Tag Archives: lesson plans

Team Building In The Classroom Part 2

25 Mar

HUMAN BINGO

This is a great game for when a group of kids gets together for the first time. We used it during the first week of school so that the students could get a little more comfortable around each other. Each student gets a sheet and a pen, and then has a designated amount of time to get BINGO on their card (You can change the rules to suit your needs and your time restraints, ie. first one to complete a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row, first one to fill in the entire sheet, or the person who gets the most filled in within the time limit.) The hardest part about this game is making the Bingo sheets, and luckily for you, I’ve already done it for you!! There are 5 different sheets, each one with different questions so that no one can just copy off of someone else. Feel free to change the squares to suit your kids!

Bingo Sheet 1
Bingo Sheet 2
Bingo Sheet 3
Bingo Sheet 4
Bingo Sheet 5

NOSE JOUSTING

An activity that forces participants to be ok with feeling a little silly.

Everyone gets a strip of masking tape approximately 3 inches long. Everyone rolls their tape into a loop, sticky side out (like if you were putting it on the back of a piece of paper to hang up) and sticks it on their nose. When the teacher says “Go!” everyone begins “jousting.” To nose joust is to touch the tip of your nose to another’s, and see who’s tape “grabs” the tape off of the other persons nose. The student who loses their tape in battle places their hands on the shoulders of the winner and creates a train behind them (preferably chanting the name of the winner.) The winner then battles another winner, and whoever loses also joins on the train. The jousting continues until only 2 people remain with huge balls of tape on their nose. They compete in the final joust. This game is fast-paced, as it starts out with many jousts occurring at the same time, and is exciting because as more people join the chain, the chanting gets louder and the anticipation builds. It’s also great because “losers” immediately become part of a potentially winning team.

ALPHABET HANDS AND FEET

Divide students up into teams of five. They will need to play this game with bare feet. Groups can play against each other, or the clock. Use a felt tip (washable) marker and write 3 letters on each student: one on each hand, and one on one foot. Use these letters:

1. TDO
2. HYI
3. EHR
4. BFT
5. OCS

As you call out words from the list below, the group has to spell out the word using their hands and feet. The words must be shown to the teacher, or to another student you designate as a judge.

rest, fist, dice, trot, crib, boot, rich, host, shoot, first, drift, shirt, roost, shred, hired, forest, theory, bitter, bother, frosty, boiled, strict, thirsty, ostrich, october, boosted, shifted, hoisted, stitched

Happy team building, let me know how it goes!

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Going Back To Our Future

22 Mar

There are all kinds of online tests to determine if you are right or left brained. Here is an interesting one that also gives recommendations on how to strengthen your weak hemisphere, and well as offers studying tips for how you learn best. While this is useful information to use with your students, it is also inspiration for a different kind of “left-brain” and “right-brain” comparison.

Who we are is greatly dependent on our past experiences. Our entire lives, leading up until right now, have influenced us and make us completely different than our neighbors, friends, and even family members. Our experiences are stored in our memories and affect future decisions and emotional responses. I like to call this our “Past Brain.”

On the other hand, we also have our “Future Brain.” That’s the side of us that has hopes, dreams, and goals. That’s the side of our brain that, though guided by our past brain, still has the freedom to plan out the next step. The half that allows us to try new things because it has no reference from the past brain telling it that it might be a bad idea. The two halves go hand in hand, and certainly influence each other, but while one might be filled with regrets the other has the ability to live freely.

So I asked my students to consider their past and future selves, and to brainstorm what makes up each side. Most of them, especially with some prompting, were able to list at least a few things that had great influence on them (both good and bad.) The future side was surprisingly more difficult, especially when I pressed them to try to be positive. Most of them saw little difference in where they had come from vs. where they were going. They clearly assumed that the rest of their lives, no matter how long or short, were going to continue on the same path that had gotten them in trouble and landed them there with me. That was saddening to me, especially since it was relatively easy for me to fill up my future side with new ideas and expectations. We ended up having a heart to heart about how YOU make your future, and only YOU can make it different from your past. Once they started allowing their future brains to separate from their past brains, they began to dream. And hope. And imagine things that their past brains believed only happened to other people.

