Spice Up STEM In Your Classroom With These Kits

If you’re a STEM teacher like me, you are always looking for resources you can use to get students excited about STEM. Ward’s Science has some amazing resources for all things STEM. The website offers a variety of resources that can provide students with an engaging and hands-on experience in class.

I’ve had the chance to test out two products: The Robotic STEM Kit and the Solar Electric House Kit.

The Solar Electric House Kit

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The Solar Electric House Kit is perfect if you’re teaching a unit on different forms of energy. It is the perfect way to link the concept of solar energy to the real world. The kit comes with solar panels you can use to power a solar ceiling fan and a light bulb. The kit is missing the necessary structure to build the house, but you can use cardboard, styrofoam, or any other home materials to create the structure of the house. The kit has a blueprint to help you create the structure of the house.


The Robotic STEM Kit

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The Robotic STEM Kit was my favorite product of the two I got to experiment with. It allows you to build ten different machines created from different simple machines. The machines transfer and transform energy and are a great way to teach students about: simple machines, energy transformation, and circuits. The Robotic STEM Kit also comes with a teacher’s guide that has lesson plans, information about Rube Goldberg competitions, and other STEM problem solving resources for using the kit in the classroom.

Check out two cool videos of two of the ten machines that I built.

I highly recommend Ward’s Science to STEM Teachers and any parents interested in introducing their children to engaging ways to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Ward’s Sciece also offers teacher grants and funding services. Definitely check it out!

The Woke STEM Teacher readers Get 15% off your order total Plus Free Shipping with exclusive promo code: WardsWorld15WST

Promotion Exclusions: Offer valid on web only at wardsci.com. To activate offer, use promo code at checkout. Offer expires 10/31/19. Free shipping includes standard ground shipping only and excludes items with hazardous shipping; standard hazardous shipping fees will apply. Unless otherwise specified, contract discounts and special offers may not be applied to any item priced with a final digit of ‘9’ (i.e. $6.99; $10.09; $129.99.) Offer excludes Some models due to custom nature of the product. Offer excludes all Triumph Board products. Promotional discounts also may not be combined with other offers, discounts, contracts, or promotions. For more details, visit wardsci.com/terms. Selected items may be or contain chemicals, live materials, or hazardous materials and may be restricted for purchasing by educational institutions only. To purchase restricted items, please log into wardsci.com with your Full Web Profile, or create a new Full Web Profile here using your school’s Shipping Account Number. A full profile also allows you to pay with purchase orders, receive tax exemptions, contract pricing (if applicable), and other advanced features. Don’t know your Shipping Account Number or not sure what it is? We can help. Email wardscs@vwr.com or Click to Chat on the profile registration page and a Ward’s Science Representative will help you locate your Shipping Account Number or apply for a new one.

The Newest Addition to The Woke STEM Fam: Cue, the Robot

Before you meet my new friend, Cue, have you heard of Wonder Workshop? If not, you are in for a treat! Wonder Workshop offers complete solutions for teaching coding and robotics in the classroom, giving elementary and middle schools students the opportunity to learn. What I love best about Wonder Workshop is that they provide ALL of the resources necessary to get your classroom prepared to learn coding and robotics. Wonder Workshop resources include robots, like my friend Cue, standards -based curricular resources, apps for creative coding, professional learning opportunities (to help those of us who may not be as hip to coding and robotics, but still are intrigued by it), and robotics competitions for students. With all of these resources, you will be well on your way to teaching students one of the most important skills needed for the 21st century.

Now, may I introduce my new friend, Cue!

Cue is the newest addition to Wonder Workshop. Cue comes with all of the basic tools necessary to get started, just bring your own device to connect. Luckily, Cue is compatible with a variety of devices. Once you turn Cue on, it goes through a welcome process that require a few tasks to test its sensors and microphone. Then, you have to download the Cue app to fully get started. Cue connects to the app through bluetooth. The Cue app has so many features that are user friendly and makes the coding experience exciting and fun.

Cue App Features

Avatars - Cue comes with four different avatars and each one has a unique personality. These are one of the fun components of Cue, especially for children. You can select one personality and chat via a text screen with Cue once the personality is selected.

Control - Cue has a control feature built into the app to play around with some of its sensory features. The Control mode features an on-screen joystick that allows you to move Cue around the room. You can also adjust the speed, face lights, and body lights on Cue. You can also record different sound clips to play back on Cue.

The control mode also has three different automatic modes:

Seek mode: allows Cue to lock onto a nearby object and follow it. How cool is that? Cue will follow me around like my cat!

Avoid mode: allows cue to lock onto an object and it will back away from the object.

Explore mode: allows Cue to explore the room while avoiding running into objects.

Code - The Code mode of the app is my favorite and the most useful for students learning how to, well, code! Cue allows you to switch between Block based coding and text-based coding (JavaScript). This is important for those educators who lack the fundamental JavaScript knowledge to teach students how to code. The Block based code is user friendly and makes it easier for students to understand how to create their code. The transition between the two helps translate the coding skills students are learning to real world skills that can be used in real projects. Code mode offers different challenges for students to go through, starting with something as simple as making Cue move a certain distance to making Cue say certain phrases. Students are allowed the opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and eventually learn and accomplish by doing. The lessons offer all of the typical coding components, such as events, variables, math operations, functions, and actions necessary to program Cue. The best part is that students can work on code offline to perfect their skills and then run the code when they are connected to Cue.

