The Twelve Days of Christmas Socks

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Each of the last twelve school days before vacation, I sang the next verse in the Christmas sock song and showed my students my socks.  The deal was that they had to have finished the lesson before I would sing.

I put a symbol on my board each day to remind me what socks I was wearing.  To my surprise, the kids would immediately check the ‘sock board’ as they entered  and begin guessing what kind of socks I was wearing.  They would beg for a sneak peek at the socks, but I would never show them until the lesson was over.  Each time I revealed my socks, there would be a mix of cheers and groans about how close their predictions were.

I always find it amazing how much 8th graders love this song.  I warn them at the beginning that my singing voice is horrible.  They always agree with me.  The funny thing is they still do ‘jazz hands’ with me for the fifth day, and join in for “aaannnndddd pink socks with Christmas lights and bows.


Mind Blowing Mind Maps

The Giver Mind Map Assessment

Lois Lowry comments on several themes through her story about Jonas and The CommunityTo demonstrate your understanding of how she crafted her novel to illustrate a theme, you will create a mind map and write a short personal essay.  The map will trace the development of one theme, and the essay will explain how you’ll apply what you have learned to your life.

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Whoa! Black paper!

Kate and I attended the Learning & the Brain Society’s conference, The Science of Smarter Minds: Teaching to Think, Create and Innovate for School and Careers in May 2014.  John T. Almarode, PhD taught a session on ways to engage the adolescent brain.  Principle #1 was Raise Student Expectations with Behavioral Engagement.  He explained that because the brain’s primary goal is survival, using the unexpected is a great way to gain students’ attention.  He described it as playing to the “What’s that? Yeah, I’ll play along,” nature of the adolescent brain.

Today was a perfect example of this.  For the Do Now,  I asked the students to get two post-it notes from my easel and draw a symbol that would represent any two of the themes written on the black paper posted in the room.  When they were finished, they were supposed to place the post-its under the themes they had chosen.

At the beginning of my sixth period class, two boys entered and looked to the front board to see what they needed for the Do Now.  One of them stopped cold and said, “Whoa! Black paper!”  His friend immediately turned and asked, “What are we doing today?”

What they were going to be doing was getting the requirements for their mind maps on Lois Lowry’s development of a theme in The Giver, examining  mind map models, and beginning their prewriting. Incorporating movement, choice, social interaction, creativity and novelty into a quick activity grabbed their attention and got them excited about tackling a difficult task.  It also provided the students with a bank of examples as they completed their work.

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Pairing with Riddles

Looking for a quick a quick way to partner students?  Try corny riddles.

As students enter the classroom give them a slip of paper with either a riddle or an answer written on it.  Have them quickly find their partner and then work together on a posted task.

What are a ghosts favorite amusement park rides?

the roller-ghoster and scary-go-round

photo by Jeff Krauss
photo by Jeff Krauss


To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Good question!

Although I have long been interested in using Twitter in the classroom, it has taken me quite a while to get started.  I find it difficult to work with so few characters! I also have trouble figuring out what is tweetworthy.  What could possibly be important enough to blast out to so many people?  What I’ve found is that students appreciate tweets about most anything.

Kids love to see pictures of themselves.  They love posing during events and being in candid shots during lessons.  Making thought bubbles that can be attached to a wooden dowels is a great way to incorporate questions and comments.

Links to websites, news stories, and on-line games are a great way to create a hook for lessons.  One tweet to the official movie trailer for The Giver caused a flurry of excited questions.

Eventually I will move on to student tweets…. Maybe six word narratives?

Follow me @mrssiegs & @ShannonSiegler

Image by Shawn Campbell


New to Tweeting?  Here are some resources that I found useful:

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom  – Samantha Miller

The Teacher’s Guide To Twitter Edudemic

Hootsuite – An easy way to manage multiple social media accounts

Thank you, Jack!

Jack Berckemeyer taught us this at a NELMS conference.    Kate quickly made up a bunch of sets for both of our classrooms. 

Each group of students gets a set of letter cards. B, D, F, O, P, R, A, S, T, L, H, N; ambiguous M/E/W ; an ambiguous U/C  (If the students figure out that they can flip an ‘ambiguous letter card’ to create a new letter, they may.)  Then you give the students a task, and they get started.

What a great way to review terms for a test, generate word banks, practice with morphemes, etc.!

Check out Jack’s site for free handouts, videos and other resources.

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What an amazing experience!

What an amazing experience!  We visited a Phillip’s Exeter Academy to observe the Harkness method in action.  There was no doubt that the students were 100% engaged in their learning.  We can’t wait to learn more about this method and test it out in public school classrooms.  We are already formulating a plan…

Has anyone had experience using the Harkness Method in a public school?

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