Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Clue

Last week, I decided to give my 8th graders a day off reading and a day to play Clue - They were pumped!


The next few class periods were filled with learning and insight, but not for the kids.  I'm  the one who did the learning that day.

The State of Minnesota has spent millions of dollars testing students every April to be sure schools are cutting the mustard, but I say why not take a look at Colonial Mustard to get "A Clue" at students' reading and perseverance. Reading rules to a game is a "real life" application of why it's important to read and read well.

Some students just dug into their work, maybe they didn't want to read the instructions for a board game, but they realized that they needed to get the task at hand done in order to play the game.  On the other hand, some students looked at me with blank looks on their faces and hollered out; "I don't get it".  These kids were waiting for someone else to explain the rules to them.

As we started to play the game on various spots on the floor, I noticed some students taking charge.  Some students would skim the rules again to be sure they were doing it right.  Some students had never played the game before and even though they had a hard time with the directions of the game, they watched what everyone else was doing and asked questions. I was proud of these kids, because even though Clue can be a difficult game filled with higher levels of thinking, it was these kids who decided that they were up to the challenge. I was most frustrated with the frustrated kids.  Students who didn't try because they were scared to try.  Students who hollered out "I don't get it" without reading the instructions.  Some of these kids just sprawled on the floor with their cards showing and complaining that the game was too hard.

Next year, I will requisition 6 or 8 Clue games.  On the first days of school, I will assign 4 kids to a game and watch how they play the game.  I will be able to learn their learning styles and levels of perseverance.  I will see which kids have parents who take the time to play board games with their kids.  I will see which kids need coaching through their reading assignments.

I will know more about my students and abilities from this than any test anyone could give them.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Carpe Diem

In Senior High English, we are writing our life philosophy essays.  I'm writing about taking life by the horns and living life to it's fullest. This is my first draft as I'm showing students my writing process. 

My life philosophy is to “Seize the Day.” Life is too short to waste watching television or being lazy.  Life is too short to not tell someone you love them.  Life is too short not to live life to the fullest and make a bucket list of amazing things to do.
          In Seth Godin’s blog post, “Welcome to Paris”, Godin explains how you only have limited time when you go on vacation and how wise it is to bring this attitude to everyday life.  We should look to the people around us and enjoy them and their ideas.  We shouldn’t waste time with our e-mails or facebook but look to real people and talk face to face.  Life is meant to be lived real-time rather than virtually.
          Robert Herrick’s poem, “To the Virgins, to make much of Time”, also offers the philosophy of living each day to the fullest;
          Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
          Old Time is still a-flying:
          And this same flower that smiles to-day
          To-morrow will be dying.
Herrick tells us that the pleasures of today may be gone tomorrow, so we should get out and enjoy them while we can.  Enjoy the sunset before it turns into evening.  Dance while your legs still work. 

When I think of gathering flowers while I can, I think of my sister and how she slowly lost her eyesight.  She didn't expect to lose her eyesight - she just did as a result of the Graft Vs. Host Disease from her stem cell transplant. Luckily, my parents had taken my sister and I on many vacations when we were younger. Missi got to see Mount Rushmore, Washington D.C., Colorado, Hawaii, and Disney World before she lost her eyesight. Last year, my mom and dad decided to bring our entire family of 12 to Disney World this Christmas. My sister needed chaperoning.  She needed us to guide her way through the crowds and obstacles.  All I can think is how relieved I am that she got to experience the sight of Cinderella's castle while she could still see.
Personally, I try to work hard everyday to be present and helpful.  I want to remember every experience that I'm thrown into.  I don't want to take my life for granted. 

 Eventually, I will take this five paragraph essay and keep adding to it.  I want students to see how writing can be improved.