My suggestion for when students are coding: utilize the Code mode on a large tablet or computer screen. The Code mode on the app for phones has a limited screen size, so it can be difficult to drag things around when attempting to code. I accidentally deleted code a few times because of my screen size issues. I eventually switched to the app on my laptop and had plenty of space to see everything.

Accessories

Cue comes with a variety of cool accessories and extensions so that it can do more than simply moved around and talk. I have had the opportunity to use the sketch pack. The pack comes with dry-erase markers, an eraser, a large dry-erase sketchpad that can be placed on the floor, and an attachment for Cue. With the sketchpad kit, students can program Cue to create all kinds of masterpieces. There are some programs built into the app to provide examples of how Cue can draw different shapes, words, and pictures. In the video below, I programmed Cue to draw a square once Cue heard the sound of my voice. Cue also has other extensions such as a gripper to pick up objects and a blaster power to shoot small

Cue draws a square

Curriculum

Wonder Workshop offers a Learning to Code curriculum, an Applied Robotics curriculum, and cross-curricular activities. The Applied Robotics curriculum is my favorite because it offers extensive lesson plans with aligned standards, materials, and walks you through the entire process of how to implement the lessons in the classroom. The Applied Robotics curriculum shows students how to go through the creative writing process that will ultimately bring them to a point of creating something innovative. Each of the three units is designed to allow students to gradually build upon an idea and execute that idea through coding with Cue. My favorite unit is the Game Design unit. Students are able to design a game and program Cue to participate in the game with them.

Professional Development

Wonder Workshop offers professional development tools to help educators transition into how to use Cue in the classroom. I was able to complete the “Introduction to Coding and Robotics with Cue” course. The course was a six module course that provided a great foundation on the history of educational technology in the classroom, explained the need for computer science in schools, and provided information about the major structural components of Cue. I love that the course focused on gaining an understanding of educational technology and how teachers are incorporating different types of technology in the classroom, beyond Cue. They introduced different tools that can be used in conjunction with Cue. The course provided videos, links to other digital technology, and an interactive experience. The course was definitely a cool way to get started understanding how educational technology is used in the classroom and expanding on that by using Cue.

Want a Cue of your own? Here’s your chance!

With so many jam packed features and with the ever-growing need for students with coding skills , Cue should be used in classrooms across the world. Are you interested in trying out one of Wonder Workshops many robots? The Wonder Workshop is giving away TWO FREE prize packs that you can try out for yourselves!

Are you an elementary teacher?

The Elementary Wonder Pack: Comes with Wonder’s award-winning Dash and Dot robots, accessories, and curriculum guides. Accessories, like a Xylophone, Launcher, Building Brick Connectors, Sketch Kit, and an Accessories Kit, all help students use their imagination and problem solve. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to Wonder’s Digital Activities Library for more project ideas. New and included in the Elementary Pack: The Gripper Building Kit an easy-to-build set of functioning arms that expand your robot’s literal reach—and potential!

Or how about middle school?


The Middle School Wonder Pack: This bundle will encourage design thinking with its two (2) award-winning Cue robots and the new Gripper Building Kit. Also, notebooks for creative writing, game design, and innovation. Plus, a one-year subscription to Wonder’s Digital Activities Library for more skill building for middle school students. New and included for the Middle School Pack: The Gripper Building Kit and the new Blaster Power for Cue (above) bring the fun as a motorized projectile-launching accessories!

Enter the giveaway here by August 14, 2019, 11:59PM Central Standard Time!

Teachers as Game of Thrones Characters

As the final season of Game of Thrones begins, we can take a look at some of our remaining favorite characters of the show. It’s interesting to observe how so many of these characters resemble some of the types of teachers we see in our lives daily.  Which character do you and your fellow teachers most resemble? Check out the list below!

Read More

2019 SMART Goals

The New Year is here and tons of people are cramming to set resolutions and goals for 2019! This is a year you can be more intentional about the goals you are creating for yourself. It is important to go beyond simply stating “I am going to lose x amount of pounds this year.” I’m sure you’ve heard about how writing things down can help you memorize information much more easily. Writing goals down works in a similar fashion. Writing down goals allows you to have a physical place to store the information. Writing down your goals on a piece of paper is a way for you to transfer that memory or information to somewhere that you can visually see it everyday. It is also important to include a date when writing down your goals. This not only gives you a hard deadline to adhere to, but allows you to plan the necessary steps you need to take leading up to that date. It helps spark productivity in relation to your goals.

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If you are looking for a physical form to write down your 2019 SMART Goals, check out the one I’ve created here! It is a simple document, but will help you reach your goals for 2019.



