Bus Drivers Are Awesome!

So, all this terrible weather has made me realize, once again, how much our bus drivers have to handle.
Years ago, I had to drive my girl scout troop home from a ski trip in a terrible snowstorm. It was harrowing. We’re talking white-knuckle, heart-pounding, high blood pressure driving. And that was before we pulled out of the parking lot! All I could think of, the whole trip south down 131 was how “if something happened and we were in an accident, it would be my fault”.
I’ve always remembered that when I ride the bus with my students. The bus drivers always seem so calm and collected, as they roll along. Maybe they are nervous, but they never show it. I don’t know how they do it.
On a good day, it would be a tough job. Add in the bad weather and other drivers to look out for, and, to me, it’s a nightmare!
I don’t think we give bus drivers near enough credit! They are amazing! The way they are able to handle that giant vehicle (knowing that driving my minivan at times was tricky!) is awesome. They are able to get their buses down dirt roads pockmarked with deep holes, around tight corners that look like they couldn’t possibly make it, and more. And all of this, while having 50 or so students behind them!
So, for all those bus drivers out there, I offer this idea: let’s outfit our buses so they don’t have to worry about the bad weather (and can look tough at the same time!)

I don't know where this picture came from - it was emailed to me from my mom, but it's so perfect!

I don’t know where this picture came from – it was emailed to me from my mom, but it’s so perfect!

My hat’s off to you, Bus Drivers! You are AWESOME!

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Engaging Readers with a Picture Book Study & Tournament

What a great idea! Since we’re so close to Michigan State University, I’m thinking this will work well – we can do this as the Spartans head into March Madness.

Literacy Love

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Want to engage readers? 

Host a Picture Book Study & Tournament! 

Confession Time: During first semester I had a lot of 8th grade students who abandoned books on a regular basis regardless of how many book talks and read alouds I planned. As we got closer to Thanksgiving, I  knew I needed a plan to really create an environment of positive reading experiences immediately or I might lose them for good.  I thought that if I could supply them with great books that they could finish quickly, it might boost their reading confidence levels, and thus, our first picture book tournament was born. We held our picture book tournament between Thanksgiving and Winter Break and it was a multi step event where students continually hit all of our daily reading goals in room 213: 1. read texts, 2. talk about texts, 3. write about texts and 4. listen to a…

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Motivating My Students to Achieve

Spartan PrideAs a proud Spartan fan, I watched the football team closely all season.  The team did everything right:  they all stuck together, through good times and bad, they worked hard, they celebrated the wins and learned from the losses and ended the year on a high note.

This has inspired me to use their example with my students.  It took me quite a while to figure out how to do that.  It finally clicked for me last week:

First, our school holds a Reward Day each trimester.  Students who have no office referrals or D’s or E’s on their report card enjoy a fun activity or field trip.  The others go to an academic support room which is designed to help them (hopefully) avoid this in the future.  So, our “Rose Bowl” will be having the entire team (59 students) eligible for Reward Day in March.  That will take quite a bit of effort on their (and our) parts.  Last trimester, we had 11 students who were not eligible.

Each week, the Spartans focused on their football game that Saturday.  Our “football game” will be our Catchup and Pickles.  Each Friday afternoon, students who have missing work “catch up” on the work, while students who have all of their week’s work turned in “pick” an activity.  If 75% of our team is a “Pickle”, we will consider our team to have won that week.

The Spartans are well known for dancing in the locker room after a win.  The team chose a song that they felt embodied their celebration.  We’ll be taking nominations for celebratory songs next week and we’ll choose our song on Friday.  When we “win”, we’ll celebrate by dancing.

It also occurred to me that the Spartan defense has a special saying, “the No Fly Zone”.  We will have a “No Fail Zone” in our rooms.  🙂

Finally, to help our students, we will be creating special teams.  We have two interns who, along with the two of us (the homeroom teachers) will divide the team into four smaller teams.  Each of these special teams will choose a name and the adult will help that team pull together and succeed.

I’m super excited to set all of this in motion.  When we explained it to the students Friday afternoon, they were also very excited, so I’m hopeful that this will really take off.

As we go along, I’ll try to update and let everyone know how it’s working.

What do you do to motivate your students?  Do you think this will work?

100 Word Challenge

100words

100 Word Challenge Test 100words

One thing I struggle with is keeping my advanced students challenged and busy.  They pre-test on Mondays and then (depending on their score) either learn the week’s content and re-test, or work on an independent project.  I generally find a book for them to read that follows the theme of the week.  While this keeps them fairly busy, they are very fast workers and periodically finish with time to spare.

To the rescue: the 100 word challenge.  I found a list of words that you should know when you graduate from high school.  I shared it with my advanced students and challenged them to learn as many as possible by the end of the year.  I then wrote a multiple choice test for them to take using a portion of the 100 words (they knew the test would not include all 100 words).

It is amazing to me to see my students willingly looking up definitions in the dictionary. They go back to this throughout the year whenever they have a few minutes.

This works really well because I don’t have to keep finding more things to give them to work on.

At the end of the year, I give the multiple choice test.  I don’t grade it, just mark wrong answers.  They were really excited to be learning something this difficult and many of them showed the list to their parents, then proudly reported that the parents didn’t know many of the words!

What do you do to challenge your students?

Genius Day Part 2

Well, we had a Genius Day at school about a month ago.  It went so well!  The students had been asking about having one all trimester, and the Monday before Thanksgiving seemed like a good day for it.  It was the end of a trimester, we had two days of school that week, and we were planning to hold our Read-a-thon on Tuesday.

After spending time doing our planning with the kids (more on that in a bit), the day arrived.  In addition to the 6th graders who were learning, studying and experimenting, we had some 7th and 8th graders who were using the opportunity to film a documentary about Genius Day.  During our intervention/extension period each morning, these students participate in filmmaking.  This seemed like the perfect extension of their learning, so I encouraged them to make a plan, then film and edit their work.  You can see the results here: http://youtu.be/qBsL5LccEew

In order to prepare our students, we had them fill out several charts and questionnaires.  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2AMC_GVwB9WS003cXowY3k0a1k/edit?usp=sharing

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HGULZ8x6We_n_mzEo1w2RYzjrVksVpojp2Fb9TsSqeM/edit?usp=sharing

By having students think through their individual characteristics and ideas, we could help guide them to a successful project.  This avoids students ending up with too ambitious a project (like one idea that required a welder!) or too limited a project (like the cliched baking soda and vinegar volcano).  Often, it is a matter of guiding them to take that idea and either tweak it or revise it to be something more line with what they can and should accomplish in the time allotted.  We plan to hold one at the end of each trimester.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do in the future, now that they had a chance to see it in action!

Do you do a Genius Hour or Genius Day with your students?