Saturday, April 29, 2017

What Do Your Students Think?

One of the best ways to be able to sit back and honestly take a good look at your teaching is to have the students complete an evaluation on you.  So I do.  I use a Google Form to ask them questions such as...

What was your favorite activity we did this year?

What is your favorite way to receive new information?

What do you wish we did more of in class?

What was your least favorite activity we did this year?

What is one thing you would change about Social Studies if you could?

Is this teacher willing to admit his/her mistakes?

Do you trust this teacher?

List five words to describe this teacher: (this is a fun one I ask so I can create a word cloud for the next year)

I don't want questions that will only give me good feedback.  I want honest feedback from my students so I can see what I'm doing well and where I can make some changes.  And I take it seriously.  Student responses has led to some good changes I have made for my classroom over the years. 

My favorite question on the evaluation is, "what advice would you give to new 7th graders on how to be successful in Mrs. Weber's class?"  This gives me good information to use at the start of the year last year.  For some reasons, students take the advice from other students better than what I suggest. (Even though it ends up being the same thing...Shhh!)

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on your teaching and look to make changes, what better way to do that, than asking the students you've been working for all year?!?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stepping Up My Final Game


I have been waiting to unveil the 8th Grade final to the students for at least the last two months.  I love their final project.  It has taken me years to develop, modify, and improve.  Last year was the best year yet.

This year is even better.  And I introduced part 1 today.

For the last three years, my 8th grade final has been a project that had an authentic audience.  I wanted something that would carry some real validity with it.  I had my students create infographics based on social studies standards and topics at the elementary level.  Those infographics would be given to the teachers to use as teaching tools in their classrooms.  The first year, we partnered with the 4th grade teachers.  I wrote a more detailed blog post on that HERE.

Last year I wanted to find a way to give the students some choice, so I offered them the chance to do one of the following...

  1. Create an Infographic for the elementary classrooms (this year 5th grade)
  2. Interview a U.S. Veteran and design a page for him/her in a Veteran Book we put out each year on November 11th.  
  3. Create a board game that could be used in the 5th grade classroom, over 5th grade topics.
This year I stepped it up even more!  Thanks to an AWESOME idea from, ROCK STAR TEACHER, Brent Wolf (@BrentWolf).  I borrowed stole adapted his idea of making students apply for classroom jobs to fit this project.  

I decided I wanted to incorporate some real life skills into this project.  (Remember, our job is to teach more than content...).  The first thing I did was give my projects "real world" career titles.  The students would have the choice of the following "job openings."
  1. Graphic Designer:  Creating the infographic (partnering with 3rd grade this year.)
  2. Journalist:  Interviewing a Veteran and creating his/her page for the book.
  3. Game Design Professional:  Creating a BreakoutEDU game based on social studies standards at the elementary level.  Game information will be given to the teachers and uploaded to the Breakout EDU website for teachers all across the world to have access to.  HOW COOL IS THIS! 
The next step is student choice.  Kind of.

They get to choose which job they want to apply for and then participate in an interview.

Yup. Apply and interview.

I created an application using google forms for each of my three job openings, including a "Wanted" add and a list of responsibilities and desired skills.  I put it all together on Google Slides and used Google Classroom to push it out to the students.

The application is legit.  Name, address, phone number, and then specific questions about the position itself.  Links for the applications I created are at the bottom of this post. (So keep reading...) 

Today in class they worked on filling out their applications, I will spend the next few days pulling kids for interviews while they work on finishing up their Civil War unit with my student teacher. During the interview, students will have to convince me that they are the person for the job.

Here's a little secret.  This is mostly to give students a glimpse of that "working world" they will soon be entering.  For the most part, the job that students interview for, they will get.  With one exception.  

The BreakoutEDU Game Design.  You see, I anticipated quite a few students wanting to do this one.  They have participate in breakout games in class and LOVE it.  However, on the flip-side of these Breakout games, designing one takes a lot of time, work, and content knowledge. 

So...essentially I have 12 spots open (four teams of 3) and the 39 students who applied for that position will have to prove to me in the interview that they are the person for the job.  27 students will not be offered that job, and must choose a different project to complete.

Real life.

This is what I love doing.  I didn't re-invent the wheel.  I took solid projects I had done before, added in an awesome idea from Brent Wolf, tweaked it until I was happy and we go!  

Want a copy of the Google Slides Presentation I used?  Click HERE

Want a copy of the application forms I used?  Click the titles below.

Seriously.  If you want to increase the "buy-in" of your students to the things you do in your classroom.  Design a project with an authentic audience.  The quality of work and the excitement of the students will increase beyond your expectations.  And then you can start to raise those expectations even more.  Win. Win. 

As always, feel free to steal, modify, and ask me any questions you may have!  Leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @JillWebs