Dispelling the Myth of "Math" People

We live in a world where it is socially acceptable for the most educated adults to admit to being “bad” at mathematics or “not a math person.”  That same person could not easily get away with considering themselves “bad” at reading or “not a reading person.”  What does it mean to most people to be a math person?

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In society, a math person is someone who is naturally good at math and performs well in the subject, sometimes regardless of effort.  Math people are considered born with the ability to perform mathematical skills.  This type of thinking completely eliminates the idea that people can learn math through mastery of skills, rather than innate ability.  Many students enter the math classroom with the perception that regardless of their effort, they can never succeed at math because they are just not math people.  It is time for educators to dispel this myth for students, parents, and future generations.  Below are three ways to dispel this myth: 

  1. Changing the misconception of math people - parent attitudes towards math completely help shape their children’s attitudes towards mathematics.  If parents are communicating to their children that they cannot complete the work because they are “bad” at math, children are going to in turn believe the same can be said for them.  Society makes it acceptable to be “bad” at math because so many people believe math ability is only an innate thing.  Teaching parents that students have the ability to learn math through hard, consistent work can help to dispel this myth of math inability within children.    

  2. Customized, Individualized Learning - The approaches to mathematical learning have to change with the 21st century.  Technology has allowed for more customized and individualized learning opportunities for students.  Learning mathematics requires a solid foundation of concepts, but not all students learn at the same pace or in the same way.  Allowing for more individualized, customized learning can provide students with the opportunity to learn foundational concepts within their own timeframe.  

  3. Project Based Learning - Often many students feel they are “bad” at math simply because they find no enjoyment in the subject.  Students dislike the content because teachers are not providing an engaging and exciting learning environment for them. The information is taught in a rigid way that focuses on memorization for the purpose of regurgitation rather than learning for critical thinking, analytical thinking, and real world applications.  Educators should introduce project based learning as a tool for engaging students in mathematics in a new way.  Project based learning allows students to work together in small groups to solve a problem related to a specific mathematical topic they are learning.  It is a collaborative approach that teaches students problem solving skills, in addition to the math skills necessary for the task.  

Despite societal norms, being “bad” at math is a myth.  Mathematical knowledge and fluency is equally as important as reading or writing.  The introduction of new pedagogy, teaching methods, and changing the overall misconception of math people can aid in the pursuit of increasing mathematical fluency in students.    Math can be seen across the world daily and educators should be providing students with access to those experiences and knowledge. 

Stop Asking Students: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

When I first started teaching, I was at a school that was pushing these students towards college as the only option and I figured that's the norm and it's great! As I have taught at other schools I've realized that we need to be pushing students towards more than college.  I used to ask students,

"What do you want to be/what career do you want to have in the future?"

As my knowledge has grown in the field of education and I've started to focus more on providing students with culturally relevant pedagogy, I've begun to ask 

"How do you want to change the world in the future?"

Students don't need college for that. And it makes me wish that we'd ask more adults this question: How do you want to change the world? This question does not confine us to degrees, salaries, and status, but spans across multiple disciplines and life perspectives.  I remember the first time I posed that question to a group of middle school students and I gave them some time to ponder it. The answers were astounding and much better than what I would have received if I simply asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This type of question allows students to use critical thinking skills and helps students to recognize the role they have as an individual in the world around them.  It removes the limitations of school and allows students to expand their thinking beyond education.  

Start asking your students the right question and you will be amazed at the things you hear. 

End of the Year: Minute To Win It Activities

As teachers and students approach the end of the school year, it can be difficult to keep students engaged and on task.  Tons of teachers default to putting on a film for the last few days of school, but I like to make things a bit more exciting for my students.  There is nothing students love more than gold ol' competition and one of the ways I like to have students compete is through Minute to Win It activities.  

The Setup

First, divide students into groups of 4 to 5 students (depending on your class size).  Allow students to create a team name.  For each task, students will have a team member complete the task and all teams are only allotted a minute to complete them. 


Scoring

If you want a scoring sheet where you can enter team names and calculate total scores for each activity, you can use the one here

Success = 5 points

Attempt = 3 points

No attempt = 0 points


Materials

1. At least 15 plastic cops (red or blue Solo cups work best)

2. Index cards

3. Rubberbands

4. Pencils with full erasers

5. Small glass cups or small plastic cups

6. M&M's or beans

7. Straws

8. Cookies (Oreos or Chips Ahoy Cookies work well)

9. Balloons (at least 2)

10. Marbles

11. Double-sided tape


The Tasks

1. Cup Stack

Students must stack their cups into a pyramid shape (5 cups, 4 cups, 3, 2, 1) and then reassemble the cups into one stack at the end.  

2. Yank Me!

Students must yank an index card that is lodged between two cups without knocking the cups over. 

3. Rapid Fire

This task requires two students from each team.  One student will place a cup on their head.  The other student will attempt to pop a rubberband at the cup on their partners head to knock the cup down within a minute. 

4. Speed Eraser

Students must bounce a pencil on it's eraser into a small glass or plastic cup. You can choose any number of cups, but I have typically done five. 

