Monday, May 26, 2014

Teacher Reflection

“It is necessary ... for a man to go away by himself ... to sit on a rock ... and ask, 'Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?” 
― Carl Sandburg

What do you think?  I think to be an effective teacher, one must keep an actively reflective mind.  This reflection can happen in a myriad of ways: daily, weekly, quarterly and at the end of the year.

Daily: a great way to reflect on what worked and what didn't is to simply write down your thoughts on your lesson plan.  If  you are like me, I keep my lesson plans for use later.

Weekly: I use the quiz or other student material to gauge student understand.  If there is a weakness, what can I do to fix that weakness?

Quarterly: This is a big one for my school.  We have quarterly assessments that each content creates and each teacher administers the assessment.  We then "crunch the numbers" and determine where we have weaknesses.  We then have to devise lessons to reteach and rework those lessons.  We have to even fill out a form and provide our lessons to our department chair.

End of the Year: I have completed a few different ways and have seen other great ways to self-reflect.  Last year I encouraged the members of my department to write themselves a letter to be opened during the first week of teacher workweek.

This year, my neighbor teacher, had students tell her specific things that they liked about her class and things she could work on.  WOW! That was really brave of her to do a reflection like that.  She had the parameters that it needed to be kind and include specifics- avoid "This class was lame!" or "This class was so great!".  Why was it lame?  Why was it awesome?  She received some great information to use next year.
Do you self reflect?  If so, what do you do?

Happy teaching!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Old School JEOPARDY!

The end of the year is in sight and I am still faced with that conundrum of what to do.  We had a outdoor plans today and yesterday but as a result of three inches of rain we had to postpone until next week.  YIKES! I had to scramble yesterday to find something to keep my students occupied but relative to class.  
I thought about Jeopardy! but I didn't want to come up with all of the clues.  Nor did I want to put it into the power point that may or may not work.  Nor did I want to control the class as they did not pay attention to clues they had no investment in.  So- why don't the kids create the clues?  

Yesterday's task was to pick a topic from a list of broad topics: Renaissance, Japan, Middle Ages, Africa, Trade, Golden Ages, Rome, Greece, Mesoamerica, Stone Age, etc.  Students had to come up with six Jeopardy! type clues.  In addition to the clues they had to provide an answer key.  This took most of the period.  

Today I had to do some prep work.  First, I picked the clues I was going to use. Then, I made the dollar indicators, taped the clue to the board and then used magnets to cover the clues.  Each class had a tally helper.  

These were my rules:
Teams called their name, once when they new the answer.
Teams could only call their name when I had finished the clue.
There were two daily doubles.
There was a Final Jeopardy! clue.  

Overall, it went well today.  I think the students enjoyed seeing their classmate's clues.  

Happy Teaching!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

End of the Year Timeline

It's getting to be close to the end of the year.  By this point my students have taken their end of course SOL tests.  And now for the eternal end of the year teacher question: What on Earth do I do with these kids?  

WHI is a high-school credit course and the county where I teach allows for students who pass their SOL test to be exempt from their exam.  I have about 8 students that need to take an exam.  So, these activities need to be helpful for those students who are taking the exam but not bore the students to tears.  

One activity that I chose to do was a timeline that started with our very first lesson in August.  I then used our textbook to pick out approximately 55 other events.  These events had no dates on them.  I initially made a master list (that included the textbook page).  I then transferred those events, less the page numbers, to another Word Doc.  Once the pages were printed I shuffled them and rearranged them into six file folders.  Students then divided themselves into six groups and were responsible for putting the events in chronological order.  After the group had their events in order they started putting all of the other groups' events in chronological order.  The activity took most of the period: this was a win-win!  The timeline actually went out my classroom door into the hallway.  
After the whole timeline was finished students went through the timeline and were told to look for two things that surprised them.  To "surprise" them would mean that they didn't realize that an event happened before or after another event OR events were happening about the same time in other civilizations.  This was turned in for a classroom check grade.  

Happy Teaching!

Monday, May 19, 2014

HUGE thinking maps

To review for their Africa unit I had the students create a thinking map.  The thinking map was filled in by a reading selection I gave to the students.  When the student think they had correct answers they wrote the answer on a sticky note.  One person in their group was responsible for writing the correct thinking map on paper to share with the group.

The one issue I had is that I had three different ones and it took longer than I thought.  Perhaps I should have had fewer and with less information.  However, I had hoped it would go quicker as this was a review activity.

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


                                                                                                                                            Who remembers Memory? I do!  So, why can't Memory work in the classroom, too?   I had stations one day and one station was Memory review.  I chose the religions we have studied this year, the architecture of different regions and then people and places in Middle Ages.  The architectural Memory had a twist: each "match" had three index cards.  One was the name of the building, one was a picture and the last was its purpose or where it was.  
To keep the index cards separated I used blue ink for one of the matches and then the other match was in a different ink color: pink, green and black.

Happy Teaching!