Sunday, September 6, 2015

I Felt Like Chris Farley

Want to get your kids' attention? 

Beyond the “get to know you papers”

As my 8th grader was getting ready for baseball practice, he put his hand to his head and said, “Oh no, I have homework…another get to know you paper. These are so dumb”. It clicked at that moment. For middle and high school students,  “get to know you surveys”, though often well intended often become a burden and boring to our students.  For years, I’ve collected paper from both my kids and parents, and read every one of them, but I wonder how many of the items on those papers are well-thought out. I mean, one can only write their favorite summer memory so many times…

Your mission should you choose to accept it…

I wanted to take a moment to share with you one of the most engaging back to school activities I’ve done in a long time.  I often hear from other teachers about how we should get to know the kids, how we should build our classroom atmosphere and develop relationships with our kids.  In my opinion, there’s no greater way to get to know your kids and tell them you care, than by showing them you trust them. The following activity is based completely around trust. Allowing my classes to roam around our building, with their phones, and interact with numerous adults had me worried, but also had me completely energized at the possibilities of what this could lead to…one hundred plus students moving around our building in small teams on the third day of school…what could go wrong? I’ll answer that now. Nothing.

Mission Impossible:

Class began with me playing that awesome catchy Mission Impossible theme song. Music played for a few seconds, and I picked up the cheesiest pair of sunglasses I could find. I placed them on my face and began to move around like Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja – doing a roll on the floor and sliding over desks to deliver their “top secret missions”. I had them. I knew right then when I pushed play on that song, that this was going to be an awesome day. Once the music stopped, and my instructional aide, who is working with me for the first time, picked her jaw up off of the floor, I debriefed them on their mission. I also told them how I was unable to be the lead in the movie that came out this summer...they hired some "Tom Cruise" guy, but I was able to be his stunt double - as they could easily see by my athletic prowess. 

The mission gives guidelines, expectation, and the tasks. I attached the mission here. If you're unable to access or would like an email copy please let me know.

As students were moving around the building, I was using Remind to check for status updates and send out various “secret” missions for the kids to complete. I was able to tell my kids to check in with me, report to a specific location, or even when to report back to class. One of my goals this year was to incorporate Remind into my classroom beyond just texting reminders to my students about their work or turning in a paper. I was looking for ways to engage kids in my class with something every teenager loves- texting. My kids were soon texting me pictures of their completed missions which I shared to our Facebook and Twitter, almost immediately.
My kids sharing a fist-bump with the Head Principal
Finding some great books in the library!

Thanking the cafeteria staff.
High-five with the Assistant Principal!
Sharing a secret with me.

Mission Complete

The day after the lesson the class was still buzzing with questions about doing this again and who they took pictures with, and ideas for possible book titles. I was able to interact with every group and even hear some of their most interesting secrets on the third day of school! I thanked them for their efforts and discussed with them about what it really means to trust someone. It's something you don't just get, but have to earn. My students know I trust them, and in turn they trust me. This will go a long way in helping them to take risks and learn.

When we head into class next week, we’ll be creating book covers using this amazing site Canva!  My kids will be sharing photos via google docs and discussing digital citizenship, designing and creating book covers, discussing those books, and working collaboratively…after only a few days of school. I know this is going to be an amazing year. By the way, his blog post will self destruct in five seconds…