August 26, 2014

The Human Timeline Race

To start the year in world history, we've been working on our map and timeline skills. Most of this is review, but we did add a few new elements for seventh grade. For example, in addition to the timeline labels BC and AD, which they already knew, we learned about BCE and CE. For those that don't know, these refer to Before the Common Era and the Common Era. The terms replace BC and AD as they are more culturally sensitive.

One of our learning targets is to correctly be able to plot BC/AD, BCE/CE dates on a timeline. To practice this we did a human timeline race, which was a lot of fun. 

I gave each student a card, on which was a historical date and event. They were instructed not to look at their cards until I told them to start. I taped a GIANT timeline on the floor, which spanned our entire room, and I marked "0" (which they know isn't really a year but a place marker) in the middle. 

The goal was to get every student to line up in the correct order WITHOUT TALKING! As you can imagine, the not talking part was the hardest direction to follow. Since I'm a meanie, I added 20 seconds to the overall time for talking of any kind.

Each of my six classes participated in at least 2 rounds of this activity. I was especially proud of my third period class because they came back with a vengeance after a rough start. In their first round, I clocked them in at 6 minutes 19 seconds, but they ended with 2 minutes 37 seconds after a little practice. 

My 9th period class also happens to be one of my honors classes. They beat my previous fastest time in their first round. I was blown away! One of the students suggested an extra challenge of not being able to see your own card, which I thought was a great idea! 

Who says learning can't be fun?! :)
So we busted out the tape... and had to pose for a class photo (most of the class anyway) before the big challenge. 

Even without knowing what was on their cards, they were able to complete the timeline in less than three minutes. I was pretty impressed! 

If we have any extra time tomorrow or Thursday, I've promised them we can do some in-class challenges! My students sure do love a little competition!

August 21, 2014

An Eventful Curriculum Night

Today was a LONG day. I arrived at school around 7:15 AM and didn't leave until about 8:45 PM because we had curriculum night. To say I'm exhausted is an understatement, but I wanted to fill you guys in on my eventful evening...

About 2 minutes before the doors were set to open to parents, the power went out. Now, we've had CRAZY thunderstorms all day long but at 6:30, it was dry. Well... we're probably dealing with 99% humidity, but there was no rain. 

We have a backup generator, which left us with some lighting. But projectors, computers, clocks, air conditioning... nope! That powerpoint and video I had prepared? Yeah... that was a waste of time!

By the time parents were done with the welcome speech and headed upstairs to my room, it was already toasty, and I was sweating. And then I became self-conscious about the sweating, which only makes the problem worse. haha

I was certain it would be an awful night. 

And then the first mom walked in, shook my hand and introduced herself.

Parent: Hi, I'm Laurie X!
Me: Hi... I know you!
Parent: I know you too!
Me: How do I know you?
Parent: I don't know, but I know I know you too. 
Parent: What did you say your name was?
Me: Actually, I'm Mrs. G's long-term sub. My name is Erin L.
Parent: OH MY GOD! ERIN L!!! You're so grown up!
Me: OMG! Laurie!!!
<We hug and laugh at this coincidence>

You guys... this woman was a coworker and friend of my mom's when I was REALLY young. Like elementary school. She used to babysit me! Her daughter and I actually ended up in high school together too. And now, her son (from a second marriage so much younger) is in my first period class. 

I never would have put it together. She has a different last name. One I've seen through her daughter's Facebook over the years, but not one that I would instantly recognize. And with 201 students, I'm not even paying attention to last names yet anyway!

Not 5 minutes later, as I'm standing in the hallway, my old coworker (who was also my cooperating teacher when I student taught) comes up to me to say hello. I knew she lived in the district, but I had no clue her kids went to my school. What a fun surprise!

I live a good 45 minutes away from my school. So, it's incredible to me that I had two connections like this in the first 10 minutes of the night!

And I was able to wing my presentation and still make the parents laugh... a lot. I explained some of my big expectations and shared a little about our pass the plate activity where I was sure to point out that a big part of this class will be clearing up misconceptions... like Early Humans were NOT mermaids, and China has given us much more than Panda Express and Bruce Lee! :)

I received a ton of positive feedback from parents who stuck around after each presentation. It was so reassuring to hear that their children are talking about how much they love me and my class, and I guess I really impressed the parents with my energy because they commented on it all night long.

This was definitely my most successful curriculum night... despite the glitches and sweat! ;)

August 20, 2014

Pass the Plate Brainstorming Activity

Today in history, we did a fun brainstorming activity to clear out those cobwebs and recall all the information we already know about the subjects we'll be studying this year in an activity called Pass the Plate.

For each class, I had a set of paper plates labeled as follows:
  • Early Humans
  • Mesopotamia
  • India
  • China
  • Greece
  • Rome
  • Middle Ages
  • Egypt
Students formed their own small groups of 3-4 students and chose a special flair pen from my stash. I then gave them three minutes to brainstorm and record their thinking directly on the paper plates. At the end of three minutes, I instructed them to "Pass the Plate" to the next group, and then the brainstorming continued for the next topic until the plates were back with the starting groups.

Obviously, students will know much more about topics like Greece than Mesopotamia, whose plates were looking pretty sad at the end of this activity! But by the end, they were full of color and, more importantly, ideas... and that's what counts!

I have to say, some of the brainstorming I heard today was absolutely hilarious, and it was SO HARD not to respond! Did you know that early humans were mermaids and cannibals? Neither did I! And I'm afraid to think about what this says about our society that one of the first things written about China was Panda Express (Joel would be proud. He loves that place!). 

I should've taken pictures of the finished plates... maybe I'll remember to do that tomorrow!

At the end of the year, students will get back into groups and will have the opportunity to Pass the Plates again. Except this time, they will be using academic vocabulary and recalling facts they learned in class rather than stereotypes and misconceptions. 

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