Something New

Note: This blog is part of the #MTBoS12Days challenge, led by Druin and Pam Wilson, to blog 12 times over break.

Prompt: Share something new you tried (or still want to try) this year in your classroom.

You as the teacher have power and influence and students pay attention to this. If you keep calling on the same kiddos, those kiddos gain status. So how do we make sure that we help all kiddos gain status? At some point in grad skool, one of our professors talked about how the importance of randomness in alleviating status within the classroom.

This year, I’ve finally started making more concrete steps towards using randomness to attend to status. Specifically, I’ve started using ClassDojo to call on kiddos at random for low stakes answers. I had used ClassDojo once my first year of teaching (everybody was doing it, so…). It didn’t go that great. Kiddos paid attention to it, but they spent more time watching the screen than doing their work and a lot of time arguing with me that they deserved more points (to be fair, I think they still do this, but I’m better at selectively ignoring them. Ha).

I use ClassDojo mostly at the beginning of class. A student starts class by asking people to read a specific set of things: the day, the date, the content objective, the language objective. It’s super easy and super low stakes and even kiddos who don’t generally like to participate, will participate (it also helps that everyone knows the routine and is generally super keen to help others). I’m trying to take it to the next level to call on kiddos during class debriefs (done exactly once) or whenever I want to hear opinions from kiddos. I’m hoping the low stakes-ness of the opening sequence will carry over to the rest of class. We’ll see!

(Side note: While randomness works for calling on kiddos, while checking in on groups, I’m trying to be as procedural and predictible as possible. It’s literally like: Group 1, Task Manager: Does your group understand? Or do you need help? Group 2, Task Manager: Does your group understand? Or do you need help? Currently theory is that predictible check-ins help kiddos to realize that I’m asking everyone for help and not just them.)

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The One with the Last Day

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The last day of summer school comes and goes. I try to find a way to fill time with expected absences (One kiddo told me, “Why did you tell me I had to come today?” to which I had to bite my tongue and not say, “I didn’t think you’d actually listen to me!”) and no new content. I end up having kiddos draw mathematics class for their opening and then fill it by having them reflect on the year and write cards to themselves and each other.

Photo: Someone’s drawing from the opening. Quite a few have the content and language objectives.Last Day of Summer School.jpg

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

Day 174: The One With the Field Trip to the Coldest Place on Earth

We are officially halfway through School Without Walls. I am co-teaching a course on healthy eating, along with three other teachers and an AMAZING local nonprofit which is helping our kiddos cook actual healthy food. There are 4 days of school left and only one of them is a full day.

Photo: The Opening

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Every year for the last two years, we’ve taken the kiddos on a field trip to Land’s End. Everyone brings (or tries to bring) food (someone’s mom woke up at 5am to make fruit salad, which was amazing), we do a picnic and then we do a bit of hiking. Our school is in the warmer part of the city, so I give my sweatshirts to a bunch of kiddos, watch them wear them and rotate them and eventually get them back, smelling of various teenage scents.

That being said, even four adults among 50 students is not quite enough. I don’t have any pictures from the actual field trip, I just have this photo of our opening, where students describe the food they brought and talk about something that surprised them about the course. It’s refreshing to hear so many students talk about the five food groups from MyPlate.

It is less refreshing to see the kiddos leave the following junk food in my room (consider this a failed formative assessment):

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That being said, you can probably guess what I snacked on all weekend…

Related but unrelated: contrary to popular opinion, the best way to start your 3-day weekend is not leaving your computer power cord at school.