Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friday Activities

Friday's are crazy days in my class.  For one thing, each class is only 30 minutes.  For another, I usually pack three activities into that short amount of time: assignment turn-in, geography skills practice and a raffle.  It's a bit of sprint for me as I teach for 3 hours straight with no break.

Assignment Turn-in
I don't like to collect things on a daily basis, instead choosing to do so on a weekly basis. In theory, this should mean that I am keeping my grades up to date weekly, but somehow things just don't work out that way.   At any rate, I have the students turn assignments in by passing them up their section to a person in the front row whom I designate as the "first level of quality control."  Then that person is suppose to pass the assignments over to the student sitting closest to my desk. I then take the pile from them and place it directly in front of my monitor (so that the pile can be forever calling out "grade me!"

Geography Skills
I like to use most Friday's as a day to focus on geography skills. So, we get out the trusty atlas and I make students search for things.  I use two different online geo quiz resources.  One at and another at  The first one requires the students to read through a paragraph to decipher what it is they are looking for.  Then they have to decide what key word(s) to look up in the index of their atlas.  While they are searching I walk around the room and students raise their hand when they think they have the right answers.  They point in their atlas and I give them creative economy money if they are correct. The second is more of a traditional quiz, so I alter it a bit by sometimes making them show me in their atlas what the right is.  This past Friday I tried something new which was to use the activote devices so that the students could register their response electronically.  You can see the device below.  The second image is a screenshot I took of a geobee question with the activote spreadsheet overlayed on it, just like the students would see in class.  I have signed us up for the National Geographic Bee (click on the link above to read more about it), so hopefully the time we spend on Friday is helping to prepare the students for that.

Creative Economy Raffle
Finally, the last five minutes of class we have a raffle.  While students are getting their assignments ready to turn-in at the beginning of class, I walk around and "sell" raffle tickets.  The prices varies depending on "what the market will bear".  I started out charging 1 dollar, but the price has risen to 3 dollars now that students have had some time to earn money.  Usually, I take the money collected and divide it up among the winners of the raffle.  It's a pretty fun way to end the week. 

I would love to know what you think about these Friday activities.  You can comment by clicking here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Church Poems

Sunday, October 18, 2009

10/12-10/16 Update

This past week started out with me being quite sick on Monday and Tuesday. After my family had been sick the week before, I knew that I was at higher risk for catching something, and boy did I. So I ended up staying home on Monday and Tuesday. On those days, students finished up chapter 3 about The Church and began chapter 4 about Town Life in the middle ages. I came back Wednesday and rewarded the students with a trip to the computer lab. In the lab, students updated their blogs by making a post that reflected on their Church Poems which were turned in on Monday. They also had a chance to trade stocks on (by the way, some of the students are really having fun playing the market!). One of my main goals in the lab, however, was to introduce them to voicethread (click to watch a short demo), a web application that allows group conversations around images. To do that, I created a practice voicethread (click to see it) using one of the pictures from the textbook that shows town life in the middle ages. All of this was designed to prepare them to use voicethread as a way of reflecting on their church poems and provided feedback on their classmates' poems. On Thursday we were back in the classroom where I began teaching students about marking the text and using an abbreviated code in the margins. Specifically, we learned how to connect to prior knowledge and to pose questions as they read. I had to make a copy of a page in the text as I don't want students writing in the textbooks. This week, we may try placing a clear transparency sheet in the textbook and letting students write on that as they read so I don't have make copies of the text (which seems like somewhat of an overuse of paper). Finally, on Friday, I decided to go for it and let the students use voicethread to make comments on their church poems. You can view the voicethread here.

This past Tuesday was also a 15 day progress update. Many students are still working with me to get their missing work turned in. But because I have also been out more than I'd like, it has been difficult to connect with every student. So, if a student is missing work from the previous three weeks or so, I am giving them more time to get that turned in. On the next progress report, however, I will be turning those missing assignments to zero's, at which time they will negatively impact the grade.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finishing Feudalism, Touring Europe, Writing about the Church

To start, I know that many students have been waiting patiently for me to update their grades.  Over the weekend I inserted a bunch of scores, so you should see that reflected in your online grades.

In terms of class activities, this past week we finished chapter 2 about the social structure of the middle ages. I placed a poll on Edmodo, our class microblogging platform, asking students about which social class they would rather have been born into in the middle ages. Here are the results:

On Thursday we began our next lesson, about the influence of the church on life in Europe during the middle ages. We are in the midst of a pretty neat activity that I call a "Tour of Europe".  I have placed the students into 6 groups. Each group gets to discuss and read a section of the textbook, as well as engage in an activty to help them learn about an aspect of the church. For example, one group is learning about holidays, which they now know are actually holy-days. They listen to two different pieces of music and discuss the differences. Another group is learning about medieval church art and achitecture, so they get to build a gargoyle out of playdough. Here's a picture of one such gargoyle:

This week we will continue learning about the church.  And, for our summative assessment, we will do a small project which involves the students writing a short poem, rather than taking a quiz.  You can view the assignment sheet here:
The Church Poem

Also, the scoring guide that I will use to evaluate them can be viewed here:
The Church Poem Scoring Guide

Finally, a sample of the work that students have done in the past is here: 

I hope that gives you a good sense of what we've been up to and where we're headed.  As always, if you have any comments or questions, you can use the comment feature at the end of each blog post if you're reading this on your email, click here