5. Bean There, Done That!

Students must use a straw to transfer beans or M&M's from one cup (or plate) to another.  I had students transfer 15 M&M's, but more might be more of a challenge. 

6. Face the Cookie

Students must place a cookie on their forehead.  Then, students must use their facial muscles to move the cookie from their forehead down to their mouth to eat the cookie.  Encourage students to not rush this activity or they will drop the cookie. 

7. Defy Gravity

Students must keep two balloons in the air, using only one hand. 

8. Stuck!

Place double sided tape on one side of a table.  Students are tasked with rolling a marble from the opposite side of the table so that it sticks on the tape. 

If you decide to use any of these activities, make sure to take pictures and tag @thewokestemteacher on Instagram. I'd love to see how much fun your students have! 

STEM and Black Panther Curriculum

It has been quite some time since I have posted, but I have diligently working hard in my classroom and completing classes towards my doctorate of education degree.  Now that I have had a bit of downtime, I have had the chance to create an introductory lesson and lesson one of a five lesson curriculum that incorporates STEM and Black Panther.  If you are a STEM teacher (or any other kind of teacher) looking for an exciting way to bring Black Panther into your classroom, then this curriculum is for you.  

The introductory lesson of this curriculum focuses on Afrofuturism.  The first lesson in this curriculum focuses on the Law of Reflection (NGSS MS-PS4-2) and Holograms (as evidenced in Black Panther). 

The first two parts of this curriculum are FREE! I want to share my creative resources with others at no charge.  

If you WOULD like to leave a donation of any sort to show support, you can leave it here: Social EndeavHERS

Social EndeavHERs is an organization dedicated to young, Black and Brown women interested in using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to create social change.

You can download the curriculum below:

STEM and Black Panther Teacher Guide

STEM and Black Panther Lesson and Worksheets

The other four parts of this curriculum will be available at a later date. Enjoy and please share how these lessons go with your students! 

Experiential Learning: Chiji Processing Cards

Experiential learning is the process of learning through first-hand experiences or learning by doing.  Experiential learning allows educators to bring a variety of exciting ideas, materials, and activities to the classroom.  These activities reach beyond the scope of traditional classroom learning. Some of the activities may be hands-on, while others provide opportunities for students to think critically and reflect.  Chiji Processing Cards are an experiential learning tool that provide educators with an engaging way to get students to process information and debrief afterwards.

Each of the 48 cards has a unique image that acts aims to ignite discussion amongst individuals.  Typically, the instructor will pose a question and each student will select a card that is symbolic of their answer to the question.  The pictures provide a basis for students to process their thoughts. This works really well for students who struggle to articulate their thoughts clearly or who have a difficult time deciding where to begin.  

These processing cards have many benefits, but the ones that I have enjoyed the most are:

  1. Transferring ideas from the lesson to the real world through the images

  2. Helping students formulate their thoughts

  3. Teaching students how to reflect and the importance of reflection

I have used these processing cards at the beginning, middle, and ends of lessons.  They are great as a starter to the day because they can help to gauge how students are feeling.  They are great midday as a way to step away from the traditional way of learning and give students a chance to experience their learning through activities with the cards.  Finally, they are a great way to end lessons because they can serve as a tool to help students process all of the information from a lesson and reflect on the information learned.

Check out these amazing cards here: Chiji Processing Cards

10 Useful Amazon Buys For A Better Secondary Classroom

Let's face it: teachers LOVE finding great deals and fun, creative items for our classroom! We will scour the Target Dollar section, Dollar Tree, and tons of other discounted places to find a bargain on fun stuff for our classroom.  Amazon is no different! With free shipping with Prime, it makes the hassle of having to leave the house almost nonexistent! Amazon has some great products that can be used in the secondary classroom! Here is my list of must-have items from Amazon that I use in my classroom! 

1. Hanging Wall Folders

Hanging file folders are great for organization! I use them to allow students to turn in homework or classwork.  They are perfect if you teach multiple periods a day.  I have seen some teachers use them as a means of organizing worksheets for absent students.

Check it out here!

Check it out here!

2. Scissors and Caddy

A teacher friend of mine hipped me to these! I went out and bought 20 pairs of scissors from Dollar Tree, but realized I spent more money buying individual pairs of scissors than I would have spent on buying this! It is perfect for groups because the scissors are organized into caddy's and it helps to keep easily keep track of your scissors. This one is definitely a steal!

Check it out here! 

Check it out here! 

3. Dry Erase Lapboards and Erasers

I have always bought the dry erase boards and the erasers separately.  This combo provides both for a reasonable price! The boards and the erasers are great quality.  These are perfect for centers or any review games in the classroom. 

Check it out  here !

Check it out here!

4. Things To Do Binder Clips

Organization does not come to me as easily as it comes to some! These binder clips have helped me with that tremendously! Instead of sorting papers into different labeled trays, I use these binder clips to organize papers.  They are especially helpful for my student volunteers, who sort out my graded papers into student folders. 

Check it out  here !

Check it out here!

