Sunday, April 24, 2016

Classroom MVP

So it has been an eventful week between the Great Shake Competition and the field trips to visit the Jr Highs in town. One thing we made time for was to award a classroom MVP.

If you are unaware an MVP is considered the Most Valuable Player and is given out to athletes in team sports. Since my classroom is hockey theme (check out my classroom link at the top) I decided to create this award to honor students who are doing amazing things in the classroom.

This is my first year doing this activity and it has developed into something that is not only an honor, but it is really student driven. At first I selected students who I noticed working hard in small groups or improving in a subject, such as reading. I announced them in front of the whole class and awarded them the MVP necklace, which is just a beaded Blackhawks necklace. The students would clap and the MVP would wear the necklace all day. It started as a way for me to point out those students who I noticed were trying or those students who are constantly doing good things. After I had a group of three students I began to try something different. I put all the past MVP's in charge of choosing the next MVP. This could have crashed and burned or turned out great, and luckily the students really took it seriously. I told them that they had to nominate someone who followed the classroom rules or truly stood out as a superstar. I decided to call the group of students who earned the MVP award the Hall of Famers. Those who earned the MVP award would join the group and be able to help nominate the next MVP. The students would nominate a person and say why they thought they should be considered the MVP then there would be a vote. All members had to agree for the nominee to get the award. We tried to award students on Thursdays. Sometimes the group couldn't agree or wouldn't meet to discuss so some Thursday's we wouldn't have an MVP.

When an MVP was selected it was kept a secret. On Thursday mornings, typically after our class had morning meeting, the Hall of Famers would line up in order of induction at the door. The newest member was at the end. I recently got a mini Stanley Cup and decided to do what Hockey Players do and pass the cup after a lap around the ice. I would play a song, currently One Direction's Drag Me Down, and the students would walk laps around the classroom with the cup. The leader would hold it for a lap then pass it back. Once they pass it the the next person in line they would go to the end of the line, thereby making the second person the leader. This continues till the person who was originally was last in line has the cup. That person would then do a lap the give the cup to the newest MVP. It can get pretty exciting as the kids are waiting on the edge of their seats to see who will get it next. I then give the MVP the Blackhawk necklace and they wear it all day. I've tried to choose music that is considered a pump up song to build excitement and I've even recently added a police light to give it sports ambiance.

I've enjoyed doing this because it build students confidence and gives them something to push for. I have also enjoyed watching my Hall of Famers select students because they never put anyone down but instead select students to celebrate and often give great reasons. They get to run the show and I rarely if at all give input. They enjoy getting to be in charge and have that responsibility especially for something so positive.

Recently outside the classroom I have showcased the Hall of Famers Club by taping up their picture with the MVP award necklace (sample picture above). This is a tribute to them but also a way to get other students to ask them about it. I think too often we get bogged down in the negative, whether it's what we need to get to in the subjects we teach, why students aren't completing their work, or the endless playground drama saga that replicate the last Days of our Lives episode. It's time that we make time to celebrate those students who always give their all and those students who are making gains. I always tell my Hall of Famers, the MVP award isn't about straight A's it's about who is trying.
I'm sure you all have other amazing ideas you do in your classroom to celebrate the positive, so feel free to leave some of your own ideas below!

Hope you have enjoyed reading about my classroom and our MVP awards! Until next Week!
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I will be Periscoping live in Tuesday April 26th at 5:30 CT. Follow me at mlee97622
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Great Galesburg Shake

Handshake is just the start

One thing I have been working on with my students is something, often times, we forget to consider in the mist of lesson plans and EVERYTHING we have to get accomplished in one year. I have taken time the past few months to really work on presentation skills, conversation skills, and just overall presence. Personally, I never really had the opportunity to work on these when I was in school and looking back I wish I did. I remember having to give a speech my 8th grade year and just shaking in my boots knowing that I had to stand in front of my class, students I have literally known all my life, and speak. Since that experience, and many more throughout high school and college, I have started making presentations a strong part of my class. During the school year I have them present on things they have learned and have them share during morning meeting. I also push for students to ask questions of each other and teach them discussion techniques to use during Lit Circles. All of these things prepare them for spring when the toughest challenge arises, The Great Shake.

What is this shake? No, it's not the newest milk shake found at your local Steak and Shake, though their shakes are quite delicious. It is a new competition that had its inaugural year last year. So get to the point Megan, what is it? It's a competition that involves students from 4th to 12th grade putting their ability to converse and present to the test. Students compete in rounds that consist of them meeting and conversing with community members and professionals. Each round is different and students are eliminated as it progresses. It all starts with each school selecting 10 students to represent them.

Now to how I prepare them for this amazing competition. I typically have students practice eye contact and handshake to begin. It's surprising how hard it can be for students to do these two things. The students who typically do the best are the ones who already have that inner confidence. So to help those who are struggling I normally stand outside the door of my classroom every morning, starting at the beginning of the school year, and shake every students hand saying good morning. This is great practice and a great way to start the morning.

Another way I prepare my class is I invite a few community members and college students to my classroom to interact with my students. I always prepare my students and let them know that I am bringing people from the community to help them practice their ability to have a discussion. Students are typically nervous, but after finding common ground such as talking about t.v., food, or sports they tend to relax. They often surprise me  with the questions they ask the visitors.

