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Passion Projects

I have been reading quite a bit about Genius Hour and Twenty Time the past few years.  I have been wanting to try it with my students,  but quite honestly, I was scared.  How would I monitor what students were doing?  How would I grade them? How would I help them be successful? I decided to quit worrying and jump in.  
I have been trying so hard this year to take the emphasis OFF grades and points and on learning and engagement. It has taken awhile, but I think my students are finally getting it.  I introduced the idea of Passion Projects to my students in December.  The main requirement is that they were passionate about their topic and had a desire to find out something new about that topic.  I also emphasized that the journey was more important than the final product.  How else would I encourage students to take risks?
Because I use stations in my classroom, it was easy to carve out a time for students to work on their projects in class.  Although I do not assign homework students we…
Recent posts

Making Stations Work

I've posted a few times about my efforts to incorporate stations in my classroom this year. Inspired by Catlin Tucker, author of Blended Learning and one of the amazing educators I follow on Twitter, I want to create more opportunities to interact with my students and provide them with feedback AS they are working.  Overall, it has gone well.  However, one difficulty I have encountered is how to inform students of what they are expected to do at each station.  I thought that posting detailed instructions on my blog would be the best way.  WRONG!  I found that students often struggled to navigate back and forth between the various pages they might be visiting on their Chromebooks.  Also, some stations didn't even require a Chromebook, so it was kind of a pain for them to have to log in and find the instructions.  I thought back to what Alice Keeler, author of Ditch that Homework and Twitter Tweeter extraordinaire once said, "Slapping something online doesn't make it be…

These Kids are Magical

Last week in my Creative Writing class, I introduced the idea of writing parodies of songs.  My students immediately got excited. I showed them "Word Crimes" by Weird Al and another one about algebra set to Toto's "Africa".  That's all they needed.  Within seconds, they were humming, singing, and writing. I could have gone to the gym, and they wouldn't have known I was gone!  My students know me well enough to know that I want them to take risks.  If something doesn't "turn out" they way they had hoped, big deal.  There are many other opportunities to create a masterpiece. 

Students managed to write their songs within a block period and a half.  This included practice time, as well as typing and printing their lyrics.  Then, each group shared a link to the Karaoke version with me on a Google doc. That way it was ready to play when it was their turn to perform.

After the performances (I had tears in my eyes), I had students complete a Google …

Flexible Seating and Making Kids Feel Valued

When I was in middle school and high school, I remember staring up at the ceiling tiles and trying to count the number of holes in each one.  Desks faced forward in straight rows.  There were few, if any, posters on the walls.  It was a desolate, depressing atmosphere.  

I have always taken pride in my classroom and tried to make it inviting.  I have been known to paint a file cabinet turquoise and paint my door with chalkboard paint.  Students have told me that they love my "cheesy" posters.

This year I took my classroom to another level.  I have always wanted my room to feel cozy-like home!  The newest rage seems to be flexible seating, and I decided to implement this kind of arrangement in my classroom.  
Reading The Outsiders I began by asking students what they would like.  In fact, I created a Google Form asking them to rank their top five choices.  Google Forms provide results in a variety of ways. However, the pie graphs were very helpful in this case.  Then, I began wi…

Creating a Cell Phone Sanctuary

Over the past few years, I have noticed a change in my students.  Not only are they tethered to their phones, but they are more anxious than ever.  In the past two school years, I have had at least three students experience school anxiety so severe that they could not come to school.   Those are just MY students.  This year I have had one student leave our school after her mother spent three weeks trying to drag her to class each morning as her daughter screamed, cried, and sometimes refused to get out of the car.  According to an article titled "Teen Anxiety and Depression: the Kids are not Alright" published in 2016, "In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2 million report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys–totaling 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder, according t…

Student Writing Comes to LIfe

This is our first year offering Creative Writing, and it is my first time teaching it.  When I proposed the idea to my principal, we thought it would be best to make the class a semester-long and pair it with Beginning Drama.  At the semester, the kids in drama will go to writing and the kids in writing will go to drama.  This will allow students to "try" both electives.  The drama teacher and I thought it would be fun to collaborate on a project together, and it was a huge success.
First, I taught my students how to write a scene.  We discussed the elements of writing a scene, looked at examples, brainstormed ideas, and practiced writing a few.  Once students were ready, they worked in a group to write a scene on their own.  They were encouraged to have just two or three characters in their scene.  Students spent quite a bit of time on this project and received feedback from their classmates on several occasions. Writing groups worked perfectly, but students also read their …

Field Trip to Romeo and Juliet and SO much More

Ask my students if I am ever absent, and they will tell you no.  I hate missing school!  It's because I am selfish. I don't want anyone else to teach my lessons, and I don't like being away from my students.  I like to read stories with my voices, I like to greet them with music, and there is nothing I want to miss (okay, State Testing)!  However, on Friday my Creative Writing class, along with the drama teacher's class, had the opportunity to go see Romeo and Juliet at the Old Globe in San Diego. I have to admit that I wasn't excited about missing three of my classes, being sandwiched between 60 middle schoolers on a school bus, and sitting through a play. I know I am an English teacher and am supposed to love plays, but generally, I don't. I love watching my students perform but not strangers. 

I arrived at school at my usual time to check in with the sub. I was worried she would not know how to work the computer/video. I'm so glad I did. Disaster was immi…