DICE ACTIVITY FOR FULL PARTICIPATION
By Jon Belt
Like most teachers, my week to week lesson plans are open for improvement. This week our focus was on being able to read a short story and answer comprehension questions that pertained to the story among many other things. They were to collaborate in their Pods, and have a CEO spokesperson discuss answers.
Instead of the Pod picking the CEO spokesperson, I woke up on Monday morning with dice on my mind. I'm sure this thought was locked deep in my subconscious, and finally awoke.
Prepare the Dice
My class is divided into groups of four. I printed out a dice sheet that you fold and tape into a good looking set of dice! I like the paper dice for a couple reasons: 1. They are quiet 2. You can't throw it far and 3. They only cost paper and ink.
Give Detailed Instructions
I say this because I wish I would have done this better. The instructions I should have given, and will give from now on is the "Roll Dice For Comprehension" poster at the end of this list.
Model, Read and Think
My sixth graders need to be shown how to do it the right way, because the majority of their listening skills need much improvement. So I will model the simple task of reading and answering + modeling the collaboration.
The students will read a section of the story, and think about an answer to one or more comprehension questions independently.
After thinking on the question(s), the PODS will discuss their answers collaboratively. I have on the board: CEO discusses first, then Manager, Quality Control, and Editor. After discussing the answers, the Manager will lead the discussion with choosing the best answer, AND determining where the answer can be pulled from the text (textual evidence). The editor then writes/types a restated question and answer for the POD.
This step can go a few ways. I have my walls labeled by directions (North, South, East, and West). You can label them almost anything. You could label them by vocabulary words, concepts, fun facts, colors, etc. After the "Pod Talk" I then say: "If your back is to the North wall pick up the dice and on the count of three roll the dice." Students will roll the dice and their POD will hold up what number they received.
POD Talk 2
After the students roll the dice and hold up their number, they talk with POD members about how they are going to present. I give them a presentation starter: "Our Pod discussed."
I used a story in our textbook called "Zlateh the Goat" by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Looking back, I wish I would have started doing this with a simple paragraph for practice before diving into a long story. On the other hand, this could be a pre-reading strategy to prepare them for the story.
Let's ROLL 2
After the PODS discuss the presentation, I roll my dice. There are online dice -OR- you show your dice roll on your projector if possible. If you roll a two, then the POD that rolled a two will be in charge of presenting. If you roll a two and nobody rolled a two, then you get to roll again! If multiple PODS roll the same number, then you have those PODS roll again.
Stand & Deliver
The lucky presenter for the POD does a "Stand and Deliver." He/She will stand and deliver the presentation with the beginning being "Our POD discussed..."
The "Stand and Deliver" method needs to be slowly introduced especially for middle school students. A simple starter could be:
1. Stand and Deliver your name
2. Stand and Deliver what you learned today
3. Stand and Deliver what you think the vocabulary word gallop means
The trick is getting the quiet and shy students to feel more comfortable speaking in front of their peers. This is such a frightening task for us all, but if you ease into it, then the rewards are fun to witness.
Jon Belt lives in
Easy guide to setting up your google class
by Jon Belt
Google classroom will dominate my classroom this year. I have played around with google classroom before, but never taken the proper steps. I have a classroom set of iPads, and a set of Sony headphones. My teacher theme this year is "change for the better." I am super excited for this adventure. I would like to share my tips for this great tool.
The sign up process is easy, but you need to go through your district. Google Apps for Education is free to districts. Your district has a password for you to get started, and once you get this, it will prompt you to reset your password. Our district is lucky enough to have very skilled and talented Informational Technologists to assist. Get to know your technology department in your district, because they can solve many of your issues quick and easy.
2. Create a Fake Class
Once you are in the classroom hub, it's a good idea to create a fake class. I had my wife and coworker join this fake class. You can navigate and make fake assignments. I actually made real assignments in hopes my wife would do them, but I am still waiting -- I should have put a due date.
3. Sign up your students
This seems like an easy step, but takes a few collaborators to make it happen. First, you must have permission from your students' parents/guardians. This is a simple email agreement that must be signed. These were easy to collect because I prefaced it with "If you do not turn this in you will not be permitted to use an iPad." I received these forms the next day from 104 out of 107.
After receiving permission, you must send these names to your informational technologist. They will develop an email and password for each student.
For elementary and middle school students, remembering this long email address is quite daunting. We practiced logging in and logging out continuously until they felt confident. Guess what? I still had students that could not login correctly, so we practiced more. We are still getting there, but it's only been two days.
*Note: All districts have different procedures. This is the procedure our district has in place.
4. Navigate Google Drive
We are completing Joy Journals every day for "Solo Time" this year, and they started writing them on paper and pencil. Once they were signed up through Google Classroom, they were required to transfer the Joy Journals to a Google Doc. I do one with them every day and showed them the format I required. This was a great beginning to Google docs, and how to create them.