I recently invited a few college students from a multicultural club to my class. They shared the importance of education and their back story with my students. When I asked my students if they had any questions they said nothing. I then grouped my students into 4 small groups, one group for each of the visitors. The students had to introduce themselves, shake hands, and ask questions to provoke discussion from the visitors. I know it can seem simple, but some students have never really done anything like this before. I could tell they were nervous, but to be honest it made them great listeners. They wanted to impress and really tried hard to come up with questions for the guests and think before they spoke. One student even ask, "What degree will you end up graduating with after your final year?" What!!! That is an incredibly awesome question! I was beyond impressed with them.

Every year I try to find ways to insert practicing these conversations and presentation skills into my classroom. They are so vital and are such a big part of future plans like getting into college or getting a job that I feel students need to learn them early. Not only that it creates a sense of respect and recognition for the students. No matter where they stand academically or what is going on at home they, themselves alone can take pride in their ability and growth. They can make people take notice, not with straight A's or even bad behavior, but instead with the words that flow from within.

I do have to say that we borrowed and put our own spin on this competition based on an extraordinary one put on by the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Ga. If you haven't heard of it you definitely need to look it up! No seriously, please do!
If your interested in following our students journey this year follow on twitter @205GreatShake !!!
So excited and truly can't wait to see how far they go! I am excited to say 3 of my students were chosen to advance and be apart of our schools top ten students! YAY! Go Superstars!!!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Classroom Rules!

So as you get started with a new school year one thing to consider is your classroom rules. Classes are constantly changing and so are the students so take a moment to consider your rules and reflect...don't worry I will wait. When I started teaching I remember a few simple rules of the Rules that were spoken to me: keep it simple, model them constantly, and make sure the students have a hand in them.

In my first year of teaching I felt like the rules were such a huge deal that I didn't write them until a day or two before school. I wanted them to be perfect and I remember going back and forth with the idea of the students making up the rules...but I decided I would pen them myself instead. I guess I wanted some sense of control and as it was my first year I wasn't quite sure how to start the year sooooo I faked it till I made it, lol. Honestly I didn't do too bad at all, looking back my first year was full of fears and nerves but also big ideas and connections. You don't really know unless you try and that year I did a lot. My Rules started off as four simple, yet overarching commands: Be Respectful, Be Ready, Be Responsible, and Do Your Best. The last of which is my favorite because it's not about getting an A, but giving it your all.

As the years passed these rules have honestly been the same up until last year, in which I added one more....Be Positive. Why? Well, I wanted to find a way to say that it's important for the students to support one another, to have a positive attitude about themselves, and rise to any challenge. The rule Be Positive seems to say  that. I used it this past year and  loved it. I was able to reference it way more as a rule and I got to support it with positive points on Class Dojo. In an age where growing up too soon and negativity is an epidemic students need to be taught not only the subjects of math and reading, but how to be respectful citizens as well.

Now how do I teach my rules? The first month seems like it lasts forever because we go over them constantly. The first week alone I teach them and model them daily. Even for 5th graders they need the repetition for it to make sense and sink in. One activity that I love to do is a skit. I break the students into groups and make sure every rule is covered. To start they have to show how not to follow the rule and how to follow the rule. They get 20 minutes to work to prepare and then they show the class. I have also done it where the students have to act out a rule from a hat like charades. At the end of the week I have created a "I Solemnly Swear to know, understand, and uphold the rules to the best of my ability." There is a bit more to it, but you get the idea. The students sign it and it is posted under the rules poster in my classroom all year. It works almost like a contract as the students can never say,"I didn't know."

When we are having a rough day or after break we will go over the rules and maybe make posters.This year after break the students made posters to remind students how to act when doing certain activities such as read to self, working in groups, working independently, lining up etc. That seemed to help remind the students and over all allow them a chance to reflect. I feel like it's important to be dramatic and show case the rules in a way that is fun or over the top. It catches the students attention and gives them a chance to be crazy, silly, or just be bad for a moment then show all the good they can do. Even the toughest student can show what the rules truly mean and if they can do that they are capable of more then we know.

What are your classroom rules?

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Welcome to Teaching Power Play!

Ok so here goes nothing. After much back and forth thinking, and very little experience, I'm going all in. "Go big or go home!" is what my dad always said so here it goes. I'm excited to take my chance to share my ideas in what already is a field full of amazing teachers!

I have been teaching for three years as of now and it has been a crazy ride. I have had the opportunity to teach both third and fifth grade during that time and loved both dearly. In three years I have come into my own as a teacher and pushed myself harder than I thought I could. That being said I have also felt burnt out at times and like maybe this isn't the job for me. Yet, I keep coming back day after day and the truth is I can't see myself doing anything but this. I love helping students, especially in those moments where they feel as if they will never get it. I love making a fool of myself to get a point across and seeing their growth over the course of the year. I am in love with this profession and every year I push myself harder and build on the lessons I have created. In the end this is worth it. In this blog, I hope to share  some of the crazy ideas and lessons I have created. Some I have borrowed from other amazing teachers and put my own spin on them (don't worry there will be plenty of shout outs). The best advice I ever got as a teacher was:

 "Beg, Borrow, and Steal every chance you get."

Feel free to borrow and steal from me!

I hope you enjoy what you read and stay tuned for more posts soon.