Tag Archives: end of year

Reflecting on the Whatzit

Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, is a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero.  One of the games I like to use in my classroom is “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe.”  We generally play it to think deeper about novels that we have read, but I decided to try it as an end-of-year reflection activity yesterday.

We don’t play the game as the rules state in the book.  I put the grid up on the interactive white board and all of the prompts are covered.  The students are divided into teams, and I start the game by uncovering one of the prompts.  Then all of the teams have 5 minutes to write down an answer.

The prompts all have the word, “Whatzit” in them, and we substitute our topic for that word.  So, yesterday, we substituted GT (Gifted and Talented Class) for “Whatzit.”  For example, one of the questions is, “List three important features of the Whatzit,” and the students wrote 3 important features of our GT class.

After 5 minutes, all teams submit their answers without any names on them.  I shuffle them, and read all of the answers out loud, then select the one that “Wows” me the most (kind of Apples to Apples style).  The winning team members reveal themselves and they get a point.  Then they select the next topic.

Students are always engaged when they play this.  Plus, they are super quiet because they don’t want the other teams or me, the judge, to hear their answers.  But what I love most about this game is the variety of answers and what I learn about myself, my class, and the students.

One prompt is, “List two very different kinds of features of the Whatzit.”  The winning team wrote, “Learning and fun.”  I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or cry because this could be interpreted to mean that learning and fun don’t usually coincide in their lives.

I would like to be proud that a team listed me as one of the important features of GT, but that was probably a strategic move more than a heartfelt one 😉

I must say that, having dealt with intermittent internet for the last few weeks, I was definitely in agreement with the team that, in answer to, “Which feature of the Whatzit is hardest to understand?” responded, “When technology doesn’t work.”

Yep, definitely top of my list of things that are hard to understand in my class.  Well, that and why kids always move faster when you start counting even when you don’t tell them what number you’re counting to and what terrible thing will happen if you get there.  I seriously will never understand that – but like technology, it comes in handy sometimes…

Whatzit?

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Give Them a Surprise Ending

I always laugh when people say that we should end school earlier in the year because the last few weeks are a waste.  What do they think would happen if school stopped in April?  Somehow I doubt the teachers or students would be any less eager for the last day.  The way I see it, the only way to fix this problem is to never have a last day – or to never tell anyone when it is.

“Ok, boys and girls.  Bus riders are dismissed and so are car-riders and walkers. Oh, and by the way, there’s no school for the next 2 1/2 months.”

Yep.  That would go over well.

A surprise end-date probably won’t get the approval of any school board on this planet, so I recommend a surprise ending, instead.

What do I mean?  I mean, don’t resort to the predictable, let’s-show-movies-and-wear-pajamas-and-read-all-day plans that are the fallback for so many teachers this time of year.  This is your time to M. Night Shyamalan your way into teaching fame!  (But not in a spooky “Guess what, you’re dead, too,” way – more in a “School is way more than filling in bubbles on a piece of paper” way.)

How can you surprise them?  Here are some activities that could make the highlight reels of your students’ year.

What suggestions do you have to make these last days memorable for your students?  Put them in the comments below!

 

End the year like this... (image from Tetsumo on Flickr)
End the year like this!
(image from Tetsumo on Flickr)

Alternatives to Showing the Movie Frozen for the Next 14 Days

You know how it goes.  Grades are turned in.  Textbooks have been collected.  The computer lab is shut down.  But the activity level of our students has gone up.  What’s a teacher supposed to do?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been trying to get my students to reflect on the year.  Using our class blog as a reference has helped tremendously.

Yesterday, with my GT 1st graders, I also asked them to look through the blog posts for their grade level.  They used a simple printable I found from Laura Candler to write their favorite moments of the year.  Here are some examples:

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Using divergent thinking for activities like the Squiggle Challenge and S.C.A.M.P.E.R. were very popular with this class.  Speaking of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., here is what some of them did with a page from my Summer Pool Party S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet – Put an inflatable pool cushion to another use. (By the way, all of my grade levels, K-5, love doing S.C.A.M.P.E.R. drawings!)

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One of the blog posts the first graders “re-discovered” as they reflected was this one.  Try showing the Kid President video at the bottom of that post, and see if your own students can add to the list.  We used Padlet, but old-fashioned pencil and paper works, too!

Here are some other ideas from past posts for making the last couple of weeks fun and engaging:

I would also recommend checking out the Not Just Child’s Play blog by Joelle Trayers for ideas.  That woman always has creative suggestions that can be modified for any elementary grade level!

Using Pic Collage as a Mini Yearbook

Pic Collage

I have 2 blogs that I try to post to each day – this one and a class blog.  My goal for this year was to have the students take over the class blog posts, but that was only partially successful and will be part of my Epic Fails for the Year series in the near future. Part 2 of that particular Epic Fail was getting people to actually read the class blog.  As far as I can tell, only a sprinkling of parents read the posts.  But a few did seem to appreciate them so I trudged on.

I included a lot of pictures throughout the year on the class blog.  The students rarely looked at them, but were excited when I would take a moment to show them in class.  Since I only see most of my GT classes once a week, I must admit that part of my motivation for keeping this up was selfish; the posts and the pics have been helpful to me just to jog my memory every time I do lesson plans 😉

Yesterday was my last class with my 2nd grade GT students.  I like them to do some sort of reflection at the end of the year, and we usually spend a lot of time reviewing the events of the past 9 months. (Otherwise, their favorite memory tends to be the very last thing we did.) This year, I decided to try something different.

I showed the students how to access the categories of our class blog so they could view all of the posts for 2nd grade for this year.  Then they went through the posts, and chose pictures that were meaningful to them.  As they were on iPads, I taught them how to hold their finger on an image to save it to the Camera Roll (fair warning – this is a tricky skill for 2nd graders).  After about 30 minutes, I showed them the Pic Collage app.  They were allowed to add any pictures that they wanted to their collages.  Many added text (and stickers, of course!)  They loved the activity.  When they were finished, each student had a personal poster to remind him or her of the year in GT.  If we had more time, we would have made ThingLinks with reflections, similar to last year.

Of course, you can do this activity without iPads.  Canva is a cross-platform online tool that is great for collecting pictures, and there are many others.  My favorite part was giving the students the opportunity to choose what had been the most meaningful moments to them during the year – and a creative way for them to display this.

UPDATE: Here are some other ways to use Pic Collage from Richard Byrne at Free Tech 4 Teachers.

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