Tag Archives: making connections

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Epic Lip Sync Battle – Making Connections 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.

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Dispense a little Dopamine

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.IMG_3619

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.

Going 1:1- Combining High and Low Tech

It didn’t take very long to answer my earlier question about student engagement and laptops.  It was evident early on that students still need to move, talk, and create both on paper and on their HP Streams. The trick is figuring out when they can be pushed through frustration, and knowing when it is time to go old-school.

Lindsay and I decided to jump right in with the technology. We had the students create Excel Surveys to poll the students on their team about personal interests.  It was a frustrating couple of days, but well worth it.  The students enjoyed taking each other’s surveys.  Sorting the data was a challenge; I obviously did not do a great job of teaching them how to use Excel. (More on that later.)

When it came time to share their analysis and look for team wide patterns, the kids were ready to use big paper and markers. They needed a break from huddling around their Streams, and welcomed the chance to stretch out on the floor to share data. Hanging the ‘data gallery’ allowed for much needed movement and a chance to see the big picture.

Next,  it was back to the Streams to create infographics to share the data. Lindsay and I are excited to share some of them soon!

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The Tweet Heard Around the World – Follow Up

Thanks to the help of some wonderful fellow educators from around the world, our students learned valuable lessons about how far (and how quickly) social media can spread. One team’s tweets showed up on more than 70,000 Twitter feeds, in at least four different countries.

Students reflected on the stats, and then shared the most valuable lesson they learned.  Here are a few:

  • Even silly things can travel at the speed of light.
  • I need to be careful what I put on social media!
  • I need to think before I post on social media.
  • Some people will retweet anything!
  • I would be embarrassed if that was a picture that I was ashamed of.
  • We don’t know how many people actually saw our picture. It my have been copied on Facebook or Instagram.

This proved to be a powerful experience for our students.  I wish that I had thought of it.  Thank you, Andrea Kornowski @andreakornowski for the great idea!

The Tweets Heard Around the World – Part 1





Grab Students’ Attention – Meme It Up!

Memes are a great way to add some novelty and humor to lessons. This year I created a Prezi that used memes to teach my classroom expectations.   IMG_3481
It was a fun way to share what can be a dry subject.
Last year, students created sets of memes that Romeo and Juliet would make. It was a fun way to show their understanding of character.


There are many meme makers out there. I use the MeMatic app. Try it. You’ll be hooked.

Grouping and Pairing Students to Improve Engagement (Part 1- Beginning of Class)

The social studies teacher on my team asked, “What site do you use to get your grouping ideas?”

To be honest, I’m not sure. I know that I subscribe to professional magazines, newsletters, and blogs.  I also spend more time than I would like to admit looking for good ideas on Twitter and Pinterest.  🙂  However, I can not point to one single place where all of my ideas come from. Many are simply things that I come up with on the fly. Others are hybrids of ideas that I’ve read about.

If I accidentally share one of your ideas…Please remember – imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

1. Index Cards – I love index cards.  They can be used in so many ways.  I like to hand them out at the door with instructions posted on the board. “Use the words/phrases/symbols on the cards to group yourselves in a logical way.” What I write on them depends on how I want to group the students:

  • pairs: synonyms/antonyms; cause & effect; riddles and answers; terms & definitions; state & capitol; picture & metaphor
  • small groups: lines from characters; quotes related to themes we are studying; characters and character traits; math problems with same solutions; colors
  • ordered lines: “I have…who has” (see post from Jan. 28); events related to unit of study; order of steps in solving an equation; order of the planets, events in a story

2. Playing Cards – Uno, Old Maid, regular playing cards…It really doesn’t matter.  There is just something so intriguing to students when you stand at the door saying, “Pick a card.  Any card.”

3. Dominoes – Practically indestructible.  One reason these are great is that you can group by: number of dots; color; sum of dots or many other ways.

4. Stickers – Kids love them.  Group by type, color, size, etc.  An added bonus is the opportunity for a quick hello with every student.

These are just a few ideas.  I would love to hear your suggestions.


Relevance – Making Connections

Composing an epic rap battle or poem for two voices based on two characters from the novel.  What does this have to do with my life?

Good question!

Today I had my students create a ‘tweet’ that answered that question.  I wanted to make sure that the relevance didn’t get lost in the fun/frustration of small group composing.

Here are a few ‘tweets’ from my classes:
  • Be on topic when you write a poem, rap battle or anything.
  • The life-long lesson for this assignment is to be able to show two people’s opinions on something.
  • ….to see if we can find the relationship between two or more people and write from two different points of view. #feartherap
  • …shows both side of the story….helps us practice conflict and comparison between two people.

  • How to talk and write things.  I say this because you need to write to get a job and talk to the person.
  • Using writing skills, reading and language to make sense.
  • Rhyming, writing, reading and seeing other’s points of view.
  • Show you how to see two sides to a situation, which can help you find a solution or strengthen your arguments.

  •  Getting the chance to write in different styles and express your thoughts in ways you never thought of.
  • Always see two side of a story and hear out the sides before choosing one. 
  • How to express a point, persuade people or learn to express yourself.  And learn how to work with others.
  • If you only do things that you are used to doing and make you comfortable, you won’t be able to do different things. Raps or poems change u.
  • Arguments or debates can be formatted and resolved in many different ways.

  • Vocabulary skills are a good thing to work on for life!
  • Manners and being nice are things I can use in the future.
  • Different people, different lifestyles: different ways people see the world/life.
  • Some things will be hard, but you have to do it anyway. #Philip’sLife
  • The best is to be able to see the argument from another person’s perspective to try to understand how they may react.
  • Ms. Narwin and Philip are showing how you won’t like everyone you meet, but you will have to work with them.