After the first few weeks of school, I struggle to keep the “getting to know you” activities going. In middle school, as much as I try to collect student information and spend time chatting with all of my students, it can be difficult to sustain this as we dig into content. Plus, my students are adjusting to middle school, and need a lot of energy and love guide them through this transition.
One of my favorite activities I did last year with my students was a getting to know you Quizlet Live game! When I first tried it, I had students write their name and something interesting, unique, or fun about themselves on a piece of paper. Then, I typed in all their answers into Quizlet. Luckily, I first tried it in a class of 16 students, where this was manageable. With my larger classes, I iterated and created a Google Form to more quickly collect responses.
What is Quizlet Live?
You may be familiar with Quizlet, an online flashcard making and studying tool. They also have a game called Quizlet Live! Students join the live game with a join code, then are randomly sorted into teams of 3-4. Everyone on the team is shown the definition, and they each have a list of 2-4 unique words. Only one person has the correct answer, so they must communicate. Don’t be discouraged if teams are frustrated during the first game, it takes a couple minutes for them to get the hang of it.
Setting up the Quizlet deck
After gathering fun facts about each student via Google Forms, I copied and pasted the names and facts into Quizlet to create a new deck (watch this tutorial video)!
My students had so much fun with this, they begged to play again! We ended up making a second set of trivia, and playing another couple rounds. Plus, it’s easy to squeeze this in over multiple days. Collect trivia as an exit ticket on one day, then play Quizlet Live during the last 10 minutes of the next day. It’s fast-paced, and requires very little set-up on the teacher end (bonus!).
To get started for your class, make a copy of this Form (view form). Since you’re just copying and pasting data, you can use this same Form for multiple classes. Just sort by class period, then copy just that class’s data.
If you’re an administrator, this would be a fun way to start the school year with your staff. Not only is it a fun getting to know you activity, but also it models a technology tool your teachers can try out in their classrooms!
I’m already 4 weeks into the school year, and I haven’t yet posted my 2019-2020 school year goals. I’ve been blogging a ton at my Mari’s EdD Journey blog, mainly because I was taking a blogging course, and felt like I’ve been blogged out lately. Not burned out, just a lot of effort directed to blogging for a different purpose.
That being said, I am hoping to maintain both blogs this year. I know it’s a lot, and my goal is to post weekly, and alternate blogs each week. I enjoy sharing, and I like to think I have something of value to add to both spaced (edtech/teaching in general and the EdD process).
This year, I am only teaching 7th grade science. It’s a huge difference from the last few years, where I’ve had 1 class period of technology resource plus 8th grade AVID. It’s strange to have 5 sections of 7th grade science and nothing else.
One thing I am most excited about with science this year is that, since our enrollment is low (not a positive), there are only two of us teaching 7th grade science. The other teacher and I had a rocky start when he joined our team about five years ago, and since then, we’ve really worked hard to collaborate better. Now, we’ve built a solid friendship and partnership; I’m grateful to work with him!
Another thing I am looking forward to is supporting student teachers this year. I will have at least one student teacher placed with me, and I will be supporting two intern teachers (they are contracted .6 and .4 teachers of record, in lieu of student teaching) as a coach. We have a district grant that funds Residents and Resident Coaches to provide additional coaching and support to enhance the student teaching experience.
Ultimately, my goals in science are to help my students love science, help them collaborate effectively, and teach them how to write claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) paragraphs. If I can achieve that, then I’ll be happy. All of this comes with loving my kids to bits, and making sure they know how much I love spending time with them.
As I shared previously, I started an EdD program in May (read more here). I just finished up my second summer course, and I start fall semester in a couple weeks. I know it is going to take a lot of intentionality to balance the demands of work and being in school. Luckily, I have other friends in masters and doctoral programs, so I’ll have some weekend coffee shop study buddies.
I’m excited for this new adventure. I plan to blog about my learning, research, and reflections on the program on my Mari’s EdD Journey blog.
Ultimately, I want to have fun, relax, and do great work! It seems simple, and I know it will take a lot of time and effort. My kids are worth it!
Fueled by Coffee and Love: A Brew Perspective is the third book in the Fueled by Coffee and Love series, and is available on Amazon. These books are collections of “real stories by real teachers” and feature a diverse subset of teachers, coaches, and administrators.
How did Fueled by Coffee and Love start?
