Saturday, August 11, 2018

"So Fricken Stumped to See, the First Day of School!" Another First Day Activity

Something else that I generally do the first day and maybe the second day is to have posters with questions for students to put on post-it notes responses about how they want our class to be and responses about their goals for the year.  I found these questions from this blog:  Middle School Math Rules and adapted them for my science classroom.  I have done this the last few years with both 7th & 8th grade and then I have compiled results into a Wordle or similar app to create posters based on the responses.  Last year, I wanted to change things up a bit for 8th grade so they weren't doing the same exact questions, so it worked out well when last year these popped up in my Twitter feed:  5 Questions to Ask Your Students .  Students did ok with those, though even with prompting, they had issues with "What is one BIG question you have for this year?," or it might be more accurate to say that they acted like the junior high students that they are.  😀 I may adjust these a bit.  This was a list that I also saved around the same time last year 6 Questions to Ask Your Students ; the lists are very similar but I may swap out questions from the lists.

Friday, August 10, 2018

"So Fricking Stumped to See, the First Day of School!" A First Day Activity

Something my methods professor talked about was making observations of students, even on the first day of school.  He had some ideas of how to get students to their seats, as do many people if you read all the Tweets and FB posts about the first day of school.  A few years ago, I found a method called "Subversive Lab Grouping," from this blog:  Action Reaction.  Th whole idea is to hand them out and then have students figure out what group they fit into.  It is important to have some overlap, for example, a car that is also a color.  This builds some tension into the activity, there isn't just a quick, easy answer.  I have modified groups based on the level of my students, our town, and things they have or will learn about.  This summer, I wanted to refresh categories a bit and it just so happened that someone else had a conversation with the blog author, Frank Nochese, and he mentioned that there were some new ideas in the blog comments.  My categories for this year are:  Disney, Planets, Elements, Cars, Astronomy, and Color for 7th grade.  For 8th grade, Shoes, Big Cats, Beans, Colors, Capital Cities, and Presidents.  In the past I've used Marvel characters, streets in town, flowers, nuts, scientists, and other categories specifically related to their previous year's content.

Our first day schedule varies a little bit from year to year.  Some times we've had 10 minutes for group and this year we will have 25 minutes for each class.  I hand out the card and tell students to find a seat, pointing out directions on the board.  The goal with that is to link to the process of working on bellwork each day.  I usually have them write their name, birthday, and maybe some facts that we can use in other ice breaker activities throughout the next few days.  If we have time, we try to figure out groups and that becomes my first seating arrangement for a while.

This activity gets students up and moving, gets them thinking, and sometimes gets them talking to students that don't normally talk to.  Those seem like worthy goals to start promoting.

What categories would you use?

Thursday, August 09, 2018

"It's So Easy, Yeah, So Doggone Easy" Thing #3 to Make Teaching Life Easier

I use bellwork at the beginning of my class to help get students focused and also to work on skills that students need.  The last few years I have been planning out the questions at least a week ahead.  7th and 8th grade have themes for each day (different, except for Friday), but for Wednesday, I review where we are at in content and have a question that directly relates to content.  I have a Google spreadsheet with a general plan for video links I use on Friday, links for listening comprehension clips that I use on Thursdays, I have a file of picture puzzles I use on Monday, graph sources, and etc.  I have typed up and modified appropriate level readings from "Data Nuggets" for students to read and then use that information to respond/populate graphing information.  So, most of the year is planned out.

On Fridays, I type up my questions and copy them into three columns in a Word Document (this can be done in a Google Doc, but is more complicated) and have these cut out for students to glue into their notebooks on Monday.  I also use Blogger to post the questions for each class.  Usually, the questions are the same for a section, but if one section is enough different than the other sections, I will adjust on the blog and students can see that.  I think it's been helpful to have a slightly different focus in bellwork and then getting into content.  If OpenSciEd works out like I am hoping, in the future, I may make adjustments to what I do for bellwork.  Right now, this works to have things mostly planned, while still being able to be responsive to student needs and overall pacing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

"I Ask Myself, Is it a Sin to be Flexible, When the Boat Comes in" My One Word

Being flexible is probably a top characteristic that teachers need to help make their days, weeks, and months run smoothly.  I was supposed to go to Loras College to have a final meeting with a math and science cohort that was part of a lesson study group.  Our group has met for six years and the project period has concluded.  I was really looking forward to seeing many of the people that I have come to know, hear about lessons they implemented in their classrooms, and learn any new skills/ideas that our group leader has put together for us.

