Thursday, January 5, 2017

5 Creative Ways To Do A Book Report

After spending the entire quarter reading through Percy Jackson, I wanted the students to show me they truly followed along to the book. We had not done any major projects in my class yet, so I thought finding a few to use as an alternative to a book report would be fun! I gave my students five options to choose from. Each project was worth a different amount of points depending on the difficulty.

- Students can get to express their creativity.
- Students become a little more excited about the book they read.
- Students have opportunities to collaborate with other students and work as a team.
- Students get to chose which project they do, increasing their interest.
- Students have the opportunity to judge what they are capable of and reflect on their decision after a grade is given.

- Five separate projects take much longer to grade.
- Five separate projects make it more difficult to manage the classroom during project week, and provides less structure.
- Five projects make it difficult for students to choose wisely because they are overwhelmed.


In the future, I would limit the amount of options the students have to two, no more than three. The great thing about teaching is I get to learn as well:)

I have listed the 5 projects below starting with my favorite project and leading to my least favorite project. I have given student examples, as well as provided links to the various tools or websites I found these project ideas originally. Let's get started!

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Here's what I like about the comic book: It allows students to think about what their favorite scene in the book was and recreate the scene in comic form. It gives them the opportunity to draw out what they envisioned and practice their artistic skills. Less of a book report, it is a fun way to teach students about various types of media. Graphic novels are popular, and many authors have taken to recreating their books in graphic novel format to appeal to more readers. This project gives students an opportunity to do just that. They get to reinvent the wheel and add their own twist on it. Here is a link to the page layouts I used. I can't remember where I found these, so shame on me. My rubric was simple. I'll attach it here, but you could always reformat it to fit your needs. I also found some other tools I might refer to if I did this in the future. ReadWriteThink has some resources, and I found this rubric that I would rather use in the future. 

I had my students look up their scene in the book and write down all of the dialogue. I told them to leave out any words on the page that were not in quotation marks. Their job was to write the dialogue in the speech bubbles on their comic book paper of choice, and then draw what the rest of the book had written. This activity also helps them think about how important word choice is and why descriptive writing is critical to helping the reader envision what is going on. 

 I really loved this project. I found this project from Got to Teach! You can visit this blog to find more information on the project, including the rubric which she offers for free. Steal of a deal!

A handful of students chose this project, about ten. This student allows for creativity and offers an opportunity to practice summarizing. This project was a lot of work - more than my students and I anticipated. Only one student received full credit on this project, and I'm not surprised he did. 

What I like about this project is that it shows me they were paying attention while reading the book. It gives them plenty of opportunities to practice summarizing. I also love that they get to draw a picture of each chapter. This is a great way to prove to me that they read the book, as well as give me some insight on what the book was about. 

If I was to do this project again, I would make it a project they work on over the course of reading the book, rather than after completing the book. This way, they have multiple weeks to work on it and they can complete each chapter at a time if they so chose. I would create check points to meet along the way. I think my students who completed this project would have been more successful if they had done it that way. Instead, my students underestimated how much time this project would take and wasted a lot of valuable time getting sidetracked during class. In the end, things were rushed and their work was clearly not their best. 

I would love to try this again and assign it to the whole class as they read books in their literature circles. I could "buy" them from the students when finished, and use the matchbook summaries in my library to advertise books for reluctant readers. This could also be good opportunity for students to work in groups and have them revise each others work and turn it in as a group grade. Lots of options!

I liked a lot of things about this project. I loved the creativity involved, I loved that students were able to work with partners, I loved that students were challenged to think outside of the box and problem solve. I was incredibly impressed with some of the work I was given. 

I found a great packet to help me structure this project. It required students to plan out what they want to do before hand, and provides a rubric for students to refer back to during the planning process. To access these materials, click here. :)

On the other hand, I did not like how difficult this project was to manage across the board. Some students were not prepared for this challenge. A lot of students were missing components. I disliked the drama amongst peers in groups. This is bound to happen in any group projects; however, I still did not enjoy managing the hurt feelings. I also don't feel like this is the best "book report" project. It shows me that they read the book, yes, but so much time is put into constructing the actual game and often students' work just didn't show me that they really remembered the book. Making a game is so creative that in turn it focusses ore on student creativity than retelling what they know. 

