Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just a few things

No school today for me this week so here's some random things from this week that are on my mind...

1. Curse Jar Update
Granted it's only been two days on this one, but I'm already noticing it starting to work. Currently, I think that we are at 11 marbles in there. As for why I chose 50, it was arbitrary. If I chose a lower number though I worried that they would be getting punished too often which isn't the point. The point is more to make them aware of their language.

Yesterday a boy (that is probably the worst offender) came into my room during a period I had off to get something he had left in there.  He was having a conversation with a friend and was really only in my room for like 20 seconds, but on his way out he says to me, "See what I did there Miss? I was gonna curse but I stopped myself" and then as they walk down the hall I hear him telling is friend, "yo in her room, if you curse...." and then they trailed off.  But I thought it was awesome that he was telling his friend.  I also loved that he has already gotten the point that whether or not class is in session, that language is not ok in my room.  Does it mean that he's never going to curse again in my room? Of course not.  But he is starting to at least become aware and that's my goal.  If yesterday he stopped one curse, then maybe tomorrow he'll stop two and eventually we'll be in better shape.

Also yesterday I was working with a kid and some other kid yells, "You don't even have to say it, I'm going!" and gets up to put down his name and toss in a marble.  The truth is that I was focused on the kid that I was helping and I didn't even catch whatever he had said.  But he realized it himself.  Love it.

2. ISNs
At least half of my kids are getting into the ISN habit of recording the TOC and setting up page headings on their own.  I collected them yesterday to grade them so I got to look through them for the first time.

Some things that I have noticed:

  • A handful of kids are not setting up their page headings correctly so tomorrow I need to just go back over that and have them fix their headings before adding anything new.
  • About half of the ISNs I collected have no names on them whatsoever.  This needs to be fixed asap.  I told them that they needed to put it on the cover, but I honestly didn't check before taping them up because I was in a hurry when I was laminating them.  I created something today that will go on the first page to identify them which I had left blank because I was waiting to come up with something good.  I'll post soon about what that thing is.
  • I'm grading using stamps this year.  I have these stamps and I'm using the blue one for things that are done correctly and the red stamp for things where the kid tried but didn't do the assignment correctly and/or completely.  Any pages that are empty or with a red stamp need to be fixed before I collect them again.
The most frustrating thing so far is a tape issue and is completely my own fault.  I ran out of packing tape to laminate their covers and kept forgetting to get more.  Last Friday I promised kids that I would remember to buy tape over the weekend so I could finish their books.  I told them I would make a note of it so I wouldn't forget.  I made the note and left it in school.  Ugh.  So Monday when they asked if I remembered to get tape I had to admit to them that I forgot again.  So instead I made a reminder in my phone.  I bought the tape Monday and brought it to school Tuesday.  I then collected their notebooks, took them home to grade and laminate on my day off and of course left the tape in school.  Double ugh.    So tomorrow morning I'll be heading to school extra early to finally get these covered because I can't tell them that I forgot again.

3. Keepsakes
I pretty much keep everything.  This is especially true when it comes to things that kids have made or given me.  In my room I have binders, yearbooks, and photo albums full of things from past years.  This week I ran into a kid in school that I taught two years ago that I didn't even know went to the school I'm at now.  It was a nice surprise.  I pulled out the binder from his year and showed him that I still have a thank you letter he had written me (from an activity I did with the kids) and we opened up my yearbook to find where he had signed it.  I keep that stuff because it's important to me, but it was really cool to see the smile on his face when he saw that I still had it.

4. Technology

I needed to show a video on Monday that was crucial for what we were doing but ran into a little bit of an issue.  My classroom doesn't get wifi, so I couldn't pull the video up on my iPad.  My phone is an android so the iPad cord wouldn't connect (and I don't want to buy a new one that will).  The computer was too far away from the projector so my cord wouldn't reach.  This was my solution:

It was a little bit of a gamble since the video was essential for the lesson, but I wasn't willing to compromise and cancel a lesson that I thought was awesome (and it was, it turned out amazing).  So each period I just explained to the kids that I wanted to show a video and asked if anyone had an iPhone and would be willing to attach it to the projector to watch a short 30 second video.  Honestly like a third of each period had iPhones.  In one period, a kid actually turned on wifi on his phone and created a hotspot in the room so that my iPad would work. I had a phone charger with me so I even let him plug in his phone so it wouldn't kill the battery. Installing technology in schools is really expensive, so it may not be available everywhere but I think we should remember that the smartphones that so many people have are really some very powerful devices that can be used for awesome things.  Instead of fighting the phones, let's try to put them to good use.

I actually got this idea two weeks ago from a kid.  I was talking about slope and randomly remembered a video that went along great with what we were doing.  I hadn't planned on showing it, so I hadn't tried it out.  I told the kids about it but then quickly realized that I couldn't show it for the same reasons listed above.  A kid raised his hand and said that he had an iPhone that we could just use with my iPad projector cord.  So he pulled up the video, we plugged in speakers and now my kids won't fotget what an undefined slope is. Some teamwork and an open mind can really have some great results.

Sidenote: I ended up figuring out how to download the videos to watch offline so that I don't run into this issue again. I feel a little silly for not figuring it out earlier, but I'm glad that I didn't let the tech issues stop me.


  1. May I ask what the video is that helps your kids with remembering undefined slope? My kids have a really hard time with that.

    1. Of's Slope Dude
      and it's one they don't forget..haha you'll see

  2. HI! This comment is almost a year in the making but I am curious to your grading strategies for your ISN's. Do you have a link that talks about JUST GRADING. I found my self staying after school almost every day for an hour going through them. Do you read them? do you use a rubric? I love the idea of grading them but it takes WAY longer than what I expected it to the way I did it last year.

    Last year I would pick about 5 kids in each class per day. That way students A-E would get graded on Monday F-j would get Tuesday and so on. I think that might not be the most efficient way of doing it. Any ideas?

    Thanks! Love your blog.

    Lessons With Coffee

    1. I am really interested in grading strategies as well. I would love to hear what ANYBODY is doing to grade ISNs.

  3. Hey Sarah-- I'm new to the ISN this year, but in previous years I have done a composition writing journal project with my 6th grade English class. The students decorate the covers of their journals and then cover them using clear contact paper. It is really inexpensive and can be found at walmart in the kitchen section. We use it to cover all our workbooks as well so they don't rip during the course of the year. Just thought I'd share as an alternative to packing tape :)


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