However, mother nature had different plans for me.  I left the house about 7 am and I knew that it was going to be foggy, as there was a dense fog advisory across most of the northern half of the state.  I thought it was maybe lifting a bit because it was quite a bit less foggy around my house.  I got out onto the highway and it was fairly light, but by the time I got just past a town 10 miles the fog was thicker, and then when I was just about two or three miles out from there, only just a bit away from my next turn, it was just completely a white out.  It was some of the worst fog I have been in a for a long time.  There was a car that had been in front of me that turned off some where and then I couldn't really see anything.  So, I was deciding that I should pull over and was actually startled when I started to see all of these hazard lights flashing off of the road.  I had to keep going for a bit until I could find space to pull off.  I kept watch of others who were going along the highway, looking for space to pull off because the visibility was so bad, I wanted to be alert for any potential problems.  Everyone was traveling quite safely, though I was worried for a moment when a car that looked like it was full of teenagers or young adults tried to pull in front of me when there really wasn't space.  They were partially pulled off and partially on the road, so I was worried about people coming up behind them.  However, the vehicle directly in front of me pulled away and went back on the road and the car with teenagers followed that vehicle.

At one point, I saw a Sheriff's vehicle and deputies were walking along the highway to check to see if everyone was ok.  I heard one talking to a car in front of me that fog was clearing behind us.  All told, I was pulled off the road for 40 minutes until it was clear enough to move.  I could still see that it was foggy ahead and I would be turning toward an area that is much more hilly, so I just didn't think it was worth it to keep going.  Plus, I would have been a hour late for the meeting.  So, I turned around and went home.

I used my time to work on some more items for school and some filing that I didn't get down last spring.  Then, because I was available, I went in to help with practices, as we had a few groups scheduled at the same time.  To end the day, my husband and I ended up digging through a dumpster to find tin that could be put on the roof of the cabin for our set in Almost, Maine.

So, flexibility is what I needed to make the most of my day yesterday!  😀

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

"Taking Care of Business" What I Did Today

Yesterday, I helped more with our production than with getting ready for school, and tomorrow, I will be traveling to a college to meet up one last time (at least for the foreseeable future) with a math and science teacher cohort that I have been part of for six years.  So yesterday, I brought home some things to focus on and made some progress on a few of those AND also went off onto some tangents but important components for the beginning of the school year. 

Last year, I wanted to change how students sign out of the classroom (honestly, it's the afternoon classes that throw kinks into the process), so I used a conglomeration of ideas about housing the sign-out sheet in their interactive notebooks.  It worked ok.  I thought about whether I wanted to use this method again, and I decided that I want to give it one more year.  So, I tweaked it so that I will have two pages total instead of four (one for each quarter), I added reminders of when they can or cannot use a pass, and I kept the bottom open for for stickers.  Then, I have been hemming and hawing about whether to reintroduce classroom jobs, but I have joined the 40 Hour Teacher Work Club to help trim some hours off each day and that is a suggestion for streamlining classroom flow.  So, I revisited my jobs and took off a few and revised others.  What I have settled on is:  Classroom Manager, Lab Assistant, Class Ninja, Office Assistant, Absentee Ambassador, Clean-Up Captain, Paper Assistant, Energy Control, Class Greeter, and Computer Tech Support.  I also updated the application form to be a Google Form.