Many of them made great trivia question cards, but in my opinion that is the meat of the project. I need to see that they remembered what they read. If I were to do this project again, I would increase the amount of points given for the trivia cards as well as increase the amount of cards needed. 

Something to keep in mind: If you chose to do this project with your students, make sure to stock up on supplies. I hoped the students would bring most of their materials, while I provided basics; however, it appears that I will need to have many materials for them in order to help them be more successful next time. 

I would have ranked this project higher on the scale if the program I use would be a little more reliable. It truly is a super cool program and the kids really enjoyed making the trading cards. ReadWriteThink is where I found this awesome tool.

I had been looking for an opportunity to use the trading card tool, and a book report seemed like a fun way to utilize it! I told my students to chose 8 characters (or items/places) to make a trading card for. The cards ask meaningful questions, and the students need to use their words wisely due to the limited amount of space on the cards. I focused more on grammar and spelling on this project than I did others because the bulk of this assignment is spelling. I could have had the students draw their image, but I allowed them to find one on the internet they liked and use that instead. 

The dilemma: You cannot save and resume your work on these cards. The program makes it seem like you can do so, but you cannot. Either you cannot or I have yet to find a device that works well with the program. A student needs to start their card and perfect it by the end of the time they're given to work on it. I dislike that, because if we run out of time the student cannot fix mistakes they make if they discover them later. To combat this problem, students could type their answers in a google document and then paste them into the program later, when they've finished. It's a small hassle that would pay off in the end, I believe. 

Another dilemma: Sometimes, when you send the completed trading card to your email, the file does not send correctly. In turn, you get an error message, or you are prompted to download a program to open it with. Even this does not work, and your hard work vanishes. This is why I had my students work on one card at a time. After they finished their card, they would email it to themselves and then begin a new card. This is helpful in case the file does not download correctly. They only need to redo/resend one card rather than all of them. 

Even though this program causes problems, I think I would use it again in the future. I would provide a template with the questions they need to answer and have the students write their answers in a google document first and copy and paste later into the program. Still, that takes some of the fun out of using the program for the students. You win some, you lose some. 

There is nothing wrong with this project, I simply wouldn't chose to do it with 6th graders or up. This project is much better for 2-4th graders, I think. This project did not challenge nor interest my students. Only a handful of them chose to do this project. 

On the other hand, this project is the most "book report" like project I had them do. The students rated the book on a scale of 1-5, summarized, and described the main conflict and the main characters. They also have the opportunity to be creative by decorating the box, coming up with a fun name for the cereal, creating a game for the back of the box, and creating a prize  to find inside the box. 

Here is a link to the packet I used for this project.

Best of luck with your book report projects! Comment with some of your favorite book report ideas, share on Pinterest and follow my blog. :) Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

White, Wexican, Mexican - My Wakeup Call to the Racial Prejudices in the Education System

Today, one of my favorite (shhh, don't tell!) students was waiting to get picked up from detention. I asked him about it and here was our conversation:

Me: Why were you in detention?

Student: Because I said something really nasty to another student.

Me: Well why did you do that?

Student: Because it was the right thing to do. I was standing up for myself.

Me: Well what did he say to you?

Student: He said I was stupid and fat.

Me: What did you say back?

Student: I said he was a piece of trash, and that I don't talk trash I burn it. 

Me: Well, you don't need to say something mean when you're standing up for yourself. I'm glad you want to stand up for yourself, but you can be the bigger person.

Student: No I can't.

Me: Why?

Student: Because he's white. White people are better than me.

Me: What makes you say that?

Student: Because they're rich.

Me: That's not true. I'm white and I'm broke!

Student: No, you're Wexican. 

I learned a couple of things from this experience.

1. This student is always in ISS, detention, lunch bunch, etc. And yet, I truly believe he has a better heart than many of the students at our school. He didn't pick on that kid, he stood up for himself. And he has shown me countless times that despite his tough facade, he really has a genuine heart.

2. Racial prejudice at this school exists more than I thought it did, and while students make joke around, it is real. In this conversation, this student wasn't making excuses, he was speaking from his own version of reality.

3. Somehow, in building a rapport  with this student, he doesn't view me as "white" which appears to be an enemy figure in his life. I am now Wexican (white-mexican).