As I’ve shared previously in the Fueled by Coffee and Love and Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill blog posts, this project started in response to the negative media attention teachers get, especially from individuals who have never worked in education. This third book was propelled by individuals who were interested in contributing their own story.
The book is self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon). I hired Ray Charbonneau (y42k publishing services) to assemble and upload the book for finished publishing. If you’re interested in self-publishing, he’s the best!
Why Fueled by Coffee and Love?
This project aims to shine a positive light on education through the joys and challenges of everyday in classrooms and schools. Each story uniquely shares someone’s heart for their work and their kids.
All proceeds from this project are donated back to classrooms through organizations like Donors Choose. We have been able to support dozens of classrooms and projects.
How can I help?
Buy copies and gift them to your favorite teachers
I have officially started an EdD program! I am thrilled to be a part of the Boise State EdD in Educational Technology 2019 cohort! I know it’s going to be a ton of work, and I also know it’s going to be worth it in the end. This program is entirely online, and can be done in 4 years.
My goal is to blog throughout my EdD journey. I meant to have this starter post out 7 weeks ago, but my first class was time and brain intensive (and I loved it), and I didn’t have time to get it done. I’m not pressuring myself to post at regular intervals, just whenever I have time an energy. I will also share out smaller parts of my journey on Twitter and Instagram using #MariEdDJourney. I hope these reflective practices are useful for me as well as anyone considering this journey.
How did I get to now?
Since finishing my Masters in 2012, I knew I wanted to go all the way with my education. I love learning and I love school, so why not add on a doctorate? With how much work a doctorate is, simply wanting to get a terminal degree is not enough. Although I’m not decided on where I’d like to be in 5, 10, or 15 years, I do know I’d love to work with preservice and new teachers in a larger capacity; right now, I think I’d like to teach or supervise student teachers at the university level.
When researching programs, I looked at a variety of options, including online, in person, PhD, and EdD. I narrowed down my applications to the UC San Diego PhD and Boise State EdD programs; they had very different formats and focuses, and both aligned with my values and interests. I applied to both, then waited.
When I had my video chat interview with the UC San Diego PhD program coordinator, we both quickly realized the program wasn’t for me. It was 6+ years and full-time, meaning I could no longer teach. The program coordinator recommended their EdD program, with applications due in the summer. I told myself that if I didn’t get into the Boise State program, I’d apply to that one.
A few weeks later, Boise State sent me a follow-up questionnaire to fill out, then I had to record six asynchronous video interview answers. A couple weeks later, I received an email that I was admitted!
I started my first 7-week summer class in May 2019. My cohort seems awesome, and I know I’m going to enjoy getting to know them over the next 4 years.
Are you on this doctorate journey too? Considering a program, working on it, already graduated? I’m collecting advice on this Padlet — please add your own wisdom. I hope this can be a resource for myself and anyone else on this great adventure.
Another ISTE in the books! As I have for the past three years (2016, 2017, & 2018), it’s time to reflect on my experiences.
Seeing all my friend’s social media and blog posts, I noticed we were all talking about appreciating the people around us. I especially appreciated Sarah Thomas’s approach to ISTE in her recent post “One Thing I Did Differently at #ISTE19” where she explains how she prioritized her own needs by saying “maybe” to all social invites, and not pressuring herself to attend anything.
This year, my personal ISTE theme was relationships! I spent the majority of my time with old and new friends. There were so many hugs, squeals of excitement, and selfies!
It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to find all the people, especially the educelebrities (oy, that word makes me cringe, sorry y’all). Find the people who are going to stretch your thinking and build you up, not the people selling you their brand.
I filled my ISTE time with social events and meetups. I loved having a Fueled by Coffee and Love authors and friends meet-up. I got to meet some of the authors in person for the first time, and share some exciting new things coming for the book project (follow @fbcalbook, announcements coming soon!)
This year, I intentionally limited my presentations to just one, and reserved the rest of the time for informal learning moments. While it can be fun to be super busy, this year I chose to build relationships, not my portfolio. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with presenting multiple times and being super involved. This year, that style of ISTE wasn’t for me, and I had to respect my own energy.
