May 31, 2009

So, Do You Have Exciting Plans for the Summer?


Just a few more days...

one day of instruction, 
3 half-days of testing, 
and 2 staff days, 
and then THAT'S IT.  

Okay, it's not.  I'm going to attend 3 half-day IB training and planning sessions next week.  But then...NO MORE! I hope.

So what shall I do this summer?  Let me start a list:
  • Sleep
  • Detox
  • Detox my house, too.
  • Get healthier. 
  • Take a weekend trip with my sweetie.  Somewhere.  Don't know where.
  • Read. Both nourishing and junk reads.
  • Go to movies. 
  • Go to a family reunion in Idaho.
  • Visit family and friends.
Ah, man...I probably need to do some planning for next year. Three months, off.  Yea, right.  It's more like two months off, and work will have to seep in for a few weeks.
  • Plan for mini Taming of the Shrew unit for the annual Shakespeare in the Schools event. Last year's play, Romeo and Juliet, was much easier.  I can do that in my sleep.  I may have, too, come to think of it.
  • Make sure my units are following IB format, as we have our our reauthorization this year.  I think I'm in pretty good shape with the content, but I need to work on the format.  I also need to make the Learner Profile more explicit. Tweaking is what I need to do.
  • Journalism and yearbook stuff... Every year I just think I should be more organized and do more.  Rather, the staff members need to do more...
  • Oh yeah...I want to do an online newspaper next year.  Not the print kind that we make into a PDF and post online.  No, I mean a paper produced entirely online, articles posted a few times a week.  That is going to take some crazy organization, but I think it's going to be better than what we have and how often it comes out and how many people read it.  I need to figure out how I'm going to do that.  The broadcasting teacher is excited about this idea, so we'll probably collaborate.
Is there more to add?  I'll think on it this week.  Several of my colleagues and I have talked about how tired, yet reflective, we are at this point in the year.

May 29, 2009

English Olympics

This is a very long post about how my students and I survived the 2nd to last week of school without dying of boredom or irritation.

This week I dredged up an old idea from the file cabinet and held The English Olympics. Many years ago I made up this activity for my freshmen when there was that one day before a break when we could not do anything constructive, so I would hold team competitions on English topics. For my 8th graders, I decided to make it week-long event...for a shortened week, anyway.

The plan was that during each class there would be four events, roughly in four types of categories:
  • reading
  • speaking
  • writing
  • mechanics
Students could place in each event up to third place to earn points for their teams. While individual events were going on, the other team members would be working on a team activity. Each team had an opportunity to earn points each day through the team activity. It was not a race for that activity.

The potential points:
  • 1st place--30 points
  • 2nd place--20 points
  • 3rd place--10 points
  • Team activity--up to 60 points

I divided the students into teams of 4, and sometimes 5. In some classes, I made them line up by height, and then I folded the line in half so we didn't have all of the smarty shorties all together. (I'm short, you know...) Goofy, I know. It's the end of the year. I have to goof with them a little. In another class, I was able to group students by their first names, which is not a formation they are used to. It's always last names, right? Oh yes, one of my objectives was to split up some students who are so co-dependent upon each other, students who would surely drive me insane in the next week. In a few cases, I simply said, "Oh, no way YOU TWO are in the same group."

In their groups, students had to do these tasks:
  • Pick a name.
  • Create a motto.
  • Create a team chant.
  • Create a poster.
  • Designate participants for the weekly events.
They had butcher paper (some of which had covered my boards all year) and what markers that hadn't jacked from me this year.

I gave each group a table that listed the events for each day. Students could not participate in more than one event in a day, and they could only participate in each type of event once. (So, their names could not appear more than once in any row or column.) Four categories, groups of four...this activity would have been less complicated if we could have had four days of competition instead of three. Something to remember next year.

I collected the tables from each team. Most students did not remember from day to day what events they were in, so just read them off the sheets. I also used it to keep track of who won in the events each day.