I just feel heartbroken and distressed. This student has so much potential and he buries it to try and guard his heart, self-esteem, and ethnicity.

I want the kind of relationship I have with this student with every student. More importantly, I want to figure out how to use this relationship to help him break out of his comfort zone and accomplish more than he currently sets his mind to. I just have no idea how.

This post will not provide any answers to these questions. I only wanted to share a real experience I have that has awakened my senses and placed in me a stronger desire to build even more authentic relationships with my students, as well as do my best to speak out against these prejudices. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reflecting On the First Month of School

I'm truthfully in SHOCK that we've already had a month of school. It's astonishing to me, really. Where the heck did the last four weeks go?

Not only that, but today was pay day! Unfortunately I haven't gotten paid yet. However, this morning my principle and both assistant principals came and interrupted my second block to say "HAPPY FIRST PAYCHECK DAY!" They proceeded to give me a giant Kit Kat Bar. 

The people I work with are truly wonderful people. It truly feels like a giant family! 

I'll be honest, I didn't see myself in a middle school. Even now, it's strange at times when I think about how half of the students in my school are taller than me! However, I am pleasantly surprised and happy to say that these 6th graders remind me of my 5th graders last year, and they definitely still act like the crazy weirdo kids I love to be around. 

The first three weeks were crazy. I had hardly touched on content. 50 minutes is just not that much time! Trying to help kids reach adequacy when signing onto the Chromebooks, and further onto various websites is time consuming! 

So here we are, a month in, and I finally feel like I'm doing something meaningful! One of my colleagues told me a few times "3 for 33" - the idea that, if you spend the first 3 weeks drilling down routines and expectations, the rest of the year will go more effectively. This was reassuring:)

Working with children is really one of the best jobs in the world. It's incredibly fulfilling. Sure I get blank stares. Yes I know I annoy my students at times, and I might not always be "cool." But I love to joke around with my students. I love to make them laugh, or point out the elephant in the room. I especially love just building relationships with them. 

The problem? I can't stop buying books. I can always justify buying more books because I just want them to read and love reading! Today a student was looking for a book he wanted to read and he couldn't find it. I immediately thought, "Well I'll just go to the ARC and find a copy and buy it for you!" I'm a sucker for these kids. I hate to disappoint them and I want to be able to provide them with what they need!

Watching them laugh is one of my favorite things. They are so funny, and so WEIRD (in the best way)! I'm not kidding, some of my students do things just like this. 

 I thought having 100 students would inhibit me from building strong relationships with the students (and maybe in some ways it will), but really I just feel lucky that I get to see so many faces in the day. I really wish you guys could meet them, because they're a joy to be around. The best thing: the kids that drive me nuts are often the ones that make me smile the most. I feel so proud of them when they do their best. 

I know it's important to hold down the law, but sometimes you just have to laugh. These kids aren't just a job, they're not just students. They're the people I spend all day every day with. It's impossible to not love them. How can I not smile when they smile? How can I not laugh when they laugh at something stupid they did? They're funny and I love spending each day with them. 

If they fart in class, I laugh. It's too funny not to laugh when you know it was an accident! Recently, one of my students criticized what she thought was one of her peer's responses, only to find out it was her own! Her table mates burst out laughing and fell on the floor. We were all hunched over because it WAS funny, and she had a good attitude about it! 

When they say something stupid, I point out that they're a goober and they know it! It really cracks me up when I call a student out on their balogna, and a student says "Oooh! SAVAGE!" LOL

I'm definitely learning how sneaky they can be! Yet sometimes, they think they're sneakier than they are! I am starting to grow a pair of eyes in the back of my head. 

I'm usually a night owl, so I'd hear about teachers going to bed at 8 or 9 and think, "how are they doing that?" I get it now. I get home at 7 and go to bed. I'm just tired all the time!

Literally, all the time. 

I appreciate that there is always coffee in the break room!

So yeah, it's difficult. I have an hour drive to work, I repeat myself a million times. I deal with kids that blurt every five seconds, and students who stare at you and make you wonder if anyone is home. I grade and grade and grade, I stay at school till 8:00pm at times. Even still, it's the most rewarding job. I feel so blessed that I have this opportunity and I know I'm in the right place. 