What matters most to me is the quality of people around me; I love my friends, and I know they always have my best interests at heart. After the year I’ve had, I spent many conversations talking about the changes in my professional and personal life, and where I’m going from here. I heard so many words of encouragement from my friends, and it means the world to me to have these quality people around! Personally or professionally, there’s nothing better than a friend saying, “I’ve been there, I got through it and so will you.”
Seriously, I love y’all so much! See you next year in Anaheim!
This is one of my favorite blog posts of the year! I love reflecting back on a whole school year, seeing how I met my goals, and how I’ve grown as a person and as a teacher. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to look back on 2017-2018, and see areas of growth and success.
When I set my 2018-2019 school year goals, I had no idea what this year would bring. Though I planned to be more reflective, I didn’t regularly come back to my goals throughout the year. However, when I read back on what I wanted to accomplish, I did a fairly good job of meeting my goals. Next year, I’ll have to put my goals in a more visible place.
Working at work, relaxing at home
At this time last year, I was borderline burned out. I know I wasn’t fully burned out because I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel or search for a different job; however, I recognized that I was exhausted and needed to make a change. I did so much better with leaving the majority of work at work. Overall, I felt much better and more relaxed this year! I reversed a lot of the burnouty feeling, and kept up my energy better.
I was thrown a curveball in December when a teacher in my department decided to resign and left us scrambling to cover the classes. This, paired with the district cutting our resource positions, left me teaching two additional classes, including a new prep: AVID 0 period, 4 sections of 7th grade science, and 1 section of 7th grade science elective. It was exhausting, but I loved every second with my kids. With the added load, I somehow managed to complete the April No-Work Challenge again this year.
Additionally, there were some serious personal ups and downs this year. I had a huge life change in the fall, and spent the better part of December – February rearranging some pieces. In February, I turned 30 and celebrated by committing to work on myself and invest in my own happiness. I celebrated my 30th birthday with a solo trip to New York City!
Of my seven years of teaching, this year was one of the best, relationships-wise. I built strong relationships with my classes. It was tough to gain two new classes at the semester, and it took a while to build a functional relationship; the time and effort was worth it, and we ended the year on an amazingly positive note. I often received random hugs from my kids, and we ended most classes with, “I love you, bye!”
For the entire year, my fourth period class was a dream. They were this unique blend of students who figured out how to work well together, asked great questions, and knew how to transition between joking and serious–you all know that’s a huge deal in middle school. Academically, they weren’t the most skilled, but they made up for that in determination and joy! In fact, when I did my last day of school thank you speech, a few raised their hands and contributed their own thank you’s.
On the other hand, I really struggled with my third period class for the first two-thirds of the year. There were multiple behavior challenges, and students negatively fed off of each other’s energy. Teaching that class made me exhausted and a little frustrated; it was a great opportunity to model restorative practices and being honest about my own emotions. But, I didn’t give up! In late February, they began to turn a corner and became a goofy, empathetic, and productive bunch.
Finally, this year my first group of 7th graders graduated high school! I attended graduation with a few colleagues, and I’m so proud of my former students! It was great to see so many familiar (and grown up!) faces, and cheer for them and all they’ve accomplished.
Mentoring new teachers
Even though there weren’t many science student teachers and I didn’t have one placed with me either semester, I spent some quality time informally mentoring new teachers. We had the most awesome
right-out-of-college first year teacher at our school this year, and she and I really hit it off! I enjoyed teaching science in her classroom, sharing advice and silly stories, and providing some support. Additionally, we had an incredible history student teacher; she and I spent quality time together, discussing teaching, life, and kids. I am grateful for these opportunities to give back and live the “it takes a village to raise a student teacher” idea.
Back to school!
I’m excited to share that I was accepted into the 2019 Boise State EdD in Educational Technology cohort. We started our first class in mid-May, and it has been non-stop work since then. With an expectation to devote 18-25 hours per week to school, I have had to be more proactive with my self-care and balance. Despite it being a significant time investment, I love the work I’m doing, and I’m grateful for this opportunity. It’s a much different feeling being in school because I want to, not because I have to.
Overall, I’m thrilled that this year was so successful. Looking back at all my photos, it’s fun to reminisce on the fun memories, activities, and journey we had together. Even though I am excited for next school year and making to-do and goals lists, I know I need to take this time to enjoy some sunshine. I’m grateful for summer break! I am looking forward to more schoolwork, relaxing, and a few fun adventures!
