Sunday, May 29, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mystery Location Calls - We Can't Get Enough!!!

This year I have absolutely fallen in love with Mystery Location Calls.  If you don't know anything about them, stop right now, head on over to Paul Solarz's blog and read up on how to challenge your students and increase their geographic awareness.

Are you back?  Great!  So I started doing Mystery Location Calls after I had my 8th-grade students memorize their 50 states and I have never seen kids really internalize their states like they did after we did just a couple of practice calls.  They have such a spatial understanding of the country, have increased their independent internet researching skills, and have done a nice job at really learning to work together.

My students are obsessed with them now and want to do them all the time!  The only thing I am struggling with is how to incorporate everyone.  I have 27 kids in each class and even though they each have a job, a good ten kids just sit in the back of the class and fool around.  I was thinking about having a Team A and Team B and teams take turns being the primary jobs for each Location Call.

Do you have any suggestions?  Also, if you would like to connect our classes, hit me up in the comments!!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

We saved Egypt! A Quest into Gamification

Hey, all!  I am so sorry it has been so long since I wrote.  This semester I got an amazing opportunity to start teaching a graduate class.  I am teaching this fabulous class called, “Creating a Technology-Rich Classroom. It is such a blast to teach but it has definitely taken over my blogging time!
Things have been fabulous in my class lately.  Around the holidays, I delved deeper into my fascination with all things PIRATE (read Dave Burgesses’ Teach Like a Pirate and you will understand!) and read Explore Like a PIRATE: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich and Elevate Your Learners.  Michael Matera is an amazing middle school teacher who has entirely gamified his classroom.  In his class students go on quests to learn new topics and solve problems.  I tried to do a Rome Quest last year and was minimally successful.  After reading this I decided to go all in and create a quest for Egypt.

Step 1: I came up with my backstory.  To get the kids hooked you need a reason to “quest”.  I created this video using PowerPoint and iMovie to launch the story.

I set up a locker for each of my classes like this:

Inside each locker was this:

I set all this up before the launch of the activity to build excitement.

Step 2: I organized all the assignments I wanted them to complete for the unit and assigned XP (experience points) to them based on how much effort they each took.
I created placards that explained the assignments so the kids could complete them independently and at their own pace.

If you look at the assignment sheet you will see a whole area of assignments called sidequests.  Michael Matera does an amazing job outlining them in his book so definitely GO BUY IT!  It is a perfect summer read.
In a nutshell, though a sidequest is an "extra" activity.  These activities do not have to be completed but they do make the quest progress quickly.  For me, these assignments are awesome guided and independent activities that allow your students to delve deeper into topics.  This is a perfect way to differentiate for your high flyers!

Step 3:  I placed the kids onto four teams.  Each team was named after a major Egyptian god.  Each team was assigned one of the locked locks on the locker.  This lock had a three-digit number as a combination.  The object of the game was to solve puzzles to find the numbers to unlock the lock.   This is where things get tricky but this year I got a handle on it with a little help from my internet buddies.

The goal of the game is to earn XP.  As each person earned XP, they moved up the ranks of Egyptian society from slave to pharaoh.  When a team earned an average of 425 XP they got to go on a clue quest and solve a puzzle to learn the first number.  We considered this "clearing gate 1".  This repeated for two more  gates until they had all three numbers and could open their lock.

Last year when I tried this, the amount of scorekeeping and date that was needed to be managed was way too overwhelming.  I spent my year investigating easier ways and I finally stumbled upon a genius that created a spreadsheet for tracking in Google Spreadsheets and Forms.  

With this sheet, I was able to wrangle all the information, project on the board, and let the kids see where they stood!
Students listed by XP earned
Alphabetical list of students, Total XP, Level, and Guild
Full Chart

Total XP earned by each guild

This is what I used to progress guilds to gates.  When their average was 425, they were able to go on their first clue quest to open Gate 1 and receive their first number.

Seriously, this entire spreadsheet saved my life and made this an enjoyable experience!