The events for this day included:
  • Fictional Reading. During this competition, participants from each group read Saki's "The Storyteller" from our literature book and then logged into Accelerated Reader to take the quiz. The student with the fastest and most number correct won.
  • Extended Metaphor. This was the writing event where students created a poem in the form of an extended metaphor. I have a handout with some examples, but I don't know what the source is. I've had it a long time. It was not a timed event. Later on, I asked other staff members to read them and judge them. Totally subjective, but the students were told that their poems would simply be judged by what the teachers liked best.
  • Tongue Twister. The students were given 15 minutes to practice a tongue twister I gave them. They were each given 90 seconds to say the tongue twister as many times as they could without making mistakes.
  • Find the Errors. Students were given a proof-reading worksheet. The student who finished the fastest with the most correct won.
The first two events started at the beginning of the class period, and the other two came near the middle of class.

In addition to the individual events, I gave each team a cryptogram to solve. I used a quote from Romeo and Juliet, which is a play that we studied last fall. Each class had a different cryptogram because I was afraid that students might talk to each other too much throughout the day. To earn the 60 points, the entire cryptogram needed to be solved.


On Thursday, I award the first round of gold medals from Wednesday. The medals were actually buttons that I made with my colleague's button maker. The students were quite excited to receive the buttons, and I was glad. I reminded them that I am a teacher, not a button maker. They were kind of hokey...

The events of the day:
  • Non-fiction Reading. I used the TeenBiz3000 program that our school uses. Students were asked to read and answer the questions to a specific article. The TeenBiz program is designed for students to read and grow as readers at their own levels, so in any given group of students, the article they are reading is the same content, but it has been adjusted to their own reading levels. I reset all of their levels to 12th grade. Hey, it's the Olympics. It should be challenging. Students were judged by speed and accuracy.
  • Impromptu Poetry. Much like the writing activity on Wednesday's agenda, students were asked to write a poem and a staff member judged them. The structure of this day's event was completely up to the student, but as a special challenge, they were asked to include the name of their group in the poem. This was not a timed event.
  • Memorization. Students were given Henry Wordsworth Longfellow's poem "The Arrow and the Song" to study for 15 minutes. They had to recite the poem from memory with no errors. It was an easy poem to memorize, so they were also judged on the quality and exuberance of the delivery.
  • Scrabble. I had two scrabble boards and the contestants with the highest scores overall won 1st place. Some students didn't know how to play, and I saw some words that should have been challenged, but I just left them alone to figure things out.
I started all of the events at the beginning of class, staggered within a few minutes so I could give instructions to competitors from each event. Scrabble, of course, took the whole class period.

Scrabble was an exciting event for all the classes, and I regret not having a Scrabble board hanging around my classroom before now, although I don't know when we'd have time to play. Only the contestants were suppose to be at the boards, but I had to chase students away throughout the day. Who knew it would be so exciting to watch people play Scrabble? I should consider doing more with it next year.

(The math teacher next door has a card table with a chess board set up at all times. I guess they find time somewhere! He also had a tournament this spring, and he would pull students from classes to play. I allowed a few of my students to leave my class to go participate when it was their round. It just seemed like an awesome event! Hmmm...Scrabble Tourney, anyone?)

The team activity was a big cross word puzzle of 63 vocabulary words we've had this year. For this activity, the team could earn as many points as answers they could find. Some teams finished the puzzle while others only found 10-20 answers. To make it a little easier, I had ALL of the vocabulary words we've had out of the vocabulary books mish-mashed all around the puzzle. So, the chaos and trickery of having extra words may have tripped up some, but for those who would never have been able to remember some of the words, it had to have been a help. No dictionaries, textbooks, nor notes were allowed.


This day didn't go as well as planned because I allowed leadership students to be excused from class to prepare for the 8th Grade Dance. I just said to them, "Are you really going to let your team down?" Several of them chose to come to class because of the Olympics, and I thought that was pretty cool. Earlier in the week I emphatically told them that group members could not participate in more than one event, but some groups had only 2 members in class. I gave them the choice to forfeit the competitions or send someone to compete even if they had to do more than one event. Nobody forfeited--this is competition, people!

