BrainPop, Class Dojo, and Notetaking

Saturday, February 22, 2014 8 comments
Right before vacation I did this little activity that wowed me with how well it worked.  We had just finished up Egyptian pharaohs and I wanted to give Cleopatra her own time but not too much.  I turned to my favorite standby of BrainPop and I identified 14 facts that should go into notes.

First we set up our note book for notetaking.
(The kids were so mad I made them cut her in half!!!)

I told the kids that I had identified 14 important facts and I was going to give one Class Dojo point for each fact they identified that matched my list.  I had them do this on scrap paper and we watched the video three different times.  These kids worked hard because they knew they were going to earn a lot of Dojo points for their Olympic team.
OMG... I was so impressed with how well the kids did.  I put up a list of my facts and most students were able to match 10 or more!  Students then used their and my notes to create a final draft in their note book and i walked around the classroom giving them the Dojo points they earned.  Also, they absolutely loved the idea that Cleopatra's life is portrayed like a soap opera!  I really love when a small activity has students really work on an amazing skill!

Class Dojo and the Olympics.... Win... Win!

Thursday, February 20, 2014 4 comments
My seventh grade class has been amazing lately and I wanted to find a way to capitalize on their academic and behavior successes.  First off, I wanted to set up an academic Olympics to coincide with Sochi. If I wasn't so new to my curriculum I could have probably lined up my unit on Greece with Sochi but I wasn't on the ball enough for that.  I decided I was going to split them into six teams: Norway, USA, Russia, Canada, Germany, and Austria.  Students are competing for points based on hard work, being on task, helping others, and academic success.  The gold medal team will get a pizza party and there will be individual awards as well.
I thought this was a great time to test drive Class Dojo and I was correct!
Before I started I wanted to lay the hook.  First, I just started having them walk into class with a live Olympics feed playing on the board.
Then a couple of days later I just started using Class Dojo in class one day when the kids were studying for a vocabulary quiz.  It was hysterical!!! They started to figure out how to get points and then they were scrambling for them.  They had no idea what they were earning or why!
I finally let them in on the secret (one kid kept begging me!) and things went awesomely!

Kids earned points for all the things I mentioned above.  Every night I calculated the team score.
Because not every group was equal in size, we decided that the average was the best way to determine a winner.
The kids have loooooooved it and have asked to continue it all year.  I love Class Dojo but it is a little daunting.  I use my phone and I spend more time watching my students than interacting with them because I am trying to be fair about rewarding points.  I have promised them that we will do a monthly challenge!
Comment below and tell me some of your Class Dojo stories!!!

February Vacation Sale!!!

Sunday, February 16, 2014 No comments
February vacation is going to be busy for this gal, so I thought I would give you guys a treat.  My entire store is 20% from today until Tuesday!  Enjoy!!!

Bloom's Taxonomy for Social Studies!

Saturday, February 15, 2014 No comments
So far, February vacation is off to a great swing.  We did karate, went shopping for a birthday present and had a wonderful lunch at Red Robin.

Now its' snowing.... again....... more snow..... We ended up getting about 10 on Thursday and now we're getting about 6 more.  We need spring because I'm running out of room in my driveway.  Either it starts to thaw or we'll have to get rid of a car!

With all the snow, I've hd time to create a really amazing task card set.  I'm always looking for a way to challenge and differentiate in the classroom and this is a hit!

Vocabulary, Quizlet, and Cell Phones

Thursday, February 13, 2014 No comments
I'm blogging.... at 12:39.... on a Thursday..... why?
Snow day!  I literally think everyone on the eastern seaboard is home today battling snow or ice.  Is it me or is this the worst winter in a while?  I'll take advantage of it, though!  We start our February vacation tomorrow at 2:30 so I can take a break from planning and prepping and spend some time blogging and creating for TPT.  I'm in the middle of make a really awesome new product.... let's just say Bloom's Taxonomy....... hmmmmmmm?