5. X-Acto Pencil Sharpener

My first year of teaching, I went through THREE pencil sharpeners in ONE school year.  I finally stumbled upon this gem and was SOLD! I am in my fourth year of teaching and I still have this X-acto pencil sharpener.  This is pencil sharpener is great quality and extremely durable.  It has options for sharpening six different types/sizes of pencils. 

Check it out  here !

Check it out here!

6. Eggspert - Wired or Wireless

I absolutely love doing review games with my students! It makes for an exciting class and students get to show what they have learned and apply it.  I bought the Eggspert three years ago.  Any time I have brought it out to my students for the first time, they are intrigued! They are used to having to stand up or hit a buzzer that only makes a sound to answer a question.  This Eggspert has buzzers that light and make a noise on a machine to tell you which student pressed their buzzer first.  I bought the wireless version (a bit pricer) because it's much easier for me to put the base with the lights in the center of the classroom without having to worry about cords. 

7. Date Stamp

This date stamp has been really useful in tracking when students are submitting their work.  Although I do not deduct points for late assignments, this is a great tool for educators who do. You can date stamp assignments that have been submitted on a particular date.  This helps me keep track of what work I have assigned on what day. 

Check it out  here !

Check it out here!

8. Flair Pens

Flairs pens are my favorite teacher supply! I rant and rave about them all the time and whenever I see a great deal on them, I HAVE to have them.  This is a 24 pack of Flair pens for a really good price! I use them to grade papers, write in my bullet journal, copy notes, annotate text, and pretty much any chance I get to write anything.

Check it out here!

Check it out here!

9. Binding Machine

This machine is perfect for teachers who love to be organized.  It is perfect for personalized teacher planners, creating workbooks for students, or creating unit bundles with notes sheets and activities for students to complete. 

Check it out  here !

Check it out here!

10. Headphone Splitter

These headphone splitters are great for interactive centers where students must watch a video or listen to an audio clip in groups.  This allows multiple students in a group to listen to the same computer or tablet without disrupting other classmates.  

Check it out  here !

Check it out here!

Restorative Justice and Peer Mediation: Avenues For Change

I have the honor of collaborating with Kathy Lebrón on this post.  We saw a need to address how the system disproportionately disciplines and criminalizes students of color.  We wanted to get people thinking about positive alternatives to the traditional forms of behavior management systems and chose to focus on restorative justice and peer mediation as avenues for change.  

Behavior and the process to discipline students based on behavior has been a major topic in the educational community.  Various forms of intervention have been implemented through schools across the United States.  The majority of these methods involve some form of a tiered system, where consequences layer based upon the severity and frequency of student actions.  Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) systems offer different strategies, most including a point system where students gain or lose points based on behavior.  These types of systems usually involve a punishment and reward system for behaviors, rather than immediately addressing the root causes of the behaviors and restoring peace within the community.  Restorative Justice provides a positive alternative to these traditional PBIS systems.

Restorative Justice gained popularity in the 1970’s with the introduction of victim-offender mediation programs; however, ancient societies have always used various forms of mediation to address conflict, restore relationships, and build community.  Indigenous cultures have generations of experience utilizing restorative practices to mend relationships and repair harm that has occurred within their communities.  Restorative Practices are now slowly becoming an integral part of creating healthy, peaceful communities and justice systems.

Differences between Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice

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Restorative Practices is the umbrella term for a philosophy that views relationships as an integral component to fostering positive and healthy learning environments. Unlike traditional “zero-tolerance” school policies that often target disenfranchised populations, Restorative Practices enable people to restore relationships, resolve conflicts and build community in proactive and positive ways. These practices have roots in Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice is an approach that focuses on repairing relationships and the harm done to people versus simply punishing offenders. This approach is influenced by ancient and indigenous practices performed in cultures worldwide.

Restorative Practices involve interventions when harm has happened, as well as practices that help to prevent harm and conflict by creating a sense of belonging, safety, and social responsibility within the school community. They also involve “making it right” when a “harm” has occurred.

A relationship cannot be restored if it doesn’t exist.
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Relationships are important. When an incident occurs, the focus is on the harm caused to the relationship and how to repair said relationship; rather than what rule has been broken and what consequences will be imposed. We use Restorative Justice to respond to harm that someone has caused and to find ways to repair that harm so that healing and change can take place.


If you would like to visually represent Restorative Practices in your classroom, be sure to check out these FREE posters, which was an initiative spearheaded by Project NIA.

Peace Circles

Peace circles, or Restorative Justice circles, can serve many functions and they can be used proactively as well as a means for intervention. When used proactively, circles can help people develop and build relationships. When used as an intervention method, they can help respond to conflicts and wrongdoings. The circle process allows people to share their stories, their perspectives and makes them feel they have an equal say. Circles are a way of bringing people together in which: everyone is respected, everyone gets a chance to talk without interruption, participants explain themselves by telling their stories and everyone is equal – no person is more important than anyone else. Thus, Restorative Circles are excellent practice in shifting the needle toward a POWER WITH instead of a POWER OVER approach. Sharing power creates a win-win situation for members of the circle and allows students to feel empowered.