The events for this day were timed (10 minutes) to make sure we had enough time for the Uhm Game.
  • Reading Charts & Graphs. Students were given two handouts that required them to read charts and answer questions. It wasn't a particularly difficult task, but they didn't have much time. I can't remember the book title where I took these, but it has a tie-dye cover.
  • Choose the Right Word. Students were given a handout that asked them to choose the correct homonym. Again, not too difficult, but it was timed.
  • Sentence Structures. Students were given a handout with sentences. They needed to label the sentences as simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. It has a been a long time since we studied this, so I am not sure how they did. I took these pages out of an old high school level Warriner worksheet binder that I have.
  • Uhm Game. Students spoke on a given topic for as long as possible without using uhm, uh, er, like. This game is always a hit with my students. I think this idea may have come to me from Bret Oberg's Speechcraft, which has been my standard for public speaking for a long time. I have a sheet of 100 topics that I made up years ago--one-word topics like vacation, shoes, chocolate, shopping, monkeys, lunch, cars, and etc. Students use two 10-sided dice to roll to choose their topics. You can sometimes find these types of dice in teacher store, but mine are from a set of gaming dice. These are nicer because the there is a 10-sided die that has the 10s place and a one that has the 1s place. It's easier to figure the number.
The team activity was a page from The Reading Teacher's Book of List (mine is about 20 years old and doesn't look like this. I think it's the same book, though) which was basically a block of rebus puzzles. Some easy; some hard. These are the kinds of fun things I wish I could give my students more often. They are fun, but they have to think. You have no idea the joy I get from giving students "fun" puzzles that are so blasted hard that they have to really work at it, but then they LOVE it. Tricky!

Overall, it was a fun week. I told the teams that if I had to get on them about the noise level, I would deduct points from their groups. I had problems on Scrabble day because students were out of their seats, but the rest of the time students were engaged either in their own events or in trying to earn points for their teams in the team activity. Watching some of the students cramming to recite Longfellow cracked me up! The students were INTENSELY CONCENTRATING in ways I don't see much.

On a side note, the French teacher also had a shorter version of French Olympics, and the students also had a great time. (Remember, we have a lot of common students.) Scrabble was a huge hit for them, too! Several other teachers heard--and a few came to watch--about our experience and are inspired to try something like it in their classes, too.

May 15, 2009

I Survived Yearbook 2009!

We had our yearbook party today, and I made it through the day with only two tear-filled anxiety attacks. Sheesh! Only.

I make this yearbook thing as simple as I can, but the stress still builds. Within 30 minutes of my arrival at school, I learned that a few of the teachers I'd recruited to help supervise the party had either called in sick or had been called into service to sub during their preps for those sick teachers. Afterall, if it's Friday, we must be short substitutes. I tried not to freak out, but that didn't work out very well. For good measure I took a Pamprin and 3 B-complex vitamins with a swig of Monster. Note to self: This would have been a good week to be on the Happy Camper pills. Bunk or no, I don't care. Placebos work for me.

Note to self: Next year, yearbook staff members will be required to gift me with dark chocolate and Pepsi the week of the yearbook party.

A few hours later, as we were trying to get the invitations to the party sorted and delivered to teachers, I had another anxiety attack. My English classes weren't cooperating with me much either. Of course, my lesson for the day was crap, with students mostly working on their own on a reading assignment that would have been better with some class discussion; however, part of the reason for that had nothing to do with yearbook. It had to do with Day Two of Textbook Collection. PEOPLE! Didn't I say I didn't have time to deal with textbook collection* other than the day I asked for them?

Frankly, I could not expend my energy dealing with my students' shenigans today. Don't worry, I'll be fresher on Monday. I told them that, too. "I'm sorry I just can't pay as much attention to you today, but next week I'll pay double attention, okay?" I didn't mean for it to be scary, but some of them should probably be afraid. Very afraid. The others, the cooperative students, will get more love from a less stressed-out teacher.