Whenever we finish a task early, my students beg me, “Let’s play Kahoot!” They don’t care if it’s content-related or just for fun, they’re super competitive. Whenever we play, the top 3 winners in each round earn a prize–the prizes are usually the trinkets (pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc.) I pick up from conference exhibit halls. Or, if there’s only a couple minutes left in class, I’ll let the winners relax outside my room until the bell rings.
Back in March 2018, I wrote a post called Student-Created Games with Quizizz. At that time, Kahoot didn’t have an option to batch upload questions. Thankfully, Kahoot now has integrated a feature to upload a spreadsheet of questions too. My students like Quizizz when working on an early finisher assignment or stations rotation game, and prefer Kahoot when we’re playing with the whole class.
Using student created Kahoot games in class
Kahoot is a perfect platform for final exam review. To prepare for our upcoming final exams, I’ll assign different students topics, and have them write final exam questions. We’ll play their crowdsourced Kahoot in class. Inevitably, at least one student whines at how hard it is to write a question, a correct answer, and three convincing incorrect answers. Yep, welcome to teacher life!
6. Create a new Kahoot game. Upload the spreadsheet.
7. Play and have fun!
I created a video walkthrough to show you through the process. Having them template makes the whole process very quick!
Thank you Debra and Cesar for contributing trivia questions to the example set!
My students love the opportunity to create their own Kahoot games, and are thrilled when their questions are up on the screen. Student-created Kahoots are such a fun opportunity to get everyone involved in the learning!
One thing I appreciate about my district is our Teacher Leadership Book Study. This phenomenal professional development opportunity is spearheaded by Amy Illingworth, our Director of Professional Growth. For the past 2 years, we’ve had four book studies spread throughout the year–at each book study, we meet teachers from across the district, discuss the book, and reflect on our teaching practices. This year’s version allowed us to select from a list of books around a unifying topic.
One of my biggest takeaways from this book is “the power of seven seconds,” which Pete Hall describes as, “every morning, ever student who enters the school has a story…we don’t know these stories, and we can’t control what has already happened. But we can control our ability to say, ‘Good morning!’ right off the bat. The first seven seconds of our interaction with every student in our school should be brimming with enthusiasm, joy, compliments, or some sort of friendly banter” (Souers & Hall, 110). These relationships mean everything to our students!
A student walks into first period 10 minutes late. Instead of putting them on the defensive by grilling them for why they’re late, cheerfully say, “I’m so glad you’re here today! I was worried we wouldn’t see you. You’re just in time for our lab!” The students’ entire demeanor changes when they realize they’re being celebrated, not scolded.
Another big takeaway from the book is the concept of the downstairs brain (fight or flight reflexes) and the upstairs brain (empathetic response). It made me sit back and realize that when a student is in their downstairs brain and acting out or refusing to work, I need to stay in my upstairs brain and not get sucked into the frustrating back-and-forth with the student. I know when I’m frustrated with a student’s actions, I’m not the empathetic and caring listener that they need at that moment.
Here are some strategies I already use in my classroom:
Restorative practices: Restorative practices is a mindset where students are held accountable for their behavior in conjunction with a high level of empathy. The goal is to have students empathetically understand how their actions impact those around them, and take steps to repair any harm caused. This can be a whole-class strategy for discussing an incident, running a mediation between two students, or having a conversation with an individual student. In any case, we use the same three guiding questions: What happened? Who was impacted? What needs to be done to repair the harm?
Fidget box: I know my students come to class burdened with all kinds of trauma and stress. Some is the everyday middle school drama, while others are deeply rooted life experiences. I provide a fidget box that students can choose an item to help focus or calm down in class. In order to use the fidget box, students must first meet with me to discuss expectations. These expectations include trying out a few different fidgets to see what works, not sharing a fidget with another student (it quickly becomes a toy that way), and to select and return their fidget without distracting their peers. It has worked out great for my students!
Behavior log: When we do have minor incidents in class, I track these with a behavior log. It’s a simple Google Form a student fills out as the second chance in class (after a warning). The purpose is to reflect on what happened in class, and how they can make a change. After class or during work time, I’ll quickly conference with the student to debrief the incident. One new thing I will implement next year is behavior log cards; these will allow me to nonverbally ask students to complete behavior logs.
Each student and each class presents their own unique set of challenges and successes. I am grateful to support my students, no matter their circumstances outside our classroom.