Get the full lesson plan here!!
Get the brainstorming sheet here!!

DCF Can Provide, But Only You Can Provide For Your Heart.

18 Mar

One of my kids is a father. Jarell is 18, and has a one year old son. Jarell’s also a DCF kid. He lives in a group home and gets money from DCF. They will help him out until he’s 21…as long as he stays in school and lives up to his end of the deal: no trouble with the law, get passing grades in school, go to school, etc. etc. At first, these sound like simple requests…but some of these things are harder for Jarell than you might think. Most of the kids at my school can walk there, no problem. If they miss the bus, no big deal, school is a ten minute walk away. But Jarell, because he lives in a group home, lives in the next town over. And on the other side of it. That was the only placement they could give him. So the school tells him they can’t provide him transportation, so he’ll need to take the city bus. Both ways. And pay for it. That went on for a few months until someone finally questioned why his attendance was so poor. Could his commute possibly be the reason? Now a van goes and picks him up. But it’s too late for his grades, because he’s already missed too much class to make up the work. Was it his fault? When DCF comes and looks at his grades and attendance and tells him that he’s not holding up his end of the deal, is it wrong of him to get upset and walk out? I don’t know about you, but when I was 18, I had friends whose parents bought them nice little cars to drive around as they pleased. And those friends came and picked me up for school in the morning and dropped me off at the end of the day. And if they couldn’t, the worst case scenario was that I might have to take the school bus. Until I graduated and went off to the college that I was already accepted to that my parents were going to pay for, no worries. Kind of a different world, right?

So on the days that this kid makes it to school, he comes and sees me. There’s no time in his schedule for an art class, he’s got enough academic classes that he needs to squeeze in. But on occasion my classes will be doing a project that he loves, and he asks if he can make one too. Then, if he’s in a class and finishes his work for the day, he asks to come down to the art room to work on his project. The last, and most memorable one that he completed was a 3-D sculpture project. The assignment was to turn someone’s initials into a 3-D tribute. So Jarell chose his son. For the past three months, Jarell has worked diligently (well, as diligently as possible given the circumstances) on a project that would normally take a week or two. It is the most successful example of the project that I’ve seen…it’s better than the example I made to show the class. I never would have thought that this kid, with everything else going on in his life, would think that my little 3-D project was so important. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him stick with anything for so long in the three years that I’ve known him. But I know that every time I assign this project again, I’ll always be thinking of Jarell: up to his elbows in paper mache and masking tape, wanting to honor his son in any way he can. And I got to be a part of that.

Get the full lesson plan here!

Get the Rubric here!

The Single Most Important Tool a Teacher Can Have

12 Mar

My college roommate took an education course for which the professor had one main objective: that each student in her class would not pass until they had made a yarnball. She hailed the yarnball as the single most important tool a teacher could have. My roommate, who was not very crafty and even less coordinated, claimed the professor was crazy and cursed her throughout the entire process. She looked like a kitten in a yarn store, tangled in a wooly web for days on end. I haven’t talked to my old roommate in years, but if I did I would tell her how right her professor was. I love my yarnball.

I use my yarnball for all sorts of things. Sometimes I do team building exercises with the kids at the beginning of class, and the yarnball is the perfect tool. When I’m calling on students for answers, I’ll toss them the yarnball. They’ll know it’s their turn, and then they’ll toss it to the next person. Sometimes we use it just for fun, for Silent Ball or other games. Sometimes I use it as a reward, if a student is doing really well and wants to hang on to the yarnball for the period. I’ve even tossed it at a kid when I knew he wasn’t paying attention…

Make a yarnball. You’ll figure out how to use it. Here’s the instructions.
**Your yarnball will come out the best if you COMPLETELY FILL the center hole with yarn…don’t just do a layer or two.

Don’t Be All Up In My Grill

11 Mar

Everyone who’s ever watched Seinfeld knows what a close-talker is. I, personally, have about a three-foot personal space bubble. When someone I don’t know that well bursts my bubble, it’s uncomfortable. Not only does it make me uncomfortable but it puts me in the awkward situation of trying to back up without insulting the person. Sometimes, the person is so imperceptive that they don’t pick up on my body language and they move into my bubble all over again. Interestingly enough though, personal space isn’t the same for everybody, and it varies greatly from culture to culture. In Asian cultures, particularly China, the concept of personal space is nearly nonexistent. Strangers regularly touch bodies when waiting in line, while people in Scandinavian countries, for example, need more personal space than we do. And anyone who’s ever taught kids with emotional or behavioral challenges knows that their personal space can be infinite. “Don’t touch me,” and “Back up” are phrases I hear in the hallways all the time.