As an English-Language Arts teacher my grading system has never been the most efficient. Grading through Google Classroom makes the process much easier. I did my first batch of grading this weekend. The only snag I ran into was finding some of the documents the students were to turn in (Mark as Done). I am certain I did not give the proper instructions, but 'hey' we are all learning here. I left a comment to the entire class that I was unable to see their document, so we will fix that on Tuesday (Had PD Day on Monday so NO SCHOOL). Also, you are able to see who is Done and who is NOT DONE. This is due to the students not clicking on the blue button named MARK AS DONE. They may have finished the assignment, but not marked it complete.
What I LOVE most about this feature is being able to leave comments.
Jon Belt lives in
My note to Teachers
By Jordan Allen
I guess I should start by saying I am in my 5th year as a teacher. Through my experience, I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for people who have committed their lives to “the calling.” Teachers are some of the hardest working and most under-appreciated people I ever met. You are bound to be when you take ownership of a 100+ students every year. I am all for fighting and campaigning for teachers to receive higher pay, respect, and extending their rights. I mean, why wouldn’t I be? However, it seems like every time I get on social media, I see teachers going about this the wrong way. I appreciate their effort, believe they have the best of intentions, and even agree with them. Sometimes I wonder if they are just doing more harm than good. After discussing this multiple times with non-teacher friends, I have compiled a list of 5 things teachers should NOT do. Now as a teacher, I learned that every time you tell someone they shouldn’t do something -- you need to follow it up with a different and hopefully better way. So, that’s what I’m going to try to do. Let’s begin:
1. STOP comparing pay-scale
First, teachers need to stop comparing our pay with that of celebrities, athletes, and anyone in the top one percent. I often see people post memes that say “[insert famous person here] made 36 million dollars last year and teachers make between 40-50 thousand.” Look, nobody wants to make more than I do. If I could have enough money to fill a swimming pool and pull a Scrooge McDuck off a diving board, I would probably still feel it wasn't enough.
However, using the example of someone in the top one percent doesn’t work.
Because the people we are talking to probably aren’t in the top one percent, and they feel they don’t make enough as well. It’s comparable to two starving people talking, with one trying to convince the other why he deserves food because his life is harder. People aren’t sorry for us when we approach the topic this way.
Yes, I understand that our nation’s priorities are skewed when we pay athletes what we do, and we don’t even pay our teachers enough to be considered middle class.
I understand the meme isn’t saying that teachers should be in the top one percent. Instead it’s meant to draw attention to the inconsistencies and messed up priorities.
All of this is fine, but we need to go about this differently. We should just present people with facts and hope they are smart and sensitive enough to come to the same conclusions.
Say things like: “Teachers often require a second job, meaning they have less time and energy to prepare their lessons -- which ultimately hurts the kids in the long run."
”A teacher’s career “life” expectancy is 5 years (3 if you are a Special Education teacher) with money often being the driving force for leaving." This leads to a very high turnover rate, which means inconsistencies with schools -- lack of leadership among faculty, and lack of experience in the classroom. The result: harmful for the students
You can be a little crazy and say things such as: “Did you know that a toll booth worker [Google ‘unexpected jobs that make more than teachers’ I warn you - the results are depressing] makes more than a teacher.” The point is, we need to make it relevant to the people whom are in these discussions.
We need to make it important to them, just like what we do with our lessons every day with our students.
2. Summers off doesn't mean work from home
Teachers need to quit giving the illusion summers are nothing but work and hardships. Yes, I know many of us work on curriculum, lesson plans, read, study, have a second job, and so much more. However, I’m going to say this (and it’s not going to be popular) but any school work done during the summer is our choice. Nobody is making us work over the summer. We aren’t even paid for it. When we complain about having to work over the summer, people’s first thoughts are:
“At least you get a summer.”
The truth is, we need that time for rest and to be recharged. Let’s be honest, it is a perk and a necessity. I know we are tired of people saying:
“You have an easy job, you get summers off.”
If you haven’t taught, you aren’t going to understand the importance of a summer break for a teacher.
So, just embrace it.
Quit working over the summer, take your break, and enjoy it.
Trust me, you need it.
3. Don't be petty
Teachers need to stop bringing up petty things to convince people that our job is hard. No joke, I've seen people post things like:
"Teachers are on their feet so much they get varicose veins”
”Teachers wake up early, because they don’t know how to sleep in"
”Teachers often develop bladder problems because they can’t go to the restroom whenever they want.”
So, to recap, varicose veins, getting up early, and bladder problems.
You just described my pregnant wife (she gave me permission to say that).
Point is, these petty complaints aren’t relevant to our cause. Instead, teachers have enough to talk about that demonstrate our difficult job. We need to make these stories meaningful. Tell people about:
how we get chairs thrown at us,
how students have attacked us in the hallways,
how we provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, clothes, deodorant, rides, and Christmas presents.
We have plenty of stories to convey our job is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing, we don’t need to act like we’re desperate for more to tell people.
4. Don't Force it
Teachers need to stop forcing conversations and start waiting for appropriate times to bring up our hardships.
I must admit, I’m guilty of this one.