So what have I been doing that's engaging?
For those of you new to Quizlet, it is a simple online flashcard creator that can be used by both teachers and students.  On top of flashcards, it also uses your words and definitions to make tests and games.

As a teacher you can make multiple sets and create classes to organize them.  Students can create an account and join your class so their words are always a click away.

Vocabulary has always been important to me but since I have been teaching a larger number of ELL students, it has taken on a new urgency.  I'm also a huge fan of skill building.  I always hate when I hear a middle school teacher say something along the lines of, "Jeez, these kids don't know how to study.".  Of course they don't.... no one has taught them to.  We just assume that kids will learn to study out of necessity as opposed to being shown and taken part in multiple ways to study.  
I have a very routine way of accomplishing vocab in social studies.  First, we create a page in our notebook where we list the word, define it, write the sentence from the textbook that contains the word, and draw a picture.

I used to just have my kids create a foldable with just the word and a definition but my ELL students really benefit with more time to process the word.  I have them draw the picture because I believe in adding some creativity to the process.  Our literacy specialist gave me an even better reason to continue the drawing of pictures.  The picture allows you to see if the student truly understands what the word means.  We had a whole bunch of Constitution words to work with (i.e. checks and balances, federalism, etc.).  One girl brought me her words and every picture was of a document.  I was able to ask her if she understood the words and she admitted she didn't so then we brainstormed some pictures together.
When the kids walk in the day of their vocabulary quiz I have Quizlet set up on the two classroom computers, my laptop and projector, and my phone. I let them work individually, or in groups, to study for ten to fifteen minutes. The first time I introduced this I also allowed them to download the Quizlet apps to their phones and took the time to hook them up to our class.  That time has paid off immensely.

Look at all those fabulous kids on their cell phones..... studying!!!!  They love Quizlet so much they even started to make flashcards for terms in their other classes.  Their favorite thing is to race each other on the Scatter game (it's like Memory).  I love it because they forget they're studying!  Vocabulary grades have increased 60% and my kids are learning more about themselves as students.

Check out my profile on Quizlet!

I'll Never Buy Another Sharpener

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 4 comments
So I thought I wrote this post forever ago but obviously I'm old and senile!  When I moved into my new classroom I was given a pencil sharpener that didn't work.  Worst off, the kids at my school hate using pens and have a steady diet of wood and graphite.  They can go through 8 pencils in a day...... easy.  I had seen everyone raving about the Quietest Sharpener in the World.
This thing is amazing!  It took a bit for my kids to learn how to work it because it is just different.  You actually pull out the front unit for better stabilization of the pencil so of course my kids would spend five minutes just shoving it into the hole and complaining that, "You broke it, Mrs. Wilkins".  I spent a good amount of time sharpening for them until they learned how to use it and by that time, other teachers on my team had bought their own, so the kids have mastered it now.
It is quiet... that is true.  The reason my kiddos and I love it, though, is how sharp the pencils are.

The picture is not great but you get the point..... ha.... point.  We joke around in my class, "That point is so sharp you could poke a man's eye out with it.... but we wouldn't because that would be assault." (We are middle school.... we have a sick and twisted humor and we are okay with it!)  Seriously, though, the point is so sharp, kids line up to sharpen already sharpened pencils.  They say that if they sharpen in my class they can last all day!
If you are interested, mosey on over to Classroom Friendly Supplies and check them out.  I got the red one and it makes it easier to find in the classroom.  i think I'm going to buy the mounting kit and make that a summer project.  I just saw they added a pink one so that might be an end of the year present for me!  Seriously......check them out!

February Currently... on the first!

Saturday, February 1, 2014 3 comments
This is the first time I've done the Currently on the first!  Holy cow!!
So obviously, I'm currently bingeing on the telly and it's okay.  By the way.... I love snow and cuddling and I absolutely loathe grading!!!!  For reals!  Head on over to Farley and see what she is up to!