I carry your heart...
My favorite part of teaching is talking with students. For real. I love hearing about their hopes and dreams for the future. I love being able to weep with them and bear their deep burdens [even though it’s exhausting]. I love being able to affirm their unique qualities and encourage them to become all I know they can be.
But often times I don’t get to talk to as many as I’d like. Sure there are the 15 or so that come and talk for advice in the course of a year, but most of them just show up and spend 5 hours a week with me and that’s it - little glimpses of personalities and lives on bonus questions and in-class interactions.
After my last test [which many bombed], however, I had a stroke of brilliance. I offered the students their choice of extra credit: write a 1-2 page essay on a topic of my choosing or meet with me for 20 minutes either at lunch or after school. 7 bonus points on their lowest test grade was the trade-off.
I put a sign-up sheet on my door and waited. Of course the few students who desperately wanted the extra credit signed up right away. Others were dubious.
‘What will we talk about?’ they asked. ‘Whatever I want’ was my response.
Soon I had a calendar filled with lunch appointments and after-school conferences. This is not the time to talk about grades. Instead I ask questions, lots of them. I’ve come up with a large list of great, thoughtful questions in my head that I pull from as the situation demands.
I’ve heard about fathers that have passed away and the burden of taking care of a family as a result. I’ve listened to stories of friendships that have fallen apart and need mending, of fears that this school will turn into a war zone of bullying like the last, and of hopes that someday the pain of divorce will be healed.
I tell them what I appreciate about them in class, how I’m thankful for their minds or creativity or influence, how this is a safe place for the perfectionist to not have to perform and the kid without hope to dream. I share how I want to see them grow in high school and the areas I want to mature.
A lot of times we laugh. Even more times we cry. And with each meeting I find my heart expanding with love for these students. The more I do, the more students willingly sign up - even the ones that don’t need the points. I know that each one of them - whether our meeting is lighthearted or incredibly deep - has left feeling loved.
And that, dear friends, is all a teacher can ask for. If you’ve never done these bonus conferences, you should try. They’re the best thing I’ve ever done for my students and myself.
5 things to do for a "fun" day [other than a movie]
Sometimes it’s a half day before spring break. Sometimes it’s a strange schedule because there’s an academic assembly. Sometimes it’s that their brains are so full of content you don’t want to add more. Sometimes it’s that your lesson isn’t ready and you’d rather wait a day and knock their socks off. Either way, we all know those days when we need to just…do something. Well, instead of a movie [or “study hall”], try one of these ideas next time:
1. Give them a logic puzzle.
2. Play a sitting-in-your-desk game
I don’t mean review game Jeopardy [Which they are sick of. Really]. I mean an actual game. A lot of games out there are not mindless entertainment. How about a class-wide game of Boggle, or playing Mafia for strategy and interpersonal skills? And let’s not forget about Celebrity!
3. Have them complete a team-building initiative
This camp website has a lot of these sorts of team-building initiatives. Really clever for in-class is “Count-Off” and the helium ring [which is deceptively difficult!]. The Boy Scouts have a great file FULL of initatives and games that you can browse through for different ages and situations [.PDF link]
4.Have a spontaneous debate
5. Play some Sporcle quizzes [or other online games] as a class.
Sporcle has some incredibly fun games in pretty much every category. If your school is 1-to-1, you could up the ante by having the students create their own Sporcle quiz based on what you’re studying right then.
Anyone else have general [meaning not subject-specific] ideas to add?
What if next year I gave all the students the requirements for independent work/projects they need to get done over the course of the semester and post progress bars for each of them in the classroom so they can see how far along they are in meeting all their requirements?
Obviously we’d have daily work and tests that they couldn’t do beforehand or take beforehand, but all their memory work, projects, independent reading, and quizzes they could choose when they do them.
Taking this Coursera Gamification course has made me realize how much game elements [like badges and progress bars] do motivate me to work. We crave knowing what we’ve done and what is left to do - measurable accomplishments.
I teach 9th and 10th graders in semester-long classes and next year we’ll be 1-to-1 with laptops.
Do you think this will work? I have some reservations about the idea, what are yours? Reblog, reply, or message me with feedback!
Computer and Literacy/Ela activities?
I’m editing my question.
Does anyone have any lesson ideas or activities relating to computers and ela/literacy for the secondary level (middle school)?
Here is what I have: Microsoft Office, i-movie and a lab.
Here are some of my goals for the year:
- incorporate non-fiction and fiction
- work on important literacy skills and ELA
- have students improve their reading
- have students improve their writing
- have students improve their vocabulary
Help? Ideas? Suggestions?
At the end of each day, we have 15 minutes on our schedule that is supposed to be used as “Reteach Time.” I don’t know of a single teacher that uses that time to reteach. With having to get the kids packed up and ready to go, there leaves hardly anytime to reteach. Monday-Thursday in my classroom that time is used for me to read aloud to kids. They absolutely love it. But they love Friday’s even more.
On Friday’s we have what I call Good Note which is a time for us to do something fun as a whole class to end the week on good note. I have some kids who dread the weekends because that means less food, less attention from adults, and zero encouraging words or hugs. Good Note lets them start their weekends off in a great way. It allows them to think positive and gives them something to hang onto when the weekend seems too much to bear. It’s also an opportunity for each kid who had a rough week at school because of behavior problems, bad test grade, or forgetting their homework at home to end the week in a positive way.
Some Friday’s we’ve danced to their favorite songs, played silly games, wrote a crazy group story, watched funny and appropriate videos, had jumping contests, drew pictures with our non-dominant hands, and lots of other fun things. It’s probably one of my favorite times of the week and I know the kids feel the same way. On Friday’s everyone walks out of my classroom on a Good Note.
It’s easy to do. The kids absolutely love it. It physically lasts about 10 minutes, but the feeling lasts much longer.
Beginning-of-the-year Student Surveys
Last year, I ditched the idea of having students fill out an “about me” notecard with interests and contact information. Instead, I had them fill out a Google Form I made available online via my class website. It worked really well, keeping the information organized and easy to look up.
I’m going to create my surveys for this year soon and I’m brainstorming new questions to add. I’m thinking of adding a question about cell phones and texting plans so I can think of the feasibility of using a service like Poll Everywhere in my classroom.
What are your favorite questions to ask in the beginning of the year student surveys?