My yearbook rep showed up to help with the party. I hadn't seen her since my last yearbook party, but I am in e-mail contact with her when I have problems, which isn't very often. Didn't I say I like to keep this yearbook business simple? The party had a few problems, but nothing that I couldn't have handled, but I was ever so thankful to have her there to be another one of me, helping solve the little distribution issues. I don't believe I would have had another anxiety attack, but it was a relief to know that there was someone who knew what should happen at a distribution party to help. She's an expert at it!

The party was awesome. Plenty of supervision. No problems. The book is awesome. It was a fun time.

When it was over, you know I deserved a margarita, but I still had to work at my night school. I planned ahead, though. I had stashed a frozen lemonade for that point in the day when I could put feet up on my desk and enjoy some peace. Any residual stress melted away...

Thank goodness yearbook is done for another year.

*On textbook collection: yes, my plan worked very well, and I have passed on the word to as many colleagues as I can find. I have made some kids mad, though because I told them they could not bring their textbooks to me between classes or after school. I know! It sucks that they brought them all the way to their lockers and forgot to bring them to class. So close! Sorry, more homework!

I vaguely recall one of my more hard-headed students bringing his book in just before 3rd period, about the time I was beginning to hyperventilate through anxiety attack number 2. Silly boy. No. I don't want your book. I didn't have a measly 5 minutes to log back onto the system to scan his book in. Try again on Monday.

I also told students that their parents could not drop off their texts in the office. Why should I have to drag those textbooks upstairs? Making me walk across campus to check in their books is inconsiderate. Dropping off books in the office is for after school is over and the parent doesn't want to pay $50 for a book that was never lost.

May 14, 2009

Don't Get Mad; Get Even

I thought it made it very clear to them that textbooks needed to be brought in TODAY. I explained that all of us teachers have deadlines to meet, and if they didn't bring their textbooks in, it would be very inconsiderate. I'm sure their mothers did not raise them to be inconsiderate. I may have also threatened some orneriness. I've had an abundance lately.

Five minutes before the first bell, the math teacher passed through my room saying, "So, it's going to be a long day, huh? I've heard several students say they didn't bring their textbooks."

Yes, I had heard some rumblings. Several of them popped into class before school started to let me know they didn't bring their books. "Miss, I forgot. Can I bring it tomorrow?"

When will they realize that I don't want to hear 20 excuses before 7 am as to why they didn't follow instructions?

During the first class, I had 26 students. Only 6 brought their books.

I was L I V I D.

Livid at that time of morning... Are you kidding me? Thanks for pissing in my Cheerios, kids. It's gonna be a happy, shiny day for sure!

Initially I thought perhaps when students did bring their books I would make them carry them for a few days--as I surely won't have much extra time to deal with it--before checking them in.

Only, I really do want the books turned in. And they really don't want to keep the books. In a moment of complete clarity, I found a much better solution.

I quickly found an exercise that reviews comma usage, and then I announced,
"Since you are so interested in keeping your textbooks, you might as well use them. Your assignment is to do page 620, exercise 2. If you turned in your textbook, you are excused from this homework. As long as you insist on keeping your textbooks, I will be happy to assign homework from it."
The students were bracing for anger. A raging explosion. They were much more freaked out by what I gave them in my calm, cool, and collected demeanor.

I'm proud of my brilliant idea. Will it work? For most. A few students will need to receive a fine before they will take me seriously. Whatever. I can deal with those three or four. It's the 100 who thought that I wouldn't mind processing textbooks for the next couple of weeks despite the fact I told them it would that irritate me.

I did have slightly better collection rates in a few of my classes. Usually I am frustrated when students are so inconsiderate and I have deadlines of my own to keep. Sometimes it feels personal--can they not see how valuable my time is? How rude! I talked to them like adults and explained why they needed to meet the deadline given. I have so much to do in the last few weeks of school! Today, I was calm as I reminded students to do their homework since they had chosen to keep their textbooks. I'm still irritated, but probably for not very long!

