Think Outside the Box

Think Outside the Box

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Was the quiz hard?" "No, it was so much fun!"

This is the actual exchange I heard as third block transitioned to fourth.  

Check out Kahoot!  To create a free account, go to then create your own assessment or browse the thousands of quizzes that have been created by others.  I was thrilled to see the scarlet macaw from our textbook staring back at me.  This is the quiz I gave today. 

When you've picked one out, you can save it to your account.  The kids use a free app on their smartphone or tablet, or the web at on the Chromebook or laptop.

You'll project the questions via your computer/projector, and the kids will use their devices to respond to the multiple choice questions.  They log in using the game pin generated by your account, and then are prompted for their nickname.  (Why couldn't Kahoot just ask for first name, last initial?  I hate nickname, because inevitably, no matter how many times I say, "I don't want your nickname."  The Tobinator shows up on my screen and I have to kick him out.) 

But it's not just a quiz, it's a competition.  Just like trivia at your favorite wing place, you get the most points by answering quickly and correctly.  The kids just get 4 colored blocks in their screens, and they match their answer choice to the associated block.  There is the option to play some stress inducing music during the questions, and each question defaults to 20 seconds to answer. Once all the devices have answered (don't mess up, you can't change your answer),  or the time expires, the correct answer is left on the screen.  Then the leaderboard shows up.  My kids were so excited to see their names on the board, and even more excited to bump the leader off the top spot.

My students were 100% engaged.  (It would have been a FANTASTIC time for an administrator to do a walk through...). Even the students that seemed like they'd be too cool, were into it.  Students that have already seemed to check out were completly tuned in!  I let those without smartphones team up with a partner, the collaboration and discussion was awesome to watch.

During my fourth block class all my freshmen were called out for their grade level assembly.  The few upperclassmen that were left got to take their quiz on Kahoot.  The freshmen returned right as we finished up, they'll have to take the same questions tomorrow via paper based quiz, they are so disappointed.  Someone even whined that they should have skipped the boring assembly to take the quiz instead. (So surreal!)

I loved it.  I do think it might be helpful to print the questions or something, because sometimes a slow reader might fall behind. 

Do you Kahoot? Leave me a message in the comments.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Its Going to Be a Great Year


Tomorrow is the first day of school, and I'm more excited than usual.  I'm starting at a new school, in a new grade (high school!), and its all very... new.

I've been researching and planning all summer, getting ready to make the transition from 8th grade to 9th grade.  I've spent many days in the school supply aisle drooling over the best gel pens and mechanical pencils with refillable erasers.  I've spent the last week working in my classroom, making copies, planning lessons, and learning how to work my new interactive whiteboard.  I submitted my lesson plans a week early.  I set up my grade book, printed my class lists, and laminated my salvaged DNA borders (who would toss such amazing things?!?).

Now I'm READY.  Let's just get this show on the road already!

I'm sure the day won't go perfectly.  First days weeks never do; they don't go exactly as planned.  Somewhere between "Characteristics of Living Things" and the Heartbeat Lab, I'm sure there will be grade level assemblies that take up half a day, and possibly an unplanned fire drill as the first hooligan establishes their place in the high school ecosystem.

But, I'm SO ready!  I'm excited to meet my kids, to get to put on my show, to start empowering and exciting a new group.  And I'm so lucky because I get to start the year celebrating.  I know this is going to be an exceptional school year!

Happy Back to School!

Leave a note in the comments.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Characteristics of Stars

Same Old Notes - More Interesting Format

This one is for Stacey, as she journeys to outer space immediately following nature of science.  I've used the following to make the standard notes on the characteristics of stars a little more interesting. 

The photos aren't great, I was snapping away as I came across them during my room setup. 

In a different school year, I had more time for the kids to cut and be creative, so I had them make this "foldable".  However, they FREAKED OUT because their stars were not perfect... if you have  a lot of type A students, maybe have a printable they can cut out.

With my honors kids, late in the school year, all I had to do was give them the topics and the foldable.  With my standard kids, earlier in the year, I'd do a lot more guiding.

How have you made boring notes seem more interesting?  Leave me a note in the comments.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

How To: Use the Confusion Bubble Worksheets

Reflecting on Learning

This is an activity I use before EVERY test.  I really like it.  The kids seem to enjoy it.  The grouping tends to be different for every unit, and it has gotten me some INNOVATING points on my Marzano Evaluations.

Download for FREE!

I've got another *NEW* offering on!  I developed this a couple of years ago in a file folder format, and then made it much more *cute* and able to fit in our interactive notebooks.  

How To: Use the Confusion Bubble Worksheets

  1. Print the worksheets
    • Areas of Confusion
    • Answers to Clarifying Questions
  2. In the thought bubbles, students record words or phrases that about the unit / topic that are confusing.  (NO SENTENCES!)
  3. Once the confusing points have been identified, think about how to make those topics into specific questions.
    • Write these questions in the CLARIFYING QUESTIONS area. 
    • Students should have AT LEAST one question per thought bubble / confusion point.
  4. Each student identifies the question (or two) that makes him/her most uncomfortable or confused.
    • I like to say, “Which of these topics would most make you sick if I were to ask you to explain it right now.”
    • Circle, highlight, or star the question(s) that make the student most uncomfortable.
  5. TEACHER: Record the uncomfortable topic from each student, and pair students with similar points of confusion.
  6. Allow each pair to use a research device (computer, tablet, textbook, etc.) to find the answers to the specific questions.
    • Start with the MOST UNCOMFORTABLE questions first.
    • DO NOT DIVIDE AND CONQUER! (Both partners must work together, do not work alone.)
    • Research and record information / notes / pictures in the student notebook.
    • Research ALL of the questions written by both partners in the pair.
    • Discuss amongst partners to be sure each partner understands completely.
  7. AFTER all of the research has been recorded:
    • Summarize the information.
    • Completely answer on the ANSWERS TO CLARIFYING QUESTIONS page.

HS Science Example:

Junior High Math Example:

Elementary Language Arts Example:

(My apologies if this elementary example is “way off”.  I looked at the 2nd grade common core standards to make this example.  But, I’ve only ever taught middle and high school, so forgive me if I’m off base.  Please put comments in the response if it needs to change.)

Leave me a note in the comments.