I brought home my dismissal checklist and when you arrive checklist and started to think about how to update/clarify some of the expectations, but I didn't get much further than that.  I also have been thinking about bringing back student blogging.  I attempted it six years ago where all the students had their own blog.  They were also using a parent blog to respond to daily questions and prompts.  The latter lasted the rest of the year, and it worked ok.  However, it was a bigger monster for all of the students to have their own blogs and that process died quickly. If I do resume blogging, I think I will make the parent blog for each class and add the students as blog authors.  I will possibly add parents and others as readers.  The other need I contemplated was which returning students do I need strengthen relationship with.  My plan is to write them a short note this next week to their home address.  The rest of my afternoon was spent reading the rest of the chapters assigned for the Ambitious Science Thinking book chat, which was at 7:00 pm tonight. 

Looking back at my list, I see that it is shorter than I thought, but I know that I put quality time into thinking through the components.

Monday, August 06, 2018

"It's Not About Love, Cause I Am Not In Love" A Day in the Life of a Drama Coach

I've mentioned several times before that I have volunteered to help my husband with various drama related events at our school.  It has only be recently that I have had more official designation with this.  I never was involved with any drama or speech events in school, though I was involved in band.  I have always enjoyed going to see plays and musicals, so I have some background on shows that are out there.  I just lacked in practical experience, as I don't think being "forced" to be in classroom plays in elementary school quite cut it.

Anyway, I have increased how I have helped the junior high play, speech program, and now the thespian group.  I mainly run tech for the junior high play, running sound, spotlight, and the light board.  However, there are times when my husband has had another meeting or situation that has come up and I have subbed into cover the practice.  At first, I was more reluctant to give direction, because what do I know?  I only was in a "real" play because seven years ago, we had someone drop out and couldn't get a replacement.  I had to quickly learn lines and be a bride in the JH play......kind of AWKWARD!

But, I am starting to accept that I have had quite a lot of experience observing and attending different workshops to become more knowledgeable in drama practices to be more confident that I can help coach students.  I coached one JH speech group mainly by myself this year and that was a great learning experience to have to figure out blocking, actions, and speaking components.  Right now, we are in the mix of a thespian show.  Our group isn't currently a school sponsored group, so this is in addition to speech and drama activities.  The current group of students have really wanted to put on a show that's significantly different than what the regular HS play has ended up being the last several years.  This group has seen Almost, Maine at a few different contests and thespian festival and really fell in LOVE with the show.  So, students have been coming in for practices, helping to build the set, find/organize costumes, and promote the show.  My husband works as a para, so he needs to find summer employment, so he has been working with our technology director in the summer to help tend to our 1:1 needs.  Because our school is very small, the small kids that are out for the play are out for sports too.  At times, this means students can only practice during certain hours, which means he might not be available or we might have more than one practice going on.  I have stepped in a few times to run their scenes; this play is a series of vignettes.  I mostly feel like I can give meaningful feedback for the students to make their scenes better.  I don't feel like so much of an imposter anymore.  It's really great to hear them request specific feedback, and even better when you can hear and see them incorporate their notes into subsequent performances.

That's what a good portion of my day ended up being today.  I had a professional meeting this morning and then went in to run practices and fill "bags of love."  Time is ticking, school starts on Aug. 23 for students and the play is the 25th and 26th.  It is a lot to be thinking about, but I am quite confident that the students are going to put on a great show.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

"It's So Easy, Yeah, So Doggone Easy" Thing #2 to Make Teaching Life Easier

Using every minute possible in the class period has always been important to me, but it will be even more important this year, as the JH is going down from 46 minutes to 40 minutes.  As a science teacher, I do many hands on activities with students, but I think more time needs to be spent on the learning activity so that students can make sense of the phenomenon.  Most times before we do an activity, more likely the night before,  I pull out the common supplies that each group will need and put them into baskets and then place them in an area that will work for higher traffic flow.  Students can quickly grab the supplies and get to work.  I number the baskets and label supplies, so this also makes it easier to keep of things that are missing or damaged.  Clean-up is simplified as well because students put the supplies back in the basket and then return it to the starting point.