, I'm not wasting their time with exercises out of the book. It's not busy work. We never have enough time to do everything we need to do, so what a blessing it is that some of them will have some extra practice from the text before the end of the year!

May 10, 2009

They Know Yearbook is Top Secret

Our yearbooks have arrived! I spent my morning prep on Friday showing it off to some admin and office staff (and we talk about how the yearbook is a distraction to the students!) and finalizing some release party details.

When it was finally time for yearbook class, I tried to gather everyone to announce that I had a copy, but a bunch of them had more important business or something. I held up the book, and those who weren't hanging out in the back room or the bathroom bum rushed me and wrestled it from my hands. It was that violent. Then they huddled in the corner of the room with that one book for about 20 minutes.

They are so weird.

May 8, 2009

A Major Compliment

For Teacher Appreciation Week, I received a little baggies of chocolate chip cookies. The note inside said, "Teachers are the chocolate chip cookies of life." Awwwww.

May 5, 2009

Flashback to Flashdance

In celebration of our awesome CRT scores, the principal declared today a Free Dress Day. That meant that students could anything they wanted--within district dress code--and did not have to wear the standard, boring solid collared shirts and pants.

Holy cow! It was like 1984 in the hallways! Maybe 1985, 86, 87, 88, 89...whatever. Neon, leggings, wide belts, plaid, checkered...

How did that happen?

Even some of the boys, who I didn't know were head bangers, sported Metallica t-shirts. If they had been sportin' mullets and kickin' around hacky sacks, I would have thought I was in some sort of time warp.

I was a little taken aback. Just two or three years ago, their dress would have been in a celebration of an 80's spirit day. Their spoofs would make me cringe. To poke fun of the clothing of my teen years! As if! Today, though, it's what they call fashion.

They don't get it...but you know this is hilarious!

May 4, 2009

When I Was a Barfly

Hanging out at the bar. It wasn't about the drink at all. It was about the people.

In a small town, that's where people congregate. There was the older, veteran crowd at The Idle Hour. The bartender acted like we girls had cooties, but he'd always be happy to show us some pool shots and let us trade out his Kingston Trio or Hank Williams for some Dixie Chicks or Garth Brooks after the Oly crowd left. The Oly crowd, full of cranky old men, grumbled when we girls walked in the door because they knew we were going to be chatty, but sometimes we'd catch them grinning in their beers because we also brought a little life to the place. The bartender's wife ran the restaurant, so on really hard nights we would treat ourselves to Aunt Patty's cooking--she made a great steak and crab legs!

There was a slightly younger crowd at the Sierra Station, but many of the Idle Hour people could be found there, too. The bar was a little brighter, a little newer, and the music was a little hipper--nothing older than the stuff from the 70's. The bartender didn't act like we had cooties, but instead he flirted with us a little and would kick our butts at pool when he wasn't too busy or too tired from his day job with the power company. His wife was the real boss, and she was like a big sister to us. Sometimes we'd go in just because we wanted to visit with her.

It wasn't just the owners of the Idle Hour and the Sierra Station we adored, although when the Sierra Station hired a part-time bartender for the weekend, we didn't like going there quite as much. There were so many great people we befriended over the years. It was sometimes awkward meeting parents of our students there, but it was nice to visit over a beer without talking about their children. (It was in the this same small town where trips to the grocery store could certainly yield 2-3 parent conferences in the bread aisle.) Richie's son was a total jerk in my class when I had him, but I was always happy to see Richie come down from his ranch on a Saturday night--especially when he had his guitar with him. Max's granddaughter was no saint, but she was a star athlete in everything she did. Max's was grandson simply no saint...and we couldn't say much more. But we didn't hold it against his grandpa. He was a good man who retired from the military.

There were many more parents and grandparents we'd exchange pleasantries with. Sometimes we'd all find ourselves all having a drink at the Idle Hour before going into the restaurant for a Friday night steak dinner. At those times we'd push tables together for a big communal meal. Talking and laughing, a big situational family, friends gathered for a meal. During those times, living in that lonely rural place, I couldn't ever imagine being happier. I couldn't think of a better place to be.