Step 4: I created the Clue Quests to clear each gate.  These were fun!  If you really love solving puzzles look on over to BreakoutEDU.  It is an amazing resource and community for educators creating fabulous puzzles to challenge their students.  I have large classes, so I decided to incorporate some of the themes into this activity.
Once each group (guild in the spreadsheet) earned an average of 425 XP they received this:

The QR code led to a question, the answer to the question was the password to unlock a website that brought them to their first number.

On the next gate they received this:

Once they solved the puzzle it brought them to an activity in the hallway where their number was hidden.

The last gate involved invisible ink and a UV pen!

The kids absolutely loooooooooved this activity.  I got about 95% completion of all the activities and total buy-in from the kids.  When they opened their locks and earned their day out both classes cheered!  I was able to accommodate for my struggling learners as they approached each activity and I was able to push my high flyers who started to compete with each other to see how many side quests they could do.  I can't wait to do it again and I'm already working on one for my American Revolution unit that focuses on the Culper Spy Ring!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not enough time and too much to do!

Life is soooooo hectic but great right now!  I'm teaching a grad class to help teachers integrate technology in their own classrooms and it is so fun!  It is also very time consuming and I have so much to blog about.  That will have to wait for another time.  I did want to show you all some of the items I made lately.  I am really trying to make my units accessible to all learners so please stop by and take a look whether you need to accommodate for children with learning disabilities, attention difficulties, or English language learners.

Beginnings of Ancient Greece

Declaration of Independence

Ancient Civilization of Mesopotamia WAR! - My kids looooooooved this!

Important Egyptian Pharaohs Interactive Notebook

Beginnings of Mesopotamia: Sumerian Game and Problems Solving - The kids had no idea they were learning when we played this.  They thought it was a big game and surprised themselves at what they actually had retained and understood by the end!

Sorry for the gratuitous plug!  I promise I will be back to chronicling my adventures with middle schoolers soon!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Big Bucket of Fabric

Do you know what makes my students really, really, really happy?

Nothing makes my students happier than a big bucket of fabric!  If you have a bucket of fabric you have unlimited costumes and imagination!

I have been having kids make plays or videos for all of my 18 years but I never saw the power of the fabric bucket till I went to my new school.  The fabric bucket does not belong to me but is actually shared among teachers and used for Hammurabi plays, Greek God skits, and vocabulary videos.  I have the biggest classroom so I get physical ownership of it and I am lucky!

The fabric is old sheets, drapes, sashes, and rope.  It has turned my kids into Babylonians, women on the Oregon Trail, and the red fabric can be wrapped to become a Redcoat.  When I mention the use of the bucket the kiddos start frothing at the mouth so I often have to hold off on costumes until plays and videos are written and rehearsed.  Once they get their hands on it, though, they become giggly little kids again and that makes me happy.  Middle school kids should be excited about pretend play.  It means they are still kids.  Get yourself a bucket a bucket of fabric and watch your students become creative!!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Google Earth, Maps, and most importantly CARDBOARD!!!!

Okay, so when I get a thought in my head I am all in and it becomes a passion.  This week my passion was immersive geography.  In our Language Arts classes we are reading a fabulous book called The Years of Zero by Seng Ty.

It is a wonderful story about life in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge and was written by a guidance counselor in my district.  About 20% of the students in my district are Cambodian so this book is an important memoir for us.  Many of the parents, of my students, grew up in refugee camps in Thailand so the families never go back to Cambodia.
I wanted them to see the natural beauty of that country so first I created a Google Earth field trip.  I then decided that I was going to test the field on ancient Mesopotamia since we were launching that unit in class.  It was wonderful!  I used Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Cardboard to tour Iraq.  As students were on their field trip they had to take notes on what their senses might experience.  The culmination was creating a sensory poem.

They love it all but the definitely love Google Cardboard the most!

We went to the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, Baghdad, the Tigris River, and then we threw in the Eiffel Tower, Great Barrier Reef, and Macchu Pichu because they are AMAZING in Google Cardboard.
If you haven't used Google Cardboard yet, it is a game changer!  All you need is a smartphone, one of these...

and some fabulous apps like Cardboard and Google Street View.  The box allows your students to feel like they are immersed in the environment!  My kiddos loved it sooooooo much they now have a list of places we need to "visit".

If you are interested in the above field trip, click here for the resources!  I will also put them on my Freebie page.