Typically, circles follow a given structure and contain the following elements:

  • Keeper: a neutral facilitator who “keeps” the circle going (i.e. the teacher)
  • Talking Piece: an object that people pass around and it signals it’s only their turn to share (can be anything from a ball, a keychain, a toy microphone, etc.)
  • Values: identified by everyone in the circle in order to create a respectful atmosphere
  • Guidelines: generating guidelines based on shared values
  • Ceremony: tradition to open the circle
  • Stages: 1) Specific intentions, 2) Intended Outcomes, 3) Activities/Guiding Questions, 4) Keeper techniques
  • Consensus: get everyone to offer their perspective
  • Storytelling: circle participants share their stories and lived experiences as well as reflect on the present
  • Closing ceremony: tradition to close the circle

Sticking to these elements is imperative to preserving the integrity and intentionality of a circle. You can see these elements at play in this video about Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools.

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Peace/Restorative Circles can be used for a myriad of situations, including: teaching curriculum, developing shared agreements for classroom behaviors, checking in/out, solving classroom problems, healing from loss, discussing/solving conflict and problems, etc.. When using circles proactively and to prevent harm, you can build relationships with students in positive and meaningful ways. You can find 48 circle prompts in this resource that I, The Radical Maestra, created to get to know your students better and vice-versa. It can also help to proactively guide discussions with students around relationship-building, values, identity and curriculum.

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is a restorative practice that provides an opportunity for student accountability.  An entire school community gains value in learning how to mediate situations between peers.  Peer mediation is a six step process that consists of:

  1. Agree to Mediate: there must be consent from all parties involved, including the mediator, to mediate the conflict

  2. Gathering Points of View: mediators must allow all individuals the opportunity to tell their story, while identifying and understanding the multiple perspectives being discussed

  3. Focus on Needs and Interests: Mediators must center the focus of the conversation on what the involved parties need to resolve the conflict

  4. Create Win-Win Solutions: Focus on creating resolutions that are specific, balanced, reasonable, and thoroughly solve the problem

  5. Evaluate Options: Consider the various solutions and determine the solution that best solves the problem

  6. Create and Sign An Agreement: The involved parties collectively write out the established agreement and sign the agreement.

Individuals can alternate between the role of peer mediator to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to actively participate in this restorative practice.  Teaching all individuals to be peer mediators and allowing this participation can help create an environment where students are empowered to manage and have autonomy over their own and their peers actions.  For more information about how to implement peer mediation as a restorative practice, download the free conflict resolution and peer mediation toolkit from IREX here.  

It is our hope that you reflect on your current behavior management and disciplinarian practices as well as the potential impacts they have on students, especially students of color. How can you implement more collaborative, student-centered, and POWER WITH approaches in your classroom and school to resolve and repair conflicts and harm?

 

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Resources:

http://www.suffolk.edu/college/centers/14521.php

http://www.creducation.org/

www.iirp.org

www.rpiassn.org

www.transformingconflict.org

Institute for Restorative Initiatives, Center for Restorative Justice, dept_crj@suffolk.edu

Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School Community. Boyes-Watson & Pranis. Living Justice Press. 2015. Cambridge, MA.

Restorative Justice Pocketbook. Thorsborne & Vinegrad. 2009.

Conferencing Handbook. The New Real Justice Training Manual. O’Connell and Wachtel. Real Justice. 1999.

Johnson, D. W. and Johnson, R. T. (2012). Restorative justice in the classroom: Necessary roles of cooperative context, constructive conflict, and civic Values. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 5: 4–28

www.irex.org

All In Good Time: Accepting Late Work From Students

Late work policy #1: Students are not allowed to submit late work! They will receive a zero on the missing assignment.

 

Late work policy #2: Students are allowed to submit late work however, they will lose 10% of the points for each day the assignment is late.

 

Late work policy #3: Students may submit late work up until the end of the grading period. No penalties!

 

All three types of policies exist in schools across the U.S.  When I first began teaching, my policy mimicked the second, not necessarily by choice, but because it was required by the school.  Since my first teaching job, I kept the policy in place, until recently.  I started to realize the flaws that exist with penalizing students academically for something so arbitrary.  Teachers typically make the argument that submitting assignments on time will teach students to be more responsible as adults.  Is that actually the case?

Not allowing students to submit late work teaches students that punctuality is more important than quality.  In my experience, students do the bare minimum to ensure they turn an assignment in on time.  Students focus on completing assignments on time rather than “how can I get quality learning out of completing this assignment completely?”  Allowing students to submit late work with no penalty places more value on learning rather than their grade or time.  There is no responsibility in submitting work on time if it is only subpar.  It is simply bad practice.  

When I offered my students the opportunity to submit late work without any penalties, I received twice the amount of missing assignments from students compared to our first quarter.  Students seemed more invested in the learning process and understanding the information for future reference.

Ask yourself, does your gradebook reflect the quality of learning that students are doing or how quickly they can complete their work? 

Share your thoughts on the topic below! 