Looking deeper at my streetwise students, I realized how much of their confrontational vocabulary and actions centered not only around their personal space, but more specifically around their face. Allow me to provide examples:

1. Knocking off someone’s hat: Not recommended, unless you are looking to start a fight. If you are, this would be an excellent way to do it.

2. “In your face” (exclamation): something you would shout after you just beat someone badly in anything competitive, for example if you just dunked on them on the basketball court.

3. In your face (verb): To be in someone’s face in not a good thing, and it will be requested of you to “Get OUT of my face.” You’re too pushy, you’re too close, you’re asking too much.

4. Mush: If you find that you got in someone’s face, you might get mushed. That’s the act of placing one’s hand on another person’s face and pushing the person backwards. If you see someone get mushed, sh**’s about to go down.

5. Grill: Can be used in 2 ways. You can grill someone, which means to stare them down. Will probably be met with “Why you grillin me,” unless it’s a member of the opposite sex, in which case it might be a compliment. OR, you can be “up in someone’s grill,” also bad. Similar to getting in their face.

6. Save face: Finally, what you might do if you realize you’ve made a mistake and now you need to cover it up. May or may not work.

This isn’t rocket science. Everyone knows not to touch someone else’s face unless you’re invited to do so. But it really got me thinking about our faces as this sort of portal into ourselves, the front door to letting someone in. So what do we do in our next art class? We make masks. On each others faces. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

I offered them an out. If they felt really uncomfortable, they could use a plastic face mold instead of another person. But most of them paired up and got to work. We called them “Emotion Masks,” because after they created the mask on their classmates face, they later added details to show a certain emotion of their choice. We got some amazing results and I couldn’t believe how well they worked together. Smearing Vaseline and plaster strips on someone else’s face was taking a big risk for some of these kids, and yet they worked together and didn’t even get mad when plaster water dripped down their necks. I’m not naive…if their partner had been up in their grill the next day, all bets would have been off. But for 45 minutes, to be in their face was finally ok.

Get the full lesson plan here!



MacGyver Would Have Made a Great Teacher

10 Mar

If I had to define myself using only 3 adjectives, I would choose these:

Creative
Headstrong
Resourceful

Given the economic situation at my school, I found myself having to be resourceful a lot. While I think this may be a common trait amongst teachers, I was wondering how resourceful I really was in comparison to everyone else. If I’m going to say that I’m resourceful, it had better be true, right? So I checked out what Wikipedia had to say about being resourceful. Interestingly enough, there is no entry for the word itself, and instead Wikipedia offers alternative entries that might apply. Here are some highlights:

Resourceful:

Frugality: acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner. Frugality is a philosophy in which one does not trust “expert” knowledge that claims to know what is in the best economic, material, or spiritual interests of the individual.[2]

MacGyver: The story of MacGyver follows the intelligent, optimistic, laid-back, resourceful secret agent Angus MacGyver, played by Richard Dean Anderson. He prefers non-violent conflict resolution where possible, and refuses to use a gun. MacGyver’s main asset is his practical application of scientific knowledge and inventive use of common items.

Odysseus: in Greek mythology pronounced /oʊˈdɪsiəs/, was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Odysseus is renowned for his guile and resourcefulness, and is hence known by the epithet Odysseus the Cunning. He is most famous for his Trojan Horse trick.

Hmmm. OK, if a=b, and b=c, than a=c, right? If I’m resourceful, and resourceful means MacGyver, then I’m basically Mrs. MacGyver, correct?

