Saturday, June 18, 2016

Last Day of School Activity

Beginnings and Endings are important to me. (Who am I kidding? So is every day in between.)

This year, I wanted a closing goodbye that reminded my students of our year and all that we had studied and learned.

First, they wrote a reflection writing that would not be returned to them. They were to reflect on their favorite unit or activity and why they liked it.  They did the same for their least favorite. Finally, they were to give next year's sophomores some advice on surviving the class with Mrs. E. They were honest and gave me some activities to think about changing for next year. They also made me laugh with their advice.  ("Don't tick her off, and you will be fine." "Do your work. It will bite you in the butt if you don't.") I totally forgot two other questions I included: What is the first thing you think of when you think of English class, and what is the first thing you think when you walk in this classroom? I loved reading those answers. Consider adding those to a test or a quick write.

For the rest of the hour, we played a game.

I created colored card stock "game" pieces. Each table would have a different color of the exact same game pieces. Each playing piece listed a piece of literature (novels, plays, poems, lyrics, essays, letters, articles, and short stories) that we had studied this year.

When the students walked in, they saw the desks in this order. (And yes, this is another desk arrangement.) There were four groups with five students in a group, and they had to work together.

So the game (and I use that term loosely) involved me reading a line from a piece of literature. Then students in each group would shuffle through their titles, and once they thought they had the correct piece, one person from the group would bring (run, leap, elbow others, you name it!) the piece/title to me.

The first group to bring me the correct title would earn two points. If another group was correct but not first, they would earn one point. Incorrect meant no points. I kept score on the whiteboard. It was easy to keep track of who was first because each group had a different color of game pieces.

Since this was a comprehensive assignment, quotes had to be pretty obvious if the stories were from the first of the year. It challenged them to remember and work together.

And oh, the racing! ( I feared for my safety a couple of times. yikes!) There was quite a bit of scrambling.  If everyone had the wrong answer, they were all given a 2nd chance.

The students were amazed at just how much we had covered in 180 days.

The prize was cans of pop or individual bags of chips for the winners, and Airhead candy for all. Sophomores are so competitive that even if prizes are pathetic, they still will kill themselves trying to win.

Finally, we ended the hour with a group photo.

I reminded them that I would always be watching for signs of them in the world.

Them: "So basically you mean you will be stalking us?"

Me:  "Well, I guess you would call it that. I call it caring about who you are and what you do with your life. Feel free to stay in touch, so I don't have to 'stalk' you!"

And with that, the class of 2018 exited Room 502. What a fun, reflective way to end a great year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer Conferences

I am just returning from two days of conferences, with four sessions, and one earned college credit. (Everything but the college credit was free.) Professional development always refreshes me and makes me excited for another year.

The four sessions I attended were on Social Media in the Classroom, Intentions and Success Criteria, Best Practices in the Writing Process, and Feedback: Failure for Future Success. Only the Writing session was geared to Language Arts teachers. All the rest of the sessions hit all disciplines. Quite a few administrators who are instructional coaches for their schools attended the sessions, too. We were a diverse group of people in any session, and that was valuable, too.

I am always interested in Social Media and how it can be used to make me a better educator. The session reinforced some ways I use it, but also gave me quite a few new things to consider.

Intentions, Success Criteria, and Feedback were all relevant to some of the ideas I have been considering with Standards Based Grading. It was great to find out that what I have been thinking is part of several new movements. Much more on this for another day.

The Best Practices in Writing was a breath of fresh air in terms of grading feedback and writing audiences. I will save this for another day, too.

It is June 8th and a summer conference already has me excited for a new school year and many changes in my teaching style--not just for English, but for my speech and drama classes, too.

I am attending another conference next week. (When conferences are free, it is hard not to attend.) This time a colleague and I are attending together. It will be great to share ideas and figure out how to implement them on the way home.

Summer--recharge and revitalize time. So far, so good!