Five for Friday (8/19/16)

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Happy Friday, y'all! I know many of you are back to school already. Our kids go back on Monday and I can't wait to get to meet them all! It's been a super busy couple of weeks prepping everything for the first day so I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share the highlights with you. 

My room is coming together quickly. The school's mascot is a pirate so I went with that for the outside bulletin board (even though my room is not piratey at all). Not shown are the glittery clothespins I'll be using to display their work. 



I have this odd space outside my classroom door that I don't quite know what to do with. I made this sign to hang in the entry but I'm still trying to figure out how I want to put it together.



Since I'm moving from 1st to 3rd, I redid my library book labels. I think they turned out super cute. (I'll post more pics of the class library when I get it all finished.)




Tuesday, we picked up my daughter's HIGH SCHOOL schedule. I can't believe my baby is already a freshman. And because of the way her middle school did things, this will be her first ever locker. She's very excited but totally embarrassed I took her picture in the middle of the hallway. Oh well. It's a mom's job to embarrass their teens right? 



And finally, I discovered this little gem last week. 

Did you know this? This is awesome! I ordered several books for the classroom and never had to put in my credit card info. 

Thanks for stopping by! Now swing over to Doodle Bugs Teaching for more Five for Friday fun! Have a great weekend!



Explore Like A Pirate: The End

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Welcome back to the final chapter of Explore Like A Pirate book study. This chapter is so short and sweet, I felt it better to share some of the takeaways from the book here instead. (If you need a refresher, you can read previous posts here.) 


Take away #1: Game-based learning is fun. 
Kids are already gamers, they understand what gaming is all about, and game-inspired course design meets them where they are. If designed and presented right, your kiddos will be engaged. I see this being a huge draw in late-elementary and higher grades where students begin to lose some motivation to "do" school. In primary grades, I can see this being done on a much smaller, one day or one week long unit. This would definitely be a challenge to keep it going for a full year in kindergarten. It would have to be super simple.

Take away #2: It can be as simple or complex as you'd like. 
Older kids can handle all the side quests, Jeopardy games, items, points, etc. For younger kiddos, I would keep it much simpler: brag tags for achievements, points, class awards, mini-quests, etc.

Take away #3: You can layer this over what you already do.
We already use brag tags (we call them pride tags) in our class for achievements, and our "points" system is Class Dojo. Gamifying the class would just tie everything together. Creating teams or "houses" would add that collaborative element to keep the community building going.

Final thoughts:
I don't know if I'm ready to go all out on gamifying the class for the whole year. I will probably tie what I already do together to unify everything, but I don't think my littles could handle a point system, a money system, and items over a whole year just yet. However, I am thinking of ways we could turn a Fun Friday into a one-day game. Stay tuned to see how it goes.

Thank you for going on this journey with us. It definitely gave us lots to think about. What do you think about gamifying your class? Let me know in the comments below, then check out what other bloggers had to say about it. Thanks and have a great day!





Five for Friday (8/5/16)

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Hello there! Happy August! Can you believe the summer is over?! I start back with training on Monday and the kids come back shortly after. Where did the summer go?! Part of me is super sad to see it end, but more of me is excited to get back into routine and meet my new kiddos. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the final Five for Friday of my summer. 

We had one last little summer hoorah last weekend. The kids and I went to South Lake Tahoe, which is a little touristy town on the boarder of Nevada and California. It was crazy busy but the weather was wonderful and we had a great time. 

Towards the end of our little visit, I saw this sign and I just had to go in!


Y'all, it was AMAZING! There was original artwork from Dr. Seuss himself, a life-sized statue of the Lorax with his "Unless" quote, 3D versions of Dr. Seuss characters to hang on the wall, and so much more! I could have spend thousands in there ('cause none of it was cheap!), but I restrained myself. If I ever win the lottery, though, I'm totally going back there! (BTW, they had other artists artwork there too, and it was gorgeous, but they had me at Dr. Seuss.) 


Have you started setting up your classroom yet? I started in July (mostly to get the stuff out of my living room) and worked on refinishing this bookshelf and picnic table for my new classroom. They used to be black and now they are almost a blue jean color. I love how they turned out and the picnic table will be perfect for flexible seating. Now to get them up to the school...