After dinner, most of the old-timers would wrap their wives in their coats and leave, while the rest of us stayed at the bar listening to music and shooting pool. One by one we'd trickle home, but usually my girlfriends and I were the last to leave with Aunt Patty after she closed up the kitchen. We were the youngest of the crowd, and even after a long week of teaching, we still had steam to blow off, but as the night quieted down, so would we. Until it was time to go depart to our quiet homes, alone, but content with a nice evening out in a small town.

Some people find their homes through spirituality, in a church congregation.

My friends and I found our home through spirits--rum & cokes, MGD, and vodka tonics.

I can joke about that, but in my heart I know it was much more than the drink.

Reflecting on Collaborative Learning

A few weeks ago I had a tantrum about having to work with others in my grad class. Pat over at Successful Teaching asked about what the instructor could do to iron out some of the problems. She's going to be teaching grad classes this summer, so it looks like my issues gave her some food for thought.

Collaborative learning is one of those areas where I have a love/hate relationship. I believe that my students should learn to work together, and in the English classroom having students work together is a justifiable practice in communication. I tell my students, "You have to learn to communicate and work with others. This is a life skill." I mean it, too.

But, it is a pain for sure! No matter what I do to form groups, there is always inequality. There is the person who does more. There is the person who does little if nothing. There is the person who is too shy to say anything. There is the person who doesn't care. There's the person who takes everything home to "finish up" and then doesn't come to school for three days.

And there are the complaints. Group members who hate each other. Disgruntled worker bees who hate having to do all the work while others get credit. Parents of worker bees who think it's unfair that their students are doing all the work.

And how do you evaluate those situations?

One of my colleagues uses self and group evaluation forms. At the end of the project, students reflect on what they have done in relation to what their group mates have done. The collaborative projects she does in her class usually have checklists where each student is responsible for providing something. These methods hold students accountable and if nothing else gives them an opportunity to rat our their lazy group mates.

Making decision about grades based on self and group evaluation is still a complicated business, though. Group members do not always assess themselves accurately.

Over the years I've all but abandoned collaborative projects where the failure of a group could cause the failure of a student. It's a bit tricky considering I work in a school and program that encourages collaboration.

I haven't completely abandoned collaboration, though.

I try to build in collaborate activities once a week, and often those activities are in the form of group discussion. Students bring their ideas to a small group, as a group they share and synthesize, and later they might choose to share out as a whole group. This often occurs with homework review or in sharing writing. This isn't even a graded activity. It's often simply a way for me to make sure that every student shares their ideas and work in a situation where sharing with the whole class isn't feasible.

Other times, I ask students to create small assignments. These assignments are pretty quick and dirty, so students have little time to fret about who is and isn't doing work, and ideally, the assignment has parts enough for each student to do something. For example, we recently addressed persuasive techniques in the class. I had two activities:
  • In the opening activity, I randomly divided students into groups and told them they had 10 minutes to create a presentation where they had to persuade me that their groups deserved to earn a prize. The prize was a forgiveness pass--that is, a pass where they could have missing assignment forgiven. High engagement, low risk. Winners got a reward. Everyone else had a learning opportunity, as we held a class discussion about what the winners did that was so convincing.
  • In another activity, I again randomly divided students into groups of 4 and assigned each group a persuasive technique to research. (Like emotional appeal, band wagon, etc.) Students had one class period to create a poster that defined the technique they were given and gave three examples that teens would understand. They also had to create a 1 minute skit that demonstrated the technique. This required that students had to communicate what they researched with each other, but there were enough tasks that everyone really needed to do something to finish on time.
In the second activity, students probably deserved to earn some sort of grade. Perhaps a participation grade? Honestly, though, the students wouldn't even miss the grade. It was a learning activity that was a lot more interesting than me showing a PowerPoint presentation where they took notes--and I would not have given points for their notes, either!

