Thursday, August 22, 2013

A new year a new group!

I am loving my new group of seventh graders.  We have had an exciting two days so far.  Yesterday, my team and I started our year off by having our students create an "I wonder" bulletin board.  Learning is more fun when the students are truly interested in the topic.  With this in mind, we asked our students to create an "I wonder" statement in class and place them on the bulletin board.  As the school year progresses we are going to use the students' "I wonder" statements to select topics of study.  

Today my students wrote about a time they had faced a difficult or challenging situation.  This lead into our team building activity, the "Cup Challenge".  Setting up for the cup challenge was very simple.  Before class, I tied four pieces of yarn to a rubber band, purchased plastic cups, and made index cards with the roles for each group member.  The roles that I used were as follows:  materials collector 1, starter, reporter, and materials collector 2.    Materials collector 1 got the materials for the group, the starter put the cups in the starting position, the recorder shared with the class the difficulties and successes that the group experienced, and the materials 2 collector put the materials away.  As the students entered the room, I gave each person a card, listing their role then I divided the students into groups of four making sure each role was represented.  Then the students got to work!  After getting the materials, the starter placed three cups upside down with one cup right side up on top of the previously placed cups.  Then the students used their "tool" to rearrange the cups to make a pyramid with three cups on the bottom, two cups in the middle and one on top.  


Most of the groups accomplished this task pretty quickly.  As the groups finished I added cups to make the challenge more difficult.  The next challenge I gave the students was to use the same concept to build a pyramid with four cups on the bottom, then three on the next level, then two, and finally one.  If the group finished this task, I had them remove the cups from the pyramid, using only the "tool" and arrange them in the starting position.  

As I walked around in one class, I overheard one student ask, "What does this have to do with language arts?'  I used this as a "teachable moment" when we discussed the successes and challenges.  I lead the students in a discussion about how this didn't tie to our standards or our curriculum, but that it did prepare them for future group work assignments, helped them get to know their classmates, and helped them learn ways to communicate with their classmates.  

As the day progressed, some of the cups broke and some of the rubber bands popped.  I was glad that I had extra cups and extra "tools".  I also noticed that the larger rubber bands were extremely stretched as the day progressed.  In the future, I will use smaller rubber bands in order to create the "tools."

The students were actively engaged and had a blast today!  Days like today make my job the best ever!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Project Based Learning (PBL)

I have always loved having my students work in cooperative groups.  Middle school students, by there very nature, are social beings.  Having them work in groups naturally lends itself to their learning preferences.  Last school year I visited a school that used a lot of project based (sometimes called problem based) learning.  I loved the way the students were so engaged.  They were working on real life problems that tied to their core curriculum.  I want my classroom to be more like the classes I visited.

I tried a few PBL ideas last year, but I want to try even more this year.  One of the major components of PBL is expectations.  The students must have clear expectations for working in a group as well as for the assigned task.  I used one of the bulletin boards in my room to post my year long group expectations.

Looking forward to the 2013-2014 school year!

I am so excited and ready for my twelfth group of seventh graders on Wednesday.  I have been preparing my classroom and getting my lessons together.  We will spend the first few days together getting to know each other and discovering our course for the next 180 days.

 I have some great ideas in mind and few things I want to change this year.  I have to admit that I am a little nervous about implementing the Common Core standards, but I am accepting the challenge with a renewed passion for teaching.

I have enjoyed decorating my classroom, especially my new "read" pictures.  These were really easy to create.  An added bonus was spending time with my sixteen year old daughter as she helped me paint the pictures and letters.  First, I took an 8x10 in. canvas and painted it with acrylic paint.

As the canvases were drying I painted the letters, also with acrylic paint.  Once the canvases were dry, I hot glued a piece of ribbon horizontally across the canvas and another vertically down the canvas.

Next, I cut a self-adhesive glitter foam sheet and placed it in the center of the canvas.  Then I hot glued the letters to the canvases.

 Lastly, I hot glued a piece of ribbon to the back of the canvas to use as a hanger for the canvas.

I hung them on the wall using Command hooks.

Now I just need to complete the bulletin board.