd Kronebusch, vice president of food and beverage for Buffalo Wild Wings. "Our standard was already to deliver Fast Break meals within 15 minutes, but the new guarantee adds a promise to our Guests, and some fun, friendly competition."

"Servers will start a timer when they leave the table and stop the timer when the food is delivered. Any Guest who doesn't get their meal in 15 minutes gets their entire meal and any fountain soda for free."


Every time I hear this commercial I cringe. It reminds me  of the way teaching is handled today, top down. Orders, or "suggestions" from someone who is not actually in the field. A  "great idea", that those  in the field are forced to carry out.

Those poor servers. Our poor teachers. 
Our guests are our students. I worry that every time we teach to tests or switch to the latest tend teachers are sacrificing quality, value, and/or variety. If a teacher is juggling all the latest and greatest ideas handed down from above, can they really do their best? Can they get it done in "15  minutes", and get it done well? If they are constantly rushing to pick up the next order, where is the time to connect? 

Fun, friendly, competition? Is it really fun to know that if you don't get the food to a table in 15 minutes, the guest gets a free meal? I wonder who is penalized for that meal? How many times are the servers allowed to "fail" before they lose their  job? The pressure on those servers must be intense. How about the cooks? Are they taking shortcuts in order to make sure the food is served on time? 

Apply to education.

How many times are teachers forced to deliver instruction in a way that is not conducive for our students? How many times are they handed a book focused on the latest trend, written by someone who has not been in the classroom for years, and told to use it, knowing it is not best  for their students? How many times are the buzzwords of education (server timer), limiting what teachers could  accomplish in the classroom?

Teachers always say they wish politicians, reformers, etc.. would spend a day in our classrooms. I wonder if Todd Kronebusch ever delivered  a meal in 15 minutes? 

Disclaimer: I don't know any Buffalo Wild Wing servers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

An Introvert Travels to #ISTE2016!

I am an introvert.
Those who know me, wouldn't believe it.
But it's true, I  have always been an introvert.
Since I was a kid, others have always mistaken my introversion for arrogance, or exhibiting anti-social behavior.
I am just extremely shy.

And yet, here I am, a teacher.
Not only am I a teacher, but I am also a workshop presenter.
How could I be introverted? Is that possible?

Um, yeah. Put me in a room full of strangers.

Unlike my hubby, who will talk to just about anyone, I freeze.
I have tried, as I have aged, to become better at striking up a conversation, but it is very difficult for me. I usually wait for someone to speak to me. I sit by myself,  busy on my phone, eating, or people watching. All the while, watching, envious of  those around me, engrossed in conversation,

I am not traveling with a team, so I will be forced to seek out others.
So, what do I do?
I've decided that I am going to take advantage of all the connections I have made via social media.
My Twitter, Twitterchat, Voxer, and FB "friends.", those connections that can ease into "real life" connections.
I will go to Meetups, visit the booths, attend sessions, and yes, talk to people.(My stomach does flips as I say these words.)

This is scary for me, but I will face my fears, and I will be okay. An introvert at #ISTE2016! :)


Sunday, June 5, 2016

You Should Want to Know What They Think: End of Year Surveys!


I always want to know what my students think of me.
Not in a "shower me with praises because I am so great" kind of way, but just knowing how they felt about being in our classroom.
I usually do a survey each quarter, but for some reason, probably new grade, curriculum, etc... I didn't get to it.
Therefore, I wanted to make sure the students completed an end of year survey.

I used Google Forms to create the survey, and then I posted the link on Schoology.
This year I used a survey I found on TeachersPayTeachers for FREE, and I tweaked it a little.
I liked this one because I teach 4th grade and it was pretty basic.
After giving it to them, I realized I should have tweaked my options a little more, but there's always next year.:)
I made it anonymous because I wanted the kids to be honest.

Here's are some of the ones that stood out:

  • 100% of my students think that I am good at my job. LOVE it!
  • Only 52% of my students think I am available to answer their questions,32% said most of the time, and 16% said no. Hmmm, I will have to ask my class what I can do to fix this next year.
  • I was happy to see that many kids did not choose, "No", when they didn't choose "Yes", instead they chose "Most of the time."
In the comment section, it was great to see that I am the best teacher ever.:) I have to admit it does make me feel good about the community we built all year.
However, this one had me cracking up, "I think you need to work on your attitude." LOL Another one I will discuss with my class. Maybe this student sees something I don't.

Good or bad feedback, end of year surveys are a learning experience to prepare me for the next year!