I'd say my job is pretty great. It is so worth it. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Classroom Contracts

The year is flying by before my eyes. How is it already the first week of school? Worse? I look back and can hardly remember what we've even done the first few weeks. Getting into a routine is difficult and I can't wait to get further into the year when expectations and routines come more naturally to the students. *knock on wood*

It's taken me a while to get everything situated and going as planned. The first/second day of school, the class and I made contracts and signed them. I asked the students to think, pair, share some expectations we could set as a class. 

I had a student write them on the board as they were suggested, and helped to refine them. When the class ran out of ideas, and I saw everything I needed on the board, I had the students come up to the board and sign their names somewhere around or under the expectations. I took a photo and erased the board and then it was my turn! The students came up with expectations for me. After I saw what I wanted to see on the board, and they ran out of ideas, I signed my name and took a photo as well. I then developed the photos at Walgreens. 

On Thursday in the first week we voted on a class team name at the beginning of the week. Each student had the opportunity to write down an idea for a class team name. I wrote them on the board and had the students vote on the anonymous name ideas. We ended up with: The Gladiators, The Colts, The Dabbing Diamonds, The Lightening Bears, and Drake Latte. 

I then gave the students a template of a flag for them to take home over the weekend. The flag drawings were due Tuesday morning. Students drew ideas for the class flag, which also becomes the game piece for the class management game. (See my classroom management game post here)

The students had some GREAT flags! I especially loved all of the Dabbing Diamond flags. 

I uploaded photos of the flags into a Google Form through Google Classroom and had the students chose which flag they liked best. We then looked at the pie chart as a class and discovered together which flag won, and which flags were in close second, third, and so on. (It was a great opportunity for me to check out some of Google's classroom tools)

I have a bulletin board outside of my classroom, so I seized the opportunity to make it our classroom community board. I used pushpins and some twine to hang the photos on. The class expectations hang on the left of each string, and the teacher expectations hang on the right side. Their class flag goes in the middle. 

I asked the students if they'd like all of the flags to be displayed, since there were so many great options, and they thought it would be a good idea. I decked out the board with our flags:) I plan to go to Walgreens to get the photos of their flags developed. These flags will be their game pieces on my classroom management game, in which there is a battle of the classes. 

I really love the way it turned out! 

There are so many great ideas on how to do classroom expectations/contracts. What works in your classroom? Please share in the comments below, and feel free to link-up to share your ideas wi
th others!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

First Week of School: Get To Know You Game

I am pumped to share with you this game I stumbled across on Pinterest. Actually, I didn't really stumble across it - I had to be a little more intuitive than that. 

I was looking for get to know you activities for the first week of school and I saw a picture of a giant bouncy ball with questions written all over it. The link led to an image without any description, but I felt like I could figure out how the game was supposed to work.

I went to Walmart and found where they keep the giant bouncy rubber balls,  fought the urge to do this...

and grabbed the funkiest one because it is covered in little bumps. It also smells good:) I love the smell of new rubber, and of course, book pages.  

 All I needed to do to get ready for this game was google questions that would be fun to answer. I took many pictures of my ball so that you could see most of the questions I wrote on there. (Unfortunately the game doesn't have a name. I tried my best to create a name, but all of my ideas were just plain sad.)

The students enjoyed this game! It was a good chance for me to get to know random things about them, as well as for the class to warm up to one another. It's nice because you can stop at anytime and resume later.  
To play the game:

1. Students line up in a circle

2. The ball can only be passed to someone across from you, not next to you. You underhand toss the ball lightly, avoiding the projector at all costs. ;)

3. Look at the question your right thumb landed on. State your name, read the question out loud, and give you answer out loud. Speak clearly and loud enough for everyone to hear!

4. If a student's thumb didn't land on a question, I asked them to toss it in the air and try again. If a student felt uncomfortable answering a question, they could chose a different question. 

One of the instructional coaches at my school asked to borrow the ball for one of her classes. What a confidence boost! It's a low-maintenance game, cost friendly, and something you can go back to and keep adding to as you desire. 
There you have it:) Super doable. Hopefully this game serves you well! I'm sure you'll have a ball ;) 

Please enjoy this photo of a banana car my student drew after he finished an assignment. LOL!