This year we had a group of students enter the 8th grade with the perception that they were the “monster” group. For them, their reputation arrived years before they did. I was anxious to meet this uniquely challenging group. Upon meeting them, I realized that they are like any other groups of kids I have worked with, but the difference was that this particular group of kids were content with their infamous reputation. However, I believed they could be more. We spent several days talking about stereotypes; identifying them in our school, and analyzing the impact they can have on the individual. When I realized that students were engaged, I pushed it further. We began talking about the word ‘reputation’ and discussed the positive and negative effects a reputation can have on the individual, a group, and a society as a whole. I challenged students to identify their reputation as a class, and we began talking about ways to change it. The ability to change one’s reputation was certainly a new concept for students, and they ate it up. We started by identifying their positive attributes as a group, and how they wanted to be remembered when they leave the district as seniors. That organically turned into creating Wordles. Students worked for a couple of days, and then we hung them in the hallway around their lockers as a constant reminder that change can happen. All it takes is the will to be different.
Challenging students to games or contests is a great way to build relationships. These are our principal and superintendent playing with students.
As teachers, the number one thing we can do to build and foster relationships with our students is putting ourselves out there, doing something outside our comfort zone. Students need to see us away from the classroom environment, showing excitement for something other than curriculum. Shannon and I participated in our school’s Lip Sync Battle fundraiser. The response we received from students, before and after our performance, was nothing short of phenomenal. We took the time to work in random dance moves when instructing, or leave messages for students on our whiteboards to attend the after school hours event. We created the buzz weeks ahead of time, so when the evening arrived, kids were already jumping out of their seats in anticipation. We were wild, silly, and dedicated to our outrageous dance moves in front of a crowd of nearly 300 people. I thought students’ heads were going to explode when the game we were talking all along was executed just as we said it would be. They could not wait to come to school the next day to hand out high fives and congratulate us on our performance.
All it took for students to come alive, was seeing their teachers act like complete idiots. They appreciated the effort to make them laugh and give them an enjoyable evening.
Sometimes it’s difficult to do the extras that engage students. This year I felt especially worn out. Thank you for encouraging me to do the Twelve Days of Christmas Socks with my students this year.
The students loved it as usual. They begged to get a peek before the end of class and sang along every day. Today, one of them said, “Wow! It’s a good thing you got to the 12th day before vacation!” …It was almost like I planned it that way. 😉
I love you, and I value your wisdom and steadfast cheerleading.
Tara Brown is a must see presenter when attending a conference. Her messages about teaching and reaching middle school students are dead on. For me, one of her most memorable messages is that we need to be Dopamine Dispensers in the classroom.
If you have ever spent any time in a middle school during the last week of the quarter, you’ve noticed that the students’ stress-level is elevated. I’ve decided to consciously plan for dispensing Dopamine this week. Here are a few ways I am combating student-stress:
Music – I start the music before the students enter the room, and I leave it running as they work on their Do Now. (We even snuck in a twenty second dance party during last period.)
Memes – Kids love to laugh. Memes are their language.
Kahoot – We have two quizzes this week. To help students study, we are Kahooting. If you aren’t Kahooting yet, you need to check it out!
Laughing Babies – I played a laughing babies Youtube video while the kids were getting set up for an activity. It didn’t take any extra time, and we were all laughing as we worked.
All of these were easily integrated into my lessons, and the students loved them. They appreciated the chance to relax and be kids. Rather than be distracted by their stress, they were ready to learn.
Here is a link to Tara’s website. Check it out.
Last night, I had the opportunity to share my experiences using Twitter with educators from across my school district. It was so exciting to collaborate with other excited educators. Thank you to everyone who attended!
Click on the image to view the presentation. It includes links to resources for educators.
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.“