Howdy all Week 14 survivors! It’s that exciting time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas when classroom management requires some … creativity on my part. I think this meme sums it up quite well:
I do love this time of year, though. The ‘Holidays’ feel like magic, like home. I am excited to share some of this week’s highlights with you!
1. Revenge Review Game – To review for our assessment on the Constitution, my Social Studies class played the Revenge Review game. I split the class up into 8 groups and gave each group 8 Xs. When a team was ‘up,’ I gave them one review question; if they got it correct, they could erase 2 X’s from other teams (no suicide). The winner has the most Xs at the end of the game. I also allowed teams to earn back Xs when they ran out; if they answered a question correctly and rolled an even number on the die, they could earn back one X. The students had a LOT of fun with this! I think it’s going to be the new most requested review game!
2. Compromise Maps – As we are learning about the failed compromises that lead up to the Civil War, my students are completing maps to show the changes in the political boundaries within the U.S. These are from a new product in my store. Click here if you are interested.
3. The world’s best custodian – We really do have the world’s best custodian at our school. Joe is one of the nicest, hardest working, role-model men you will ever meet. The kids just love him. We left a bright, fun note on my board for him to see over the break. The students knew he would be lonely with the school empty, so they wanted to cheer him up. Isn’t that sweet?
4. Countdown – I officially began a Christmas countdown. If you are a fellow teacher, you know this is a dangerous thing (just like an end-of-the-year countdown). I told all of my students that they have X amount of days to think of a very thoughtful, homemade ‘gift from the heart’ for their parents. Think that’ll work on my 13-year-olds? 😛
5. Grandma’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie – Last week, as you know, was Thanksgiving. It was our first Thanksgiving without my grandmother, who passed away last November. I miss her and think about her every day. This year, I attempted her famous Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. It tasted like my childhood and I felt like she was there with us.
I’d love to hear about your Thanksgiving and your week!
Have you heard of Kahoot? I just learned about it, and I was so excited to try it in my classroom. You can use this tool with any personal tech device with internet access. My students all have iPads, but you could also use cell phones or laptops if students have these.
I’ve got to say, my students REALLY enjoyed it. I haven’t seen them this excited in a long time. And I didn’t even offer prizes! They wanted to know when we could play again. As soon as I can make a new game!
Kahoot is like Trivia. The teacher creates a game, and the students play with their personal technology devices. I created a review game for some tricky grammatical concepts we have been studying. This would be an excellent review tool for vocabulary or content area classes as well.
I put the game up on my SMARTBoard, which displays a 5-digit game code. The students go to https://kahoot.it and enter the game code, and suddenly they are logged in to the game (no account or set-up required).
For each question, choices appear on their device. They log their answer on their iPad, and they are awarded points based on speed and accuracy.
After each question is complete, the SMARTBoard screen shows the correct answer, and their iPad tells them how many points they were awarded as well as which place they are in. On my SMARTBoard, the game then displays the top 5 participants (struggling students are not identified to the class).
I pause after each question for discussion. I usually create several questions in a row on the same concept, and this gives students a chance to learn and improve.
The possibilities for this game are endless! I did a 17-question game (each question has a 30-second timer), and this took about 25 minutes once you include the discussion and all of their enthusiasm. What a fun day in Language Arts class!
A real challenge in middle school is getting an increasingly large group of apathetic students excited about reading. I don’t mean to say ALL of my students – I definitely have some voracious readers – but there is always a hefty, vocal group that seems proud to proclaim indignantly, “I don’t read.” Well, harumpf. What’s a teacher to do with that kind of attitude? I understand that as an English Language Arts teacher, it is my job to get students excited about reading. Confetti, cartwheels, iPhone giveaways – whatever it takes! Okay not really. I’m not a performer, I’m not rich, and I don’t work miracles. I do my best to give students authentic, fun, motivating reasons to pick up a book (aaaaaand actually read/finish it). Of course I have to give a nod to my favorite teacher-author, Kelly Gallagher, who writes about just this topic in his book Reading Reasons. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it!