I first learned about Fliphunts from Natasha Rachell (read her blog here!). It seemed like such a cool idea that I bookmarked it and made a mental note to try it soon. Soon came along just after spring break, and I couldn’t wait to jump in with my students.
A Fliphunt is a scavenger hunt using Flipgrid! Students work in teams to record videos for as many challenges as they can in the alloted time period. At the end, watch the videos and tally up each team’s points to determine a winner.
Setting up a Fliphunt
The setup was super easy — I created this Slide with three levels of challenges (one star, two star, three star) based on difficulty level. A quick Google search or scroll through #Fliphunt on Twitter will lead you to lots of examples and fun ideas. I also created a student handout they could take with them when they went outside to record and check off challenges as they go. At the bottom of the student handout is the class scorecard; I printed one per period, then recorded scores as we watched the Flipgrid videos together as a class.
I created one grid on Flipgrid for the assignment, and separate topics for each class period. This is where “duplicate topic” comes in very handy!
Running the FlipHunt in class
I used this Fliphunt as an introduction to a new unit, so each topic was something new they needed to search up and explore.
Students worked in teams of 3-4 to complete as many challenges as they could in about 30 minutes. I released them for 10 minutes to record at least one video, then had them come back in to watch what had been submitted, record scores, and quickly debrief the recording process. They went back out for the remaining 20 minutes, then came back in to watch and record final scores.
Some groups weren’t as into the Fliphunt as others, and other groups struggled with effective teamwork; breaking up the work time helped keep these groups on track. Next time, I’ll add our lab group roles as an additional teamwork scaffold. Even with all the progress we’ve made with Mastery-Based Grading, some still struggle with motivation if they know there isn’t a grade attached–we’re working on it.
On the bright side, the groups that were participating and excited made this a lot of fun for all of us! Some groups were extremely competitive and worked super hard. Many students let their personalities and sense of humor shine in the videos. It will be helpful to look back on these videos as learning tools as we learn more about the Earth.
Additionally, my teacher next-door neighbor is interested in trying a Fliphunt at some point, so we may create another one for an end of the semester review!
I’ll definitely do another Fliphunt with my class. We had a great time, and it was fun to watch students explore a new topic, navigate effective teamwork, and share their creativity with the class.
What are your tips for running Fliphunts with your students or staff?
Comment below so we can all learn from you!
Technology can take us on adventures, far and wide! Where will you go?
I love working with teachers from all over the country, and helping them find meaningful ways to integrate technology into their classroom. So often, I come in for a day or a couple hours and hope something sticks. Occasionally, I’ll receive an email or tweet from someone in a workshop, sometimes months or even a year later, sharing what they tried and how it went.
Back in November, I received this happy email from Norm Peckham, an edtech trainer in Mesa, AZ: “I already had a teacher at one of my junior highs call me and he’s changed his whole lesson plan about migration in science so that his students are creating a [Choose Your Own Adventure] story in the Google Form template you created, and I’m helping him and his students out on Monday!!…” He went on to share some resources and example Forms he created as models for his teachers.
Seriously, how cool is that! It’s the kind of email that puts a smile on my face for days!
You’ve probably already figured out that Google Forms is my go-to tool for just about everything in my classroom. However, I haven’t talked much about student-created Forms. These Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories are a perfect way to get students comfortable with building Forms, since the template is already done.
Last fall, I had my 8th grade AVID students create Choose Your Own Adventure stories to take us on a tour of a university. This required a lot of background research to create interesting and compelling CYOA campus tours.
Here’s how we did it:
1. Students first researched the university, including history, average freshman profiles, campus features, and interesting facts.
2. Students planned out their journeys using this CYOA Google Doc. This took a little bit of explaining on my part, to help them see how the doc would eventually lead to a branching Form.
3. Finally, students made a copy of the CYOA Form to take us through their adventure.
Once students were done, they presented their story and allowed us to choose two different adventure paths. Each student received peer feedback using, you guessed it, another Form!
Looking back, I wish I had an example to share with students before hand (I know, rookie move) so they could see the vision for the final product. Luckily, Norm created this awesome tutorial video and an example story, The Online Adventures of Mousey and Mickey. Huge shout out to Norm for allowing me to share these with y’all!!
How have you used Choose Your Own Adventure activities in your classroom? Share your best tips in the comments!