If I were to assess what students learned about persuasive techniques, I would give individual assessments. Each student had an opportunity to learn about a specific technique. Each students had an opportunity to learn about other techniques by watching the presentations. If I really wanted to know what they learned, it would have to be assessed individually.

Since my nightmare group experience in my grad class, I have been thinking about how I'd like to see collaboration used in my own classroom. Over the years, collaboration has come to be used for low-key, low-risk-to-grades assignments. I'm not going to lie when I say it's because I don't like the hassle from students and parents about the inequality of grading. Unconsciously, this is what collaboration has come to in my classroom.

What I'd like to do is consciously do more reflecting on my collaboration practices and use it even more in my classroom.

At this point, I think students should collaborate to enhance their learning and thinking. Discovery and discussion are excellent uses for collaboration. Assessment of knowledge should be individual. It can be formally on a test, or it could be informally in a reflective journal. But in the end, students need to take responsibility in their own learning. Collaboration is an opportunity to learn. What one takes from it is personal.

Any thoughts?

May 1, 2009

When We All Are Rewarded for Diligence

My classes were halfway through the PSA assignment when I found out that their laptops were scheduled to be collected May 4, which was the original deadline for the PSA. I apologized to them, and bumped the deadline up to today, May 1. They had a week's notice.

My 5th hour English class was very much affected by this deadline because May 1st was also the date of our school's 3rd annual poetry slam--during the last two periods of the day. (I have prep the last period, so it was just the one class affected.) I had planned for us to go, which is pretty much a given since I am on the committee and it's a English event. But academics come first, and I again apologized when I told them we would not be able to go.*

However...I told them that if they finished and turned in their PSAs on Thursday, I would send them with another class to attend the slam. I would stay behind with everyone else so they could have the full period to finish up just like my other classes had. Turning in PSAs early was actually an option for all students--with a 20 point extra credit reward.

This morning I checked off the students who had turned in their PSAs early and found that 25 out of the 33 students had turned them in on Thursday! I was so happy! But that left my colleagues to babysit the majority of my students while I stayed behind for the minority. Not that they would be problems at all, but it's just the idea. I intended to hold firm, though. I promised my students that they would have the time they needed.

Throughout the morning students popped in here and there to load their PSAs onto the drive, until I was down to a few students from that class who hadn't turned theirs in. I was adamant when I told them they could not simply turn in their videos at the beginning of class on Friday and expect to go. It takes too long to download--that's why I allocated the entire class period for collection. I was also not interested in managing the chaos of checking off those who turned it in before class on Friday. So, those who came in were just turning it in because they had a few minutes and didn't even expect to go. (They might have been hoping, though. ;-) They knew better than to say anything.)

Just before lunch, I realized I was down to 4 students who hadn't turned it in. I tracked them down and asked them what they still needed to do to finish. Most simply needed to transfer it to my drive. One student had 10 minutes worth of work, and his teacher let him finish up. She was the one taking my class to the slam, so she had some interest in getting all my students to finish...

In the end, I had ONE student who was not finished and could not go to the poetry slam. In fact, he was the student from yesterday who still had not found a problem for his PSA...I rerouted him to the math classroom next door as he was walking into my class. The math teacher was giving a test. Perfect working conditions for a student who will not likely ever finish the project.

It was so exciting when the bell rang and I walked into class, "Okay, class. Get everything gathered. We're going to the slam!"

The students looked a little confused. One asked, "Everyone turned it in early?"


I explained the events of the day (excluding info about their ONE lame classmate) and how proud I was that they all finished early. They were surprised that so many had finished early, too! In my other classes, there were only 6-9 students who submitted early. That's pretty much standard for most early rewards; I think the students kind of know that, too.

I added that was I super excited because their diligence meant that I was able to go to the slam, too. Trying not to get all verklempt...

And the poetry slam rocked!

In fact, their 5th hour classmate won 1st place!

*Even at our new school, we still don't have room to have the entire student body attend an event at the same time. Teachers who were interested were invited to bring their classes.