One of the ways I try to motivate students to read is through my DVD Case / Movie Poster project. It is a project with reading, writing, language, expression, and art – a great way to hit multiple Common Core standards at once. This project has lots of elements that get kids excited: technology, critical thinking, creative writing, photography/images, and the critical elements of publication and display. Here is a glimpse of the final project, which is explained in more detail below:
You are looking at the display cases in the front lobby of our middle school. Each and every student got a chance to have their final DVD case (or movie poster) on display for the entire school. In addition, my students got some one-on-one time with 6th and 7th graders to share their project. They read their summary and review quotes on the back, explained the layout and image choices, and answered any questions their audience had – all in hopes of inspiring the student to go and read the book for themselves.
Here is a closer look at a DVD project:
And a collage of my students’ work:
Students begin by selecting an interesting book (can either be a novel or a biography) that is at their appropriate reading level. I introduce this project about 6-8 weeks ahead of time to get students enough warning to finish the book.
After reading the book, students will write what I call a ‘Review Quote’ (a book teaser summary that discusses the theme/message) to promote the book. To do this, we look at the backs of many books, even visit http://www.rottentomatoes.com and http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews to get a feel for the rich language of a teaser/review.
Next, the students will create either a DVD Case or a Movie Poster to promote the book through images as well as words. They really love this part, and I’m not just saying that. Rarely do I hit the money with a project where every single student is working, but this is it. And everyone is working at his/her own pace and area of expertise – artists, techies, writers; they all find their niche and even help one another.
On the day where I introduce the project, I bring in dozens of DVD covers and movie posters for students to view. We discuss similarities and conventions such as the size of the font, placement, purpose of images, etc.
After introducing the project, I wind up giving students 3-4 more days of in-class work time. Now that students have their own iPads, I may cut down this time and expect them to do more homework. On the 5th day, we do the printing and final touches, such as laminating the movie posters or putting the DVD covers in to the cases (I bought 100 from Amazon for about 25 cents each, totally worth it!). The 6th day is for presentations.
I am excited to do this project with the iPads this year, because students can actually go out and take their own photographs. Their goal is to match the mood of the book through color, layout, font, and images. They really do quite a bit of critical thinking with this project.
One of the only problems I have run into is that if their book has already been made into a movie, some students rely very heavily on the movie images. I had to make a rule outlawing this. The results were great, as this ultimately pushed students to be original and dig deeper into their own interpretation of the book.
Something that I learned last year, and will be repeating this year, is that some students like to make their own movie poster / DVD case from scratch, and others need a template to get started. Here is a template I created in Pages for the DVD Case. Students can ‘drag and drop’ their own images:
The final product can be displayed in your classroom, hallway displays, or as part of a gallery in which you promote the books to other students. The Library Media instructor at our school asked if she could display them in our Library, too!
If you want to purchase and download my DVD case / Movie Poster unit from TpT, the following items are included: * Common Core Standards for grades 8-12 including English Language Arts and Literacy in All Subjects * Suggestions for modifying and differentiating this lesson for students at all levels, from heavy support needed to extension ideas. * Essential Questions * Rubric * Project Description Student Handout * Sample Writing ‘Review Quotes’ with “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry * 2 Sample DVD Cases with “Peak” by Roland Smith, and “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore * 1 Sample Movie Poster * Word Spectrum – ‘interesting’ to ‘boring’ – 65 synonyms students can incorporate into their writing * 5 Pages of detailed lesson plans and teacher tips including guided writing, peer review, modeling, small and whole group discussion.
I loved teaching this unit and collaborating with our school’s Art and 21st Century teachers. We found that this unit hits on a LOT of Common Core Standards and curricular goals, which was a huge plus! By working together, we strengthened student learning and participation. Students have told me that this was their favorite project all year!