The table and bookshelf will go perfect with my new calendar set. I also made some Meet the Teacher signs and forms to make Back to School night go a little smoother. It has supply labels, transportation forms, getting to know you forms, signs to show parents where to go and what to do, treat toppers for any grade and any snack, and even matching teacher information cards. I am in love with this set and can't wait to use it soon. You can get a set of your own here.




You checked out the Teachers Pay Teachers sale earlier in the week didn't you? I know I did! I grabbed a couple of back to school goodies (among other things) that I can't wait to use! I grabbed this set of community building activities from Jillian Starr (that friend finder activity is too cute!) and this Getting to Know My Shipmates set from Jessica Tobin (mostly because my school's mascot is a pirate, but also because it's adorable).

What is your favorite back to school activity? Let me know in the comments below. 

My new school uses Google Classroom, which is a new resource for me, so I downloaded 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom. Do you use Google Classroom? If so what do you think about it? Pros? Cons? Let me know in the comments below. I'm curious to find out how it will work in a 3rd grade classroom.



Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the last few minutes of summer before heading back to the classroom. Don't forget to stop by Doodle Bugs Teaching to check out some more amazing ideas from other bloggers. Have a fabulous day!


Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 9

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Welcome back! We're here for another chapter of Explore Like A Pirate! It's all about designing a game-inspired course to keep your students engaged in learning. If you need a refresher, you can check out the previous posts here.

Chapter 9 is all about putting the game together. Matera has talked a lot about "side-quests" and things, but didn't really go into detail until now. Trust me, it's all going to come together! 
Mini-games are the "brain breaks" of the game. Now, must of us "teachers of littles" think of GoNoodle or some other kind of wiggle break when we hear "brain break," but that's not really where he's going with this.

When Matera says "brain break," he's referring to games that review material, add points to students totals, but don't really go with the rest of the game. Things like Jeopardy, Mega Tic-Tac-Toe, Graffiti Walls, Vocabulary Taboo, and Kahoot! are all examples of mini-games. (I won't go into all the detail Matera did about how to play mini-games, but if you're wanting more, you can check out his book here.)
We all know about traditional paper and pencil assessments, but what if we could do more? Matera provides us with several outside of the box, playful assessments for really checking for understanding rather than rote memorization. 

Remember Odd One Out from the old Sesame Street segments? ("One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong…"yes?) You can do the same with your content. For a K/1 animal unit, you could post pictures of 4 different animals, one living in a different habitat or having a different skin covering, and have students EXPLAIN why that animal doesn't belong. For bigger kids, you could post 4 vocabulary terms or events and have students tell you which one doesn't belong in the set. There are SO MANY things you can do with this simple format!

Sketch Pad requires students to draw the meaning of the vocabulary word or event. Perhaps during a civil rights lesson, students must draw an example of one way people stood up for themselves during this time. Or when studying habitats, students must draw an example of a habitat and some animals they might find there. 

One of my favorite examples he gave was LEGO Build. Students are given a bag of LEGOS and must build something from that unit. Bigger kids can take a picture of their creation, add it to a Google Doc, and elaborate about their creation. Smaller kids can draw out what they made and either explain it verbally or write out the best they can what they made and why. 

There are several other examples of playful assessments in this chapter, so be sure to check it out. (Remember it's free on Kindle Unlimited right now.)
Side quests, I think, are my favorite. Maybe it's because of all the buildup Matera did throughout the book, but these are definitely exciting ways to get your students learning on their own. 

Side quests are open-ended, optional activities students do in their own time. In a self-contained class, this could be for your early finishers as well. They have 3 rules:
  1. You can only turn in your side quest once, so do your best!
  2. The side quest must connect to the current unit.
  3. The side quest must be turned in before the unit test. 

Why these rules? Because if the teacher is going to "grade" this additional work, it needs to be amazing. It should pertain to the current unit in order to further the student's understanding of what's being discussed in class. And the third rule encourages students to get busy and complete things in a timely manner. 

You probably have already done several "side quests" in your class but made them required assignments. Rather than using class time to for these activities, make them optional and see what kind of awesome things your students can do on their own time. That gives you more class time to go deeper into the content. 

Examples of side quests are: 


But don't stop there! Any creative outlet can be used to guide a side quest. Give your students 3-5 options for quests each unit, covering different styles, and see what they come up with. If you give them the whole list of options right away, you'll have all kinds of things land in your lap at once. Spread them out through the year. 