Teachers are often the worst at always bringing up how our lives are so much more difficult than yours.
We say things like “I’m used to it - I’m a teacher.” We wear that badge with honor.
One of my non-teacher friends once said to me “I’m just tired of it always being shoved down my throat. We get it! You aren’t happy with your pay and your job is hard.” When he said this, I must admit, my feelings were hurt. I remember we were watching a basketball game on TV and he sneezed. Instead of me saying “Bless you" - I said “here’s why I deserve more money than you - Varicose Veins!”
Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly how it went, but he did express that he’s tired of always being made to feel guilty that teachers don’t have enough.
Truth is, we take pride in our job and we want to talk about it.
The problem is, we don’t wait for the topic to come up naturally and we force it into our conversation. All we are doing is desensitizing people to our message. We need to be patient and let the conversations happen organically.
Believe me, you won’t have to wait long, especially this election year -- just listen to a candidate’s solution for poverty, repeat criminal offenders, over-populated prisons, bettering our country.
The answer is:
We need to educate!
The point is, education is constantly a trending topic. Let the conversations happen naturally. It will mean more to the person during the discussions.
5. Don't focus on the negative
Teachers should stop focusing on just the negative things in our career.
Unfortunately, this is the hardest, yet most important point.
This part is just as much for me as anyone else.
I understand that it’s easy to focus on the bad things in our career. Sometimes we’re just desperate for a win and we feel like we aren’t making a difference.
As hard as it is to believe, we are.
The problem is that we focus on our failures, the difficulties of our job, people’s lack of empathy, state tests, student’s behavior, low income, the lack of parent involvement, elements out of our control, and always being the “bad guy.”
It really is easy to fall into this trap.
So what do we do to combat this?
Instead, we start focusing on the positive things -- even if it’s something as simple as “little Johnny remembered his pencil for class today.”
We focus on our students -- the ones constantly trying, doing everything right, and showing growth.
We focus on the favorite teacher that we had -- we try to remember they probably felt under-appreciated too. We remind ourselves they probably never knew how much they impacted our lives, because we didn’t go back and tell them.
Lastly, we focus on all things good about our job. This is a practice that we should do every day.
Don’t wait or forget to do this.
It doesn’t take long to get burned out, jaded, or to become “that teacher.”
This is crucial because students deserve a positive adult in their lives. Unfortunately, sometimes a teacher might be the only one that's reliable. So, just remember, a great teacher might be all that it takes to change a student’s life -- and I’m not just writing that to sound positive!
It’s just the truth.
Jordan Allen lives in Yukon, Oklahoma.
He's currently in his 5th year of teaching.
He's married with a daughter and another
child on the way. He graduated with a degree
in English from Oklahoma State University and
he's a huge Oklahoma State Cowboy fan.
6 pROCEDURES TO USE IN YOUR SMALL GROUPS
By Jon Belt
This year I stepped out of my comfort zone and took the recommendation of a coworker to start the year in pods.
What are pods you ask?
Just a fancy word for small groups.
This is a bit terrifying with sixth graders, but my goal this year was to step out of my comfort zone.
This is a BIG step.
I am the "Procedure Police," so when the teacher suggested the pods, I immediately said "Procedures Please?"
We then went to Dr. Google and just could not find something detailed and specific enough for FREE.
So we came up with our own.
You need to decide how many you want in your pods. I recommend no more then four per pod. Four is a good number because you can always use the phrase "Ask three then me." Meaning they can ask you a question, when they have asked three of their pod members.
I went all in with Pods, and started on the first day of class. The setup is pretty simple:
1. Groups of Four
2. Label the Pods
You can label the pods in different ways. Pod Numbers, Pod Colors, Pod Letters, Pod Superheroes, etc. Hang these above the pods on the ceiling in case the desks are moved during class time. When wrapping up they know where to center them back.
3. Supplies in the Pods
Dollar tree has some great resources for small baskets or plastic containers that can hold small supplies. These baskets can hold: highlighters, a big eraser, markers, colored pencils, etc. The baskets can go in the middle of each pod. If I want the students to put up/put in supplies on their desk I use the phrase "swish in" and "swish out." For example, "Swish in your pencils," or "Swish out your markers."
These roles were really fun to make, and our theme was a business pod.
1. CEO - The CEO is the spokesperson
2. Manager - The Manager keeps everyone on task
3. Quality Control - Quality Control is the supply person
4. Editor - The Editor edits and checks
Once you have gotten to know your students, you may want to assign them certain roles.
There are four cards in the basket with the role titles. They are to have these cards on their desk at all times to alleviate any confusion.
5. Practice Activities
There are some simple activities you can plan to give the "Pod People" some much needed practice. These activities could be organizing a dance, field trip, or reward system. They can have a ton of fun with these activities, and it will show you some holes that need repaired.
Just like many lesson plans that fall flat in our teaching career, pod activities/lessons will do the same. It will not always be perfect, and there will be frustrating pod people. Reflect on what did not work, and learn from the frustration.
Jon Belt lives in