Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cooking up a Response!

Kahoot. Reality Show Inspiration. Hyperdocs. Weber Bucks. Historical Thinking. Creativity. Expensive Resources. Hashtags. Google Forms. Time Limit. Noisy.

This is my classroom on Tuesday.

On Monday night, the last evening of our three-day weekend, I realized that I still hadn't figured out what I was going to do in class on Tuesday.  Crap!  So I started brainstorming in my head as I sat on the couch surrounded by Candyland, a princess puzzle, and a 3-year-old chef who was bringing me "pancakes" she baked in her "kitchen."

Ah ha!...thanks for the idea little one! Food is always a good option.

I really would have liked to do Cutthroat History again, they LOVE that!

Or History Chef another good one, that I usually do with this topic of Indian Removal.

But they have to finish up something from last week at the start of class and I haven't gathered any supplies or materials in order to be even remotely prepared for either of those activities.  I need something where I don't have to get anything ready, that will make them work together and answer the essential question for the day.

Here's what I decided on.

"Cooking up a Response"

Once all the catch-up work from last week was completed.  Which included our first hyperdoc (I'll post about that later!) and a survey about their thoughts on the hyperdoc we prepared for a fun little review Kahoot game over Andrew Jackson's presidency.  There were 10 questions and it ended up being very easy (I will make it harder in the future).

At the end of the game, the teams would get their final score (usually 10,000-5,000 points).  I then awarded each team 100 Weber Bucks for every 1000 points.

I explained my inspiration for "Cooking up a Response," went over the rules, and reviewed our "Big Question"

What was the reasoning behind the Indian Removal Act and how did the people try to fight it?

And then I showed them the "price list."  **Cue the moaning and groaning about how expensive various objects were, while I smiled deviously**  I gave them one minute to come up with a plan of action and a shopping list.

Shop was "open for business" for the first 10 minutes of the work time.  After that business was closed and they had to make due with whatever they purchased.  Each class ended up with about 20-25 minutes.

When time was up, the presentations began.  A quick explanation of how they spent their "Bucks" and then how they decided to present the answer to our question.

Reflection: What went well.

  • Students loved it...even though I was worried they wouldn't be as "into it" as they have been with Cutthroat History and History Chef, but they still loved the challenge of limited items and having to make a plan based on the amount of money they earned.
  • I loved seeing the variety of ways students would answer the question.  I had written essays, skits, posters, Google Slides presentations, Spark videos, and debates. 
  • For the most part all students were engaged in the content and participating with their teams.
  • I had the students create a #  to describe the day...some of my favorites
    • #cookinguphistory
    • #presentingfacts
    • #lit
    • #WeberBucks
    • #notenoughmoney
    • #IndianRemoval
    • #SSROCKZ 

Reflections:  Stuff to fix.
  • I didn't do as great of a job teaching the content prior to this.  There were some presentations that included wrong information that I believe was due to lack of instruction.  I really needed a couple more days to make this topic more clear.
  • This technically ended our discussion on Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act because I have a student teacher taking over.  I would love for this to be practice for an assessment of some sort so I can see how each student understood the material. 
  • At the start of the day I thought it would be fun to require a specific type of presentation, but in the end I actually liked seeing the variety and allowing the teams to create their own.
  • Next time I do this, I will have the teams discuss a possible presentation BEFORE awarding them their money and giving the price list.  This would make the students have to adjust on the fly based on the amount of money they ended up with. 

All-in-all it was a great day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Short on time? Try a Mini-Breakout

A few posts ago, I wrote about BreakoutEDU and how cool it is for the classroom.  I just LOVE the concept and how it can combine collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking with content. (Read that post here.)

But I get it.  Sometimes teachers don't have the time to sit down and plan or set up an entire breakout that's going to take a majority of the class period (if not a couple days depending on time and post-breakout discussion.).  And sometimes it's just plain over-whelming.  Too much to think about during the precious few minutes of plan time.

Today I scaled it back.  Instead of creating a game filled with a variety of locks and clues, I used just one.  One lock, one locked box, with one "puzzle" to solve.

I really had no real idea how it would go.  I decided to try it on my HS class of future teachers. (Read about my Teaching as a Career Class here).  I have told them many times this year...since it is the first year for the program...that they are my guinea pigs.  This time, I was testing out how a Mini-Breakout would work to teach new vocabulary terms.

It was awesome!

Here's what I did.

I selected four of the most difficult vocabulary words on our next topic and  used a basic "Frayer Model" type of vocabulary template.  Word. Definition. Example. Image.  I filled in all areas of the chart with correct information. I did this for each word giving me a total of four Frayer model vocabulary cubes.

I then went to work making my QR codes.  Using Google Docs and a free QR code generator I created the link the code would take the students to, looking something like this...

Whoop Whoop!

I created a separate one for each word, each with a different number.

I placed the QR Code in the center of the Frayer Model square, printed off the four vocabulary cards and cut them into four separate pieces.

An example of one of cards I made. I had a total of 4.

Shuffle the pieces all together.

Now the fun part.  I placed a 4 digit lock on a small lock box (anything that locks would work here...even a zipper pouch with at least two zips in order to lock it.)  Wrote the words "Alphabetical Order" on the board as a clue... some saw that right away, others had to be directed.

When class started students were randomly placed at a table which had the lock box and set of cards. We briefly reviewed the Frayer Model and reminded them that each block of 4 cards would include a word, definition, example and image.

I smiled, told them that this would be MUCH MORE FUN than copying down definitions on a worksheet, and told them to begin.

That's it, no other instruction on what to do and how to figure it out.  I just let them go and attempt to work with their partner to figure it out.  Some groups knew what to do right away, while others had to practice a little "growth mindset" before realizing what they needed to do.

Eventually all groups had it figured out.  If all four squares were correctly put together, the QR code would take them to a number for that word.  If you put all the words (with their numbers) in alphabetical order you would have the correct 4 digit combination to get into the locked box.

Success!  This "trial run" on my high school class told me that I don't have to spend hours pouring over clues and locks and content to create something fun and engaging in class.  This is definitely something I will do again with my middle school classes.  It took me one day to pull it all together.  Definitely time worth spent!

***My HS students have had experience with Breakout EDU and understand the basic idea behind using QR codes and trying to figure out how to break into a locked box.  If your class hasn't ever done anything like this before, you may need to give more instruction than I did.

Seriously...Stop Talking!

Let me know if you've heard this before...

"My students just will not read instructions. Ugh...they should be able to do that by now."
"These kids are soooo needy.  They are driving me crazy with all their questions." 
"How come these student won't just try to problem solve and try to figure something out on their own?" 
"I gave those instructions five times is that you haven't heard me?" 
"I cannot get those kids to work together.  They just won't listen to each other."

If you're a teacher (or a student) you have probably said and heard a variation of the above statements multiple times. And as a teacher it is extremely frustrating to say something and have to repeat yourself time and time again.  I have a solution for you.

Stop talking.


By the time students have entered middle school they have become experts at toning out the teacher's voice and thinking about whatever is interesting.  They know how to play the game of group work and do only what it necessary.  And they know that teachers with an apologetic smile they can get a teacher to repeat the instructions again.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for...

Kids are smarter than they think they are.


So make them.  Remove yourself from the tedious work of "reading instructions."  Give it to them, tell them to read it with their teams, collaborate with others if they don't understand, and figure things out if they get stuck.  Remove the temptation.  Tape your mouth shut!

It is AMAZING what they will do on their own, when they don't have you to tell them.