Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Closing Cup

Our school district has been encouraging teachers to use the three-part lesson as often as possible. In case you haven't heard of it, the basic idea is to break the class period into three parts.

Part 1-The Opening: The time to get kids thinking about the objective for the day, often done using a warm-up or hook of some kind.  This can also be the time when teachers introduce a new concept via mini-lesson.  

Part 2-The Work Session: When the learning/practice/student work takes place.

Part 3-The Closing: When what we've done for the day is summarized, hopefully by the students.

All of this sounds great until you realize you've got minutes left on the clock & it's closing time!!!  My solution?  The Closing Cup!!!

Step 1 
Get yourself a cup.  One of these will do just fine:
Unless you have something more fancy, of course!!
Step 2
Find some popsicle sticks!  I like the rainbow colored ones from my local Dollar Tree, but any kind will do.
Like I said, Dollar Tree baby!

Step 3
Write the names of different "closing" activities on each stick.  If you do a quick google search on closing activities you'll find tons of 'em! Here are a few of my favorites to get your started:

>Quiz Each Other or Pair/Share
This one is easy.  Have students pull out their notes/assignment from the day & quiz each other on the material.

>Test Question
Have students write down 1 potential test question from today's lesson.

Ask the kids an open ended question about today's lesson.  It may pertain to the content directly or it might have to do with them as a student (such as "What part of today's lesson was easiest/hardest for you?")

Have students write down (or verbally discuss) 3 things they learned, 2 questions they have, & 1 way it connects to real life.

>Pretend To Be An Adult
The students are suddenly transformed into adults.  Why might they need to know the information from today?

Draw a quick picture illustrating something you learned today.

>Your Parents Are Gonna Ask...
Have students write a quick 3-4 sentence summary answering every parents favorite question "So, what'd you learn today?"

Step 4
In the last 5-10 minutes of class (set a timer to remind you of the closing if you keep forgetting, or better yet, put a responsible student in charge of reminding you), give your students one minute to pack up.  As soon as they're settled (again, I use a timer) find your CLOSING CUP, pick a stick & let the summarizing begin! If you happen to pick a closing requiring writing, it will help to have little slips of paper ready for students to use since you've usually already packed up. I will typically take up any written closings as a ticket-out-the-door.

Easy, simple, & you'll always be prepared to end your lesson the three-part way! 

Happy closing!

The Middle School Teacher's Ten Least Favorite Student Phrases

The end of the school year is a very bittersweet time for teachers.  

We are excited for obvious reasons... Did you know we get "three-months off"?  Actually, no, we don't get three-months off, Mr. Grocery Store Man. 

Granted, we do get a wonderful amount of time off... This year it's about 7 weeks of pure, blissful summer.   

We have just spent about ten months bonding with our students.  It is really weird seeing them EVERY DAY & then barely seeing them ever... If at all.  Even though I'm looking forward to summer relaxation, this is always hard.  The first year that I really started enjoying my job (my third year), I sat on the floor behind my desk on the last day of school, crying into a cute pink beach towel a student had given me as an end-of-year gift.  

This is the one!

This year, I nearly broke into tears while I was calling names during awards day in front of 500+ people.  I was so full of pride, love, happiness, and nostalgia.  Then my homeroom had to go and make me this amazing card:

Oh, the feels.

We have just spent ten months TRAINING these wonderful children how to behave in our classroom, how to collaborate, how to meet our expectations... And just when they start to really get it... ADIOS!  They're gone and we have get to do it all again with next year's kids.  Oh boy.  Talk about deja vu.  I'm constantly asking my students "Have I already said this to you guys before?"  

As we start to think about our upcoming middle school babies, I thought it might be fun to ask my colleagues about their least favorite student phrases... And BOY did they respond!  So here ya go!

For this super scientific poll, I went to Facebook & asked a question:

"What are your least-favorite phrases to hear from students?"

Here are the top ten responses:

10) Talking negatively about another teacher (or trying to turn teachers against each other)
As soon as a kid opens their mouth with the words, "Mrs. _________ is so...." I give them my teacher-laser-look & cut them off.  Why do they think it's okay to do this?  
And you gotta love the claim, "Well, Mr. _________ always lets us do (something they shouldn't do). Why don't you?"  Usually, whatever they're claiming is not true, but that doesn't stop them from trying the school version of turning parents against each other. Several teachers came to me this year asking, "Do you let the students use their cell phones to text in class?"  I look at the other teacher like they are crazy and reply with "Absolutely not!"  It makes me look bad when students do this. I'm definitely not a fan of this phrase.

9) "You never told us/me about that."
Uhm, yes I did.  It was on the board for two weeks, I talked about it almost every day, it was on my webpage in three different places, and I sent your parents an email about it.  Why would I set you up for failure like that when I am under pressure to help my students as much as humanly possible?

8) "When can I come in to retake/redo the test?"
Unfortunately I have had students ask me this as I pass out the test for the first time! Before they've even taken it once!  Sorry kid, but that ain't happening.

7) "Are we going to do anything after the CRCT (state end-of-year test that is given over a month before school is out)?"
Have you been in a middle school classroom of 34 kids when there is no plan, purpose, or structure? Of course we are doing things the last six weeks of school!!  Do I look like a crazy person?? [said as I stare at them with frazzled hair and a wild look in my eyes]

6) "What are we supposed to be doing?"after it has been explained and written on the board
Luckily my other students are there to save me & reiterate the instructions since I am busy scraping myself off the floor after I've fainted in disbelief.

5) "You just don't like me!"
Sweetie, I don't have time to "not like" you.  Does that phrase work on your parents, too?  I did not get into education to dislike my students.  If it seems like I'm asking too much from you, it's because I expect more from you.  That is a good thing!

4) "Are we doing anything today?"/"What are we doing today?"
The first of these two phrases is super frustrating because it implies they think there is a possibility that we will be doing nothing.  And the second phrase is usually asked while students have full access to our daily agenda, written on the board in almost every classroom.  Oh, boy!

3) "I left my project/homework at home."
I want to believe you, but that's exactly what someone who didn't do their project/homework would say.  Now, most teachers will understand if they get this phrase from a kid once or especially if it's said by a student who is usually very prepared... But some kids use this phrase every time something is due. Red flag!

2) "Did you do anything yesterday when I was absent?"
This one is similar to #4.  When I get this question, I answer with a simple and drawn-out "Yeeeeesssssssss" with my eyes as wide open as can be.  They usually don't know how to respond. If they then ask "What?" I ask, "How many of your peers have you asked about this?" or "Did you check my webpage?" I'm not trying to be cruel, but instead I'm hoping they learn problem solving & self-sufficiency.

1) "Is this for a grade?"
This one drives me bonkers!  I tell my students that when they ask me this question, they are implying they will not do their best unless it's for a grade.  Therefore, my constant comeback is "Everything is for a grade."  It may be for an official grade, or it may come back up on a test/quiz down the road, which is also an official grade.  

It's true these phrases can be super frustrating.... But if students are good & hardworking, I can easily overlook these things.  We all say things we shouldn't from time to time, and this is especially true for kids!  It's funny actually... Once students know how I feel about certain phrases, they will catch themselves saying them & cut themselves off before they can finish.  Then, they look at me with wide eyes & say "Nevermind, nevermind!"  We just laugh.  A great classroom is all about community & patience.  If you've got those things, everything else will fall into place.