 

4 Engaging Review Games: Moving Beyond Simple Study Guides and Jeopardy

Review games are a fun addition to the classroom because they allow students to work together to reach a common goal.  They also provide students with healthy competition and allows students to practice memory retrieval of information learned.  Typically, teachers will play Around the World, do flash cards or play the classic game of Jeopardy with students as review.  I want to introduce 4 games that I have played in my classroom that are unique and allow for something new and exciting.  Jeopardy is a fun game, but sometimes it can get redundant after while.  All of these games require some form of movement, so be prepared for exciting review days!

1. Review-sical Chairs

Music Bitmoji.png

Duration: 30 minutes

Materials: Chairs (one less than the number of students), two answer buzzers (check out some answer buzzers here)

Review Topics: All Subjects

This game is a play on musical chairs.  This game is a ton of fun! It allows students the chance to answer questions while getting the opportunity to move around.

Directions: The game begins with the chairs in a circle (or manner of setup suitable for student movement) with one less chair than the number of students.  The teacher plays a song and the students move about the room, typically in circular fashion.  Once the teacher stops the music, students must try to sit in the closest available seat.  If a student is unable to find a seat, they must participate in a face-off.  The student must select another student that is seated to challenge them to a face-off.  The teacher will read a review question and give students the opportunity to answer the question.  The teacher should allow the first student to press their buzzer to answer first.  Whichever student answers correctly first wins the seat.  The other student is out of the game. The game continues until there is only one student left to be declared the winner.

2. The Hot Seat

Duration: 45 minutes

Materials: A “fancy” chair, projector (optional), slideshow presentation software (optional), dry erase marker, timer (snag a cool timer here)

Review Topics: All Subjects, focusing on vocabulary

This game is engaging and allows students to work collaboratively to reach a goal.  It also gives them the opportunity to be descriptive and use their vocabulary to describe other vocabulary words.

Directions: Divide the classroom into groups of 4 to 5 students.  Allow students to select a team name and write the team names on the board.  Teacher can determine which team goes first (highest roll on a die, quietest group, first to create a team name, etc.) Students on the first team select a person to be in the “hot seat.” The hot seat is a fancy, comfortable chair.  The chair should be facing away from the dry erase board/projector screen in the room.  The student must sit in the seat and face their group.  The teacher will project or write a vocabulary word on the board.  The first team has 30 seconds to describe the word to their teammate in the hot seat.  Students describing the word cannot: say the word, say a part of the word, use gestures, say “starts with” or “rhymes with”, and cannot spell the word.  The student in the hot seat must guess the word correctly.  If the student answers correctly before the time runs out, their team receives a point.  There is no penalty for wrong answers or guessing.  Play moves on to the second team.  

Note: If time is an issue, you can create only a number of words that equals the number of students in the class.  This way, every student has the opportunity to be in the hot seat.  You can also choose to make easy, medium, and hard words for the students and allow the points for each type of word to increase.

3. Rush!

Duration: 45 minutes

Materials: Three chairs labeled 10, 20, and 30 respectively, timer, three dry erase boards, three erasers, three dry erase markers (get a great set of erasers and boards here), projector (optional), slideshow presentation (optional) 

Review Topics: All Subjects, particularly great for math and science problems

In addition to being an exciting game, this game also teaches students how to make decisions effectively and bargaining.  

Directions: Ensure that the three chairs are centrally located so that all teams can access them equally. Divide students into 3 separate teams.  Each team can create a team name.  The teacher should give each team a dry erase board, a marker, and an eraser.  For each question, each teammate will rotate the board around so everyone has a chance to write.  The teacher will ask a question (it helps to project the question on the board for students) and each team will have 20 seconds to write down their answer. Once an answer has been written, the student with the dry erase board must rush to the three chairs.  They can choose to sit in the chair labeled 10, 20, or 30.  Students cannot take a seat in any of the chairs once the timer has gone off.  Once the timer is up, the teacher reveals the answer.  The catch: If a student sits in a chair and gets the answer correct, they will GAIN that number of points.  If they get the answer incorrect, they will LOSE that number of points.  Each group has the option to omit from answering if they are unsure about their answer.  This means they will receive 0 points for the round.  The group that has the most number of points at the end wins the game.

 

Duration: 45 minutes

Materials: Three chairs labeled 10, 20, and 30 respectively, timer, three dry erase boards, three erasers, three dry erase markers (get a great set of erasers and boards here), projector (optional), slideshow presentation (optional) 

Review Topics: All Subjects, particularly great for math and science problems

In addition to being an exciting game, this game also teaches students how to make decisions effectively and bargaining.  

Directions: Ensure that the three chairs are centrally located so that all teams can access them equally. Divide students into 3 separate teams.  Each team can create a team name.  The teacher should give each team a dry erase board, a marker, and an eraser.  For each question, each teammate will rotate the board around so everyone has a chance to write.  The teacher will ask a question (it helps to project the question on the board for students) and each team will have 20 seconds to write down their answer. Once an answer has been written, the student with the dry erase board must rush to the three chairs.  They can choose to sit in the chair labeled 10, 20, or 30.  Students cannot take a seat in any of the chairs once the timer has gone off.  Once the timer is up, the teacher reveals the answer.  The catch: If a student sits in a chair and gets the answer correct, they will GAIN that number of points.  If they get the answer incorrect, they will LOSE that number of points.  Each group has the option to omit from answering if they are unsure about their answer.  This means they will receive 0 points for the round.  The group that has the most number of points at the end wins the game.

