Sunday, May 26, 2013

Random Thoughts for Next Year

Hello on a rainy, rainy Sunday!

As my school year has finished, I have only the dreaded day of cleaning up my room and packing things up between me and this summer.  However I am working on figuring out an entirely new approach for next year and I wanted to share my thoughts so that I don't forget them!

Idea #1:  Badges/Achievements/Leveling Up

I have loved the idea for badges or achievements in my class similar to Xbox or the Scouts for a long time.  I have always kind of have an idea like this, and I also mentioned it in a previous post.  I read about the idea from a tweet.  Here's the link:


I love this idea using a flipped model where kids may have some choice.  Imagine them going the extra mile for the Civil War research achievement, or the Test Ace badge.  The possibilities are endless, and with programs such as Edmodo and Classbadges both offering the ability to do this free and electronically, it's hard to ignore it.

Idea #2:  Reworking My Room to the Centers Model

If I am going to be having students work in groups at different paces and on different activities, providing separate stations to work at seems to make more sense than 30 desks that cramp up my room.  I can imagine a station to use computers, to read, to compose/write, to work on a project, and finally one near my desk and board to work with me.  I'm blueprinting this idea in my mind, and I'd love it if someone out there had any good ideas.

Idea #3:  The United States History, World History, Tag Team Social Studies Championships

This idea I actually toyed with this year.  I'm a wrestling fan (27... but still a kid).  I bought several of the toy championship belts and modified them with our school logo and symbols.  The student with the highest grade in 8th and 7th, as well as the highest average grade between two partners (tag team) got to carry the belt and could wear it in class.  I had two boys who battled over it and loved to hold it or wear it in front of the other one in a playful manner.  I thought it was hilarious, and awesome.

Idea #4:  Routine Writing

Ok, so this one isn't really my idea.  This one was out of necessity due to the common core and more specifically my school district.  Regardless, routine writing is going to have to be built into the use of my flipped videos and also my reading materials.  I like the electronic route because no one ever told me that this has to be on paper.  One idea I particularily like I got from Anthony Fitzpatrick, author of Social Studies can be SPECtacular.  Here's a plug for the book:

Social Studies can be SPECtacular

I modified the SPEC approach to create a template of my own.  Again, no real innovation on my part, just some of that borrowing that we teachers do from people who are smarter than us or beat us to the punch.  Anyways, I created my model from Fitzpatrick's ideas called inSPECt.  This is what it looks like:

That stands for Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, in (the) text.  Students have to learn to find these themes in the text, which creates a need to discuss them.  I made a quick prezi (and I know it's not perfect) for this idea.  I showed this to my kids, and for some it helped.  Going into next year I need to set all of this stuff up ahead of time with them if I expect better results.

Idea #5;  7th Grade Boot Camp (and Probably 8th Too)

Tying in my badges, ranks, etc. I'm going to start the year with "Boot Camp."  There are so many things that need to be taught so that other things can be done.  Things like how to use a flash drive, how to save a file, how to cut, copy, and paste, how to print in our labs, how to scan a document, and how to use our copier machine.  Teaching these things as expectations may also take a little bit of the sting out of the teaching of behavioral expectations which drive my kids nuts.  I'll just sprinkle those in.  This would also be a great start to the centers approach.

Idea #6:  The Flipped Videos

I already mentioned this one in other posts, but it's happening.  Direct instruction will be provided through classroom videos with interaction between me and my sidekick, Mike, the History-Loving Robot.  I make him come to life through Xtranormal, and he also has his own Edmodo account where he interacts with students, and usually makes fun of me.  If you haven't done something like this, do it.  Sometimes your fake sidekick can create a rapport with the kids that just can't stand you or that try to hide from you in class.  I was amazed at how simple this was and how well it worked.  Eventually, my higher students will contribute to the flipped videos in some form, but I don't quite know how yet.

I hope I get this all done.  Happy summer!

Take Care,
Mr. J.

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