Think Outside the Box

Think Outside the Box

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.

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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.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The PERFECT Planner

Day Designer®

Day Designer by Whitney English | Blue Sky

I'm totally LOVING this new planner! As it says in the graphic, usually I end up making my own because I NEED a tabbed monthly calendar, a weekly glance, and enough room in the days to write all my plans and ideas.  I ran into this beauty on the end cap of the office supply aisle at Target.  

There were many styles and sizes to choose from, all a little different with just months, bigger days, smaller weeks, full-size desk and hanging calendars, etc.  But this particular one is perfect for me.

I love the "Today's Top Three" in the weekly view, and the "Tonight" box at the bottom of each day is perfect for dinner planning.  But the very best part, in my opinion, are the check boxes!  I love checklists.  I love checking things off of check lists!  I confess, sometimes I put really easy things on my checklist, like brush teeth, take shower, just so that I know I will get to check something off.  (And because its summer, so its a good reminder not to stay in my pajamas/bathing suit all day.)

Gearing Up for the School Year

This design is by Whitney English.  I found her on the web, check out all of her super cute planners, organizers, and printables on the website.  (Or go to Target, you know you will be there at least once this week.  And check out her adorable, functional, practical designs in the office supply section - NOT THE SCHOOL SUPPLY SECTION.)

Please note that I bought this planner at Target, but I have not been contacted or encouraged in any way by the organization to write this post.  These opinions are my own.

What are your MUST HAVES in a planner?  Which school supplies are your favorite to buy?  Leave me a note in the comments.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Classroom Under Construction

"Sure, You Can Move in on Monday." - Ms. Alice, head custodian

I don't have any pictures from yesterday, I was too frazzled to think to take any.  

I was SUPER excited to load up my car on Sunday night and *finally*  get my school stuff out of my garage to take it to my new school.  I carefully organized the plastic storage bins, plastic drawers, milk crates and boxes of really important stuff that MUST go with me to my new school and it all fit in ONE trip!

It's July, in Florida, I didn't want to be moving boxes from my car to the disjointed classroom building a quarter mile away, in the dead heat of midday.  So, I showed up at school at 7am.  (With breakfast for the custodians, because everybody knows that you need to first win over the custodians and the front office staff when you start a new job.)

Ms. Alice greeted me with a welcoming shout from the flower bed she and her staff were pruning.  She sent Ms. Edna to get me a flatbed cart, and the three of us unloaded my car and walked to building seven, where my classroom is.

We got in, turned on the light, and lo and behold, it is not empty.  It is not close to empty.  There are some stacks of books and a mini fridge on the back counter.  All the bookshelves have shells, and books, and games, and more shells... 

I was too excited to just put my stuff back in my car, so I piled it on the middle student tables and waited.  I found another teacher, who in her words, "runs our hall".  She said the teacher planned to be in today to move... but she didn't know what time.

I felt really awkward.  I didn't want to box up her stuff, because frankly, I wouldn't want anyone going through my stuff... and I didn't want her to get mad at me for pushing her out... but, well, I want my garage back!

I waited around for an hour, trying to imagine room configurations.  Eventually I left.  I have training today and tomorrow, so on Thursday I'll go back.  Hopefully all my stuff is still there and all of her stuff has been moved out.  We'll see.

How excited are you to set up your room?  Leave a note in the comments.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Setting Students Up for Success

Identify Resources and Set SMART Goals

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I've got a *NEW* offering on!  I used this little 2-page number last year in the front of our interactive notebooks.  When I used it last year, I basically did a micro-lesson (not even a mini-lesson) on SMART goals and study skills.  Next time I do it, I'll use it as part of a "flipped" lesson that includes some cool infographics on technology tools, various study strategies, and goal setting.  (Here I go making "flipped" plans when I said I wasn't going to make that my 1st quarter technology goal... well, it can be a supplement, right?)

This post by Learning in Hand by Tony Vincent, would be my "go to" for tech tools.  I'd explain each of these generally and let the kids explore them individually.  It covers the web and mobile apps for the following product types (*don't forget to differentiate the product*): audio recordings, collages, comics, posters, slide shows, digital books, narrated slide shows, movies, animations, screencasts, study aids, and other useful sites.

I think I'll be able to assign choices in my technology station (I'm really hoping I can get funding for 5 Chromebooks and 5 iPad Minis, have you checked out lately?)  And I hear that we are a Google Classroom school district, so as I learn how that works I can have the digital media submitted, graded, and returned all without paper rubrics!  Wahoo!

In terms of study skills, I've been saying for years that I want to do a book study on Study Smarter, Not Harder by Kevin Paul, MA.  On one of my adventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, I found myself in the capital of Accra.  I wandered around Kwame Nkrumah Circle (in tro-tro speak that would be the “Circ-Circ-Circ!" stop) toward the central bank.  As you walk from the station on Ring Road, the book store (the name of which I can't remember) is on the left-hand side.  The front is unassuming, but its a two story, air-conditioned (this is a big deal!) store with familiar organization and classroom supplies that make me wonder if the owners are foreign or have lived internationally.   This book leapt of the shelf at me, and I used it with my tutoring  students.  I used the money their parents' tried to pay me to purchase books for them to use in the future.  I gave them each a copy of this one, and a random college level biology text.  It's a great book for high school aged students.  It's funny, it's straightforward, it's written in a conversational tone, and it has fantastic, simple steps to optimize retention and  learning.  I liked the pictures of the brain studying so much that I made a bulletin board in front of the headmaster's office of the brain with the retention graph.  Here's an example lifted from Amazon's preview.

Maybe this will be the year that I finally buy a half-class set and offer a study skills tutoring session before school.  Or maybe I'll have an online book club and we can use this as our first book.  Have any of you ever tried something like this?  How has it worked?

Last, but not least, I would include a breakdown of SMART goal setting, reinforcing small goals that build up over time to a larger goal.  I would have the kids set specific due dates in their planners, and make sure to schedule conferences at those times (i.e. the week before interims).

How do you help your students set goals and use resources?  Do you have any favorite study strategies to share?  Leave a message in the comments.