Thursday, August 9, 2012

A fun last day

Today was the last day of my summer classes.  We spent the day straightening up their ISNs so that they are in good shape for them to use for help during the school year.  They opened their bookbags and had piles of papers from their other classes that they said were trash.  Their ISN, however, they planned to hold on to even before I told them that they should.  That right there is the reason I do ISNs.  Instead of relying on what they might remember (which usually isn't all that much), they now have something tangible to bring with them and use.  Some of them even said they are planning on bringing it to school with them.  <3

When kids get stuck on a card I give them a
hint to help out based on the 24 game strategy.
My hint for this would be "6x4=24".  It's almost
always enough direction to help guide them.
After getting that in order we played one of my go-to favorites, the 24 game.  I had them play in pairs and then every 5 mins so they would rotate to a new opponent.  My first two classes (9th & 10th) graders enjoyed it.

My third class, however, which is 11th graders that struggle, LOVED it.  There is one kid that puts his head down a lot when he gets frustrated.  It seems that he's used to not doing great and I think he's used to giving up.  But the thing is that he's intelligent when he puts his mind to it.  So he walks in and lights up and tells me he knows all about this game and has played a lot before.

When it came time to play I told him that it was his job to teach everyone how to play and make sure they ALL understood it before we started.  He was thrilled and came right up in front and started to explain while I helped kids with their notebooks.  At one point another kid joined him and they did an amazing job at explaining.  They used the example I had on the board and then they pulled another couple cards and did more examples with the class.  They used questioning JUST like I would.  I honestly didn't even catch it all because they did such a good job that I was really able to completely focus on helping kids.  I did however hear the following:

  • "Ok now what about these new numbers?  How could we do the same thing and get these 4 numbers to equal 24?"
  • "What if I only put these 3 numbers up? What could you use as a fourth number to get 24?
    (seriously how awesome are they!?!)
Someone asked me if they could play in groups and I said they had to ask the boys in charge.  The boy thought about it and decided that yeah, they were ready to play.  At that point I took over because I wanted to put them in homogenous groups and give them appropriate cards (aka differentiating the game).  That class was SO into the game.  Like jumping out of their seats they were so excited to get the answers first kind of excited.  I gave the hardest cards to a couple kids (the ones that explained it were in there) and they decided that it was really challenging so instead of 1 on 1 they switched to teams of 2 vs. 2.  That was cool with me.  Another kid came in late and he joined, but they complained that it wasn't fair so they made me join the other team to even it out.

Stuff like this is what I loveeeeee.  When things like this happen I really just walk around with a huge grin on my face the whole time thinking to myself "ahhh..I love what is happening right now."  Having that kid teach was far from my plan for the day but sometimes you have to go with the flow when the opportunity arises.  I had also planned to have them rotate but they were so into their games that I didn't even bother.  My best days are pretty much always days like this- completely unplanned.

Also worth mentioning I think is that often the best way to motivate a typically unmotivated student is to make them feel successful, even if it's a very minor success.  Start small and hopefully it will get that head up off the desk long enough to get them involved and feeling good about them self.  I could expand upon this quite a bit because it's a topic that is very important and personal to me so I'll save that one for another day...


  1. I just googled the 24 game and bought it! Thanks for the great idea and it'll be perfect for my 8th grade pre-algebra classes.

    1. Awesome! This is really one of my favorites. Most kids love it and it's just so easy to pull out in a pinch.

  2. I recently found your blog and I'm really enjoying it! I'm currently jobsearching, but I taught some of those tough-to-teach highschoolers last year and a lot of what you write about really resonates with me! When I do get a job I'd love to use the ISNs... BTW I've read a lot about them, but your posts are the most helpful/step-by-step! Hope to read more from you!

    1. Aw thanks so much! Aren't those kind of kids the best?? They are hard sometimes (ok a lot of times) but when you get them to come around it's just the most rewarding thing in the world. I wouldn't trade them for anything.