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Mustard, Mayo, and Ketchup Folders, Quick-Writes, and other tidbits…

Mustard, Mayo, and Ketchup Folders— While attending a workshop a few weeks ago a fellow attendee shared this–

  • Mustard folder– contains assignments, activities, etc. that students must do.
  • Mayo folder– contains assignments and activities that students may do– think extension and remediation activities. Like creating a non-linguistic representation, establishing relevance to real life, creating a learning map, etc.
  • Ketchup folder– contains assignments and activities that students need to catch-up on.

Maybe a student has been absent? Or needs some remediation or extra practice of a certain topic or area of study? I didn’t catch the name of the lovely teacher that shared this idea, and I have no idea who to credit with creating this, but it struck me as a potentially useful set-up. I know this might be tough to utilize with the 150 eighth graders that you might see each day, so maybe think about trying it out on a smaller scale. Do you have an RTI group that you work with? Or a group of kiddos that struggles with time management or organization?

Quick-Writes Build Up— We know that “quick-writes” are a great total participation technique for students to process information during a lesson. This idea is so simple. When asking students to quick-write–

  • Begin with students writing on a Post-It. Their response will have to be short and sweet for the sheer reason that there is little space to write. Maybe 1 minute on the timer?
  • Feeling pretty good about their responses after a few of those? Move up to notecards. Still small, still not so intimidating, but providing more space to write a little more. 3 minutes on the timer?
  • Then move on to half sheets of paper when you feel like they are really rockin’ this quick-write thing. Baby steps. 5 minutes this time?

My thought is that this could even be done in backwards order during a unit. What do you think about giving students time to fill a half sheet, once you really think they have a handle on the content, and then working down to notecards and Post-its to refine their summaries? Now students will need to pull out the “meat” of the content.

Group Supply Management Idea— Managing supplies in a classroom can really make or break how smoothly a class period runs. It’s all in the little things. Take a look at this idea–
Science teacher in my building, Jake Burskey, uses a method for allowing students to get needed supplies when working in groups. He provides a “chip clip” for each group. When a student needs to get up and get a supply, he or she must wear the clip. This makes sure that only one student is up and moving from the group at a time.

YA Books to Movies— Here are a few YA books to movies, coming out in 2017, that you might recommend to students in search of something to read. There is nothing better than following up a good book with a movie comparison!

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Death Cure by James Dashner– The ending to The Maze Runner series.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth– The book is being broken up into two movies with the first being called Ascendant.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
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Body Language, GooseChase, & Holiday Categories Game

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are— Last week, I attended a workshop facilitated by Leslie Ballard from AdvancED ( on reaching students from poverty. She shared a number of ideas, strategies, and real-world “stuff” but the one I’d like to share today is this TED talk by Amy Cuddy. We did not watch the video during the workshop, but Leslie mentioned that Amy did research on how posture and body language can change your life. Leslie talked about how many of our students from poverty walk into a classroom with a posture that closes them off from the teacher and classmates from the get-go. Here are a few bits that I loved from the talk–

  • “Our bodies change our minds. Our minds change our behavior. Our behavior changes our outcomes.”
  • “Tiny tweaks can lead to big change.”

It has really made me think about how such simple tips could change the outlook of a class period, or school day, for a student that feels less confident or has little success in school. We, as teachers, have all heard about the power of self-fulfilling prophecies. What if, before a test, quiz, or schedule change, students took a quick brain break and one of the movements was a “power pose” like stretching their arms out wide like they have won the big game? Or hands on their hips like they are ready to tackle that test? Maybe we make “our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior, our behavior changes our outcomes” our test-taking mantra? I’d love to hear some ideas that you might have for small ways to encourage all students.

Interested in other TED Talks for you or your students? Friend and science teacher Jeff Peterson (@petersonjeffrey) compiled this playlist that you might enjoy.

GooseChase– Have you heard of this app GooseChase? A Spanish teacher here in my building invited me into her  classes last week to witness it in action. A “scavenger hunt for the masses”, walks users through the process of creating scavenger hunts called “missions”. Students go on the hunt for answers to questions, riddles, or puzzles. They photograph themselves fulfilling each task & the support site shows the mission creator a live feed of each participant’s completed tasks. Looks like an engaging alternative to QR code hunts!— When silent sustained reading period gets painful, try some brain-teasing holiday-themed fun like this freebie. It is a categories game where students choose 3 letters, then list items under each category that start with those letters. As always, extend the activity by having students create their own categories to challenge others. Tie this idea back to your content-area classroom by creating, or having students create, content specific categories. Just a fun way to keep minds working when the break is quickly approaching and motivation might be a little low! Enjoy!

Posted in Classroom Ideas, Uncategorized

Cult of Pedagogy & a few holiday ideas for fun…

I’d like to highlight a few ideas from The Cult of Pedagogy’s Jennifer Gonzalez. As you know, I find a lot of her posts to be relevant and helpful.  She posted 9 Simple Solutions for Common Teaching Problems Here are just 2 of the ideas she shares that I found incredibly smart:

  • Celebrity Couple Nickname Game
    From Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips & Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily
    Oh, you know celebrity couple nicknames like  Kimye and Brangelina are so hard to forget! So why not have students create their own nickname by mashing together their first and last names? This would be such a fun activity for the beginning of the year, semester, or 9 weeks. Jennifer suggests that this will make learning your new students’ names much, much easier. Great idea, right?! I can also see this being the starting point for graffiti-style name tags or students using them consistently for Kahoots and such (no more trying to figure out who put their name in as Donald Trump).
  • Boomerang Model
    From Hacking Homework: 10 Strategies that Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom
    Struggling with students lacking “grit” on tougher problems or assignments? Think about utilizing this Boomerang Model style of questioning to get students to work their own way through the tough stuff. So, the idea is to create your own list of questions to pose to students while in class but also to share a list of questions for parents to use while their students are working on homework. Creating that consistency and pushing students to work through is brilliant! Take a look:

    Barnes explains: “So they come to me, and they say, ‘Dad, I need help with this. I don’t get it.’ I’m going to respond with, ‘How can you help yourself? What strategy can you use that maybe you haven’t tried yet? Where should you start, because maybe you missed the real starting point? What evidence do you have to support this?’ If they say, ‘Is this right? Should I do this this way?’ I can say, ‘Well, what evidence do you have?’ We don’t want their automatic response to a struggle to be, ‘I need help from a teacher,’ or ‘I need help from a parent.’ We want them to help themselves.”

Getting into the holiday spirit? Looking for a few fun ideas to create connections with students and build classroom culture? Here are a few ideas to run with–

Would You Rather? Holiday— Have you ever played the game Would You Rather? It is a silly way to start conversations such as– “Would you rather have toenails that can never be clipped or… (fill in the blank with something equally as unpleasant)? Bleh! Here is a holiday version from Jen at  Kitchen Counter Chronicle–  Think about having students compose their own after trying out a few. Then, play again! Have fun!

Christmas Jokes— Here is a fun Christmas Jokes handout from It could be a fun handout to start with, then have students create their own. Think about adding in other decoding tasks such as questions about YA books, math or word problems, etc. to then identify the letters that will provide the answers to the jokes.