I love the concept of side quests, even if the course isn't fully gamified. Imagine what your students could create if only given the opportunity!

In a gamified class, all these things add experience points to students' totals. They tie the course together, expand students' learning, and create lifelong learners. Isn't that what we all want? 

Join us next week for our final chapter of Explore Like A Pirate where we'll but it all together and share our thoughts on our own game-based classes. Thanks for stopping by, now check out what others have to say about this chapter. Have a great day!





Five for Friday (7/29/16)

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Happy Friday! Where has July gone?!?! It has been forever since I've linked up for Five for Friday and this is why...
We moved across country. We left our house in Texas, drove all the way through New Mexico and Arizona and kept on going up to Northern Nevada. Texas is big, y'all. We spent almost the entire first day just driving out of it. If I never have to do that again, it'll be okay. This was my view for about 1,700 miles:


When we finally saw this, it was such a relief: 


But we love our new house and our new town and we're getting settled in. AND the new house has it's own built-in pencil sharpener. How cool is that?!


As soon as we got the house unpacked, I ran up to my new school and took as much stuff up there as I could. School starts in a month and my classroom is ALMOST ready. It just needs a few finishing touches. Here's a little sneak peak:


I'm going to hang anchor charts and things for each subject in the different sections. More pictures will come soon. 
While we were waiting on the internet to be set up (a week without internet is TOO LONG!), I got started on some projects for the classroom and Teachers Pay Teachers. I LOVE this new calendar set I created:


 Who doesn't love the rustic shiplap look?

And I finished off my new brag tags. They're more "grown up" than what I had for my kinder babies and include Multiplication Master tags. You can grab a copy here


But it wasn't all work. We took time to check out the town and hang out at Lake Tahoe. The kids have grown a little since we've had all five of them together here last. 


This view never gets old.


That's about it. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to visit again on Tuesday for our Explore Like A Pirate book study. Now go check out some more awesomeness at Doodle Bugs Teaching Five for Friday linky. Have a great weekend!


Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 8

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Welcome! We're back for another installment of Explore Like A Pirate! We've been learning all about game-based course design this summer (you can get a refresher here) and now it's time to take a closer look at Tools and Treasures. 

In this chapter, Matera goes over a description of some of the badges and items his students can earn in his game, but says "ultimately, they won't work the same for another game or classroom. Badges and items are intimately tied to the game that is unique to the classroom." In other words, you're going to have to design your own. 

In his class, Matera has two types of badges: leader badges and mini-badges. When students complete quests, they can earn leader badges (we'll talk in detail about quests next week). When he needs students to really focus on the lesson, he uses mini-badges tied to the day's activity to keep them on their toes. The badges have experience points tied to them as well. 

Matera also has several items (pictures and descriptions on baseball cards) students can earn for various special powers. Some items are simply a locker pass while others allow for the use of notes on a test. 

Whatever types of items or badges you decide to use, make sure it's tied to your game's theme. When I think of badges, I think of the ever popular brag tags. It's a simple way for you as the teacher to manage badges. They're super simple to make and keep track of. This is how I displayed our brag tags last year. (We call them pride tags in our class because bragging is considered rude, but being proud of yourself isn't.)


For items, I think of baseball or Pokemon cards. These can be made with a simple document, printed, and kept in a baseball card sleeve inside your students' binders. These can be as simple or as intricate as you'd like. I'll be teaching 3rd grade next year, so I'll be using a pretty simple setup. 

I would think you could also use those fabulous mini-erasers to represent different items in your game as well. Students could keep them in a container that matched your game's theme. My only concern would be students taking them home or playing with them. 

Do what works for your classroom and your students. You may find that using badges is just right for your students, but that items are too much for your class right now. Or vice versa. It's your game. Design it how you want. The whole point is to keep your students engaged in the content. The rest is details. And the beauty of game-based design is that you can change the rules or add things at any time!

I hope this was clear for you. There's a lot of ambiguity in this chapter because each game is different. If you want to see how Matera's badges and items are setup, you can read the book here. (It's free on Kindle Unlimited right now.)

Join us next week as we go into detail about these quests he keeps talking about. Trust me, you'll love it! Now check out what others have to say about chapter 8 below. Have a great day!





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