Maybe not, but sometimes at school it felt like it. Our school, in need of light, color, cleanser, and a few air fresheners, had a stockpile of old bulletin boards that had long ago been taken down and piled in a back room. We had NO supplies to do any real painting…no canvas, no good paints…so I seized the opportunity to make do with what I had. I asked the custodian to wheel a couple of the boards down to the art room so that we could turn them into murals. I explained to the kids that I was sick of people walking into the school and saying how depressing and gross it was. I told them that I was tired of everyone knowing that the “Bad Kids” went to this school, and expecting it to be a negative experience. I said it was our responsibility to change people’s minds when they walked through the door, and show them what we were really about.

And that was it. They were off and running. Kids who had never doodled on a notebook were turning 5’x5′ boards into inspirational messages for all to see. I was pretty impressed. And I didn’t even need a Trojan Horse to sneak in the life lessons…they figured it out for themselves.

Get the full lesson plan here!



8 Ways Not to Start a Class

9 Mar

I wrote this lesson with a friend of mine when we were going to school to get our certifications. While we were learning about the lesson plan writing process, a lot of time was spent discussing the “Initiation” of a lesson, or rather, what were you as a teacher going to do to get your students interested in learning for the period? What was your “hook?” We were told that if you came prepared with a great initiation, then the rest of your lesson would be successful. So, I thought for a few minutes about how my teachers used to initiate lessons when I was in school, and whether or not they succeeded in capturing my attention. Here’s what I came up with:

1. “Take out your books and open to page 65.”
(Wait, what? What page did she say? I turn to my neighbor and ask them, but they didn’t hear either. Shoot. I’ll just pretend like I’m following along.)

2. “Does anyone remember what we learned yesterday?”
(Do you? Aren’t you the teacher? I don’t think I should be held accountable if you’re not going to be.)

3. “Well, the photocopier was broken this morning, so why don’t you just go ahead and read the next chapter on your own.”
(Yes! I love it when the copier is broken. Now, I can open my book and pretend to read while I write a note to my friend. Probably about boys.)

4. “I have half a muffin left…does anyone want it?”
(I do!! I LOVE history class!!)

5.”We’re watching a movie today. No talking.”
(Ha! He didn’t say no passing notes. And he ALSO didn’t say we had to take notes, even better!!)

6. “Amy, you’re late. Where were you? We were going to start our lesson but now you’ve interrupted the whole class.”
(I forgot my book in my locker. Plus, I’m pretty sure YOU just interrupted the whole class.)

7. “Raise your hand if you are still confused about yesterday’s lesson.”
(Yeah, right. I’ve been confused since 2 weeks ago, I’m sure as hell not gonna raise my hand now so that the whole class can laugh at me.)

8. “When I call your name, say yes or no if you did your homework. Hold it up so I can see it!”
(Hmm. This homework from last week sort of looks like last night’s homework. I’ll hold this up instead and see what happens.)

Well. Seems like I spent most of the time trying not to get in trouble, and much less time actually learning anything. Since initiations really did seem important, my friend and I spent a lot of time coming up with ours. Our lesson was on negative space, and found object sculpture. Instead of stating the topic and handing out an informative packet, here’s what we did instead:

Students enter the classroom. Right inside the door, there is a clothesline strung up. Hanging from it, are plastic monkeys from a Barrel of Monkeys. One per kid, and attached to each is a slip of paper with each kids name on it (enabling you to take attendance without actually calling out names). Students are instructed to find their monkey and have a seat. “Today you will be building a habitat for your monkey. Under this sheet (spread out on table with found objects, or junk, underneath) you will find everything you need to create your habitat. When building your monkey a home, think about how he will use his surroundings. He will need to climb, sleep, etc, but he will also need enough room around each feature to be able to interact with his environment. This is your negative space. Take both the positive and negative space into consideration when building your habitat. At the end, display your monkey in his environment. Ready, set, go!” The sheet is then whisked away, and the students dive right in to find the “best” pieces of junk for their sculpture.

Of course, this lesson might not be for you. Maybe you don’t feel like building with found objects. That’s ok. But this lesson has always been wildly popular, and I believe it’s because of the initiation. The odd act of being given a monkey when you walk into class. The suspense of wondering what’s under the sheet. If you have a desire to get your students involved in learning instead of chowing down on muffins, I’d recommend putting some thought into your initiation. First impressions are everything, and a little plastic monkey would have made a big impression on me.

Get the full lesson plan here!
Get the Rubric