4. Survivor

Boat Bitmoji.png

Duration: 50 minutes

Materials: One chair (or desk) for each student, projector (optional), projector screen (optional)

Review Topics: All Subjects

Not only is this a great review game, but it also teaches students about friendships, selflessness, and the ability to rely on those you trust.

Directions: Have students stand (if they have chairs) or sit on their desks (if they have desks).  Explain to students that they are all survivors on an island from a plane crash.  There is a raft, but only one person can fit on the raft. The teacher will project a question on the board.  Students must raise their hand if they know the answer to the question.  The teacher can select randomly OR select based on the first hand to be raised.  Once chosen, the designated student must answer the question.  If the student gets the answer correct, they may vote another student “off the island” or they can bring a friend back on the island.  If a student is voted off, it means that the student must sit down.  If a student is brought back, they can stand back up.  Students have the opportunity to get back onto the island ONE time.  If the answering student gets the answer incorrect, they must take a seat.  The play continues until only one student is left standing.  

 

Tech Tip Thursday: Bitmoji

Have you ever thought about personalizing your class presentations, activities, or rules? Ever needed to express a feeling that may take too many words to express verbally? Do you want to grasp your students’ attention and make connections with them? Want to be the “cool” teacher on the team or hall? There’s a bitmoji for that!

Bitmojis are a fun, easy, visual tool for enhancing lessons and other aspects of your classroom. The best part is that it’s FREE! First, what exactly are bitmojis? Bitmojis are personal emojis created from a cartoon avatar that you design to look like you or your alter ego if you’d prefer going that route. This week’s #TechTipThursday features Bitmojis.


I have the honor of collaborating with the amazing LaDonna Welch, @mrswelchknows, on this post. Check out more from LaDonna here. Check out our post about the many ways you can use Bitmoji in your classroom! 

Long Overdue For New Thanksgiving Lesson Plans

Tomorrow many of you will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks and spending time with loved ones while feasting on delicious food.  However, most of us have been given this false narrative of the story of Thanksgiving, involving pilgrims and Native Americans.  We do lesson plans with our students centered around coloring turkeys, presenting skits where children reenact the first Thanksgiving, and having students compile lists of gratefulness.  We fail to take the time to teach our children about the true history of Thanksgiving, either from lack of knowledge on the subject or fear of appearing to indoctrinate our students.  Since 1970, Native Americans have commemorated a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day, focusing on the genocide of millions of Native Americans at the hands of Pilgrims and other European settlers.  

I would encourage you to seek the graphic, but true origins of Thanksgiving and to research the National Day of Mourning.  This type of information should be taught to our children as part of culturally relevant pedagogy.  The racism and oppression that Native Americans have experienced in this country has extended far beyond that first Thanksgiving and the first step to combatting those issues today is to teach our youth.  Some teachers talk about introducing socially conscious topics in the classroom, but fail to do so when they are plenty of opportunities.  You have 365 days until the next Thanksgiving. Get to preparing those lesson plans now!

Traditional Science Fairs Are Played Out

Science Fair - that time of year that is “for” the students, but the teachers and parents are the most stressed.  Trying to find a project idea that is competitive enough for your child to beat out every other student in their class requires a ton of work.  Parents wind up doing a lot of the grunt work and making sure that their child’s project is top notch.  Although it is important for our students to experience competition, it is equally important that we recognize the research and hard work necessary to do a science project.  My hope is that we will eventually move away from science fairs and move towards STEM symposiums because let's be real - traditional science fairs are played out. 

Symposium - a formal meeting where experts discuss a particular topic

Students doing STEM projects and research are “experts” in the most general sense of the word.  Students put in the work, researching information about their topics, establishing important details that will enhance their work, and creating innovative ways to test their topics. 

How can we ensure that our students are the experts who are creating ways to change the world around them? Below is a six step process for revamping the scientific process and enabling students to be more creative in their thought processes. 

Step 1: Wake Up!

Have students write down a list of five problems or issues that affect the lives of them, their family, or their communities.  

Guiding Questions

1. What is a problem that affects your daily life?

2. What is a problem that affects your parents or family as a whole?

3. What is a problem that affects your community?

Step 2: Who's To Blame?

Have students create a list of things that can be the key causes for the problem.

Guiding Questions

1. Why does this problem exist?

2. Who/What has caused this problem?

Step 3: Focus On One

Have students select 1 of the problems they listed.  

Guiding Questions

1. Which of the problems affects you or your family the most?

2. Which of the problems is the most intriguing to you? 

3. Which problem will have the most significance if a solution is created?

Step 4: Solve It!

Have students create a list of innovative ways they can use STEM to fix the problem they have selected. 

Guiding Questions

1. How can you use STEM to solve the problem?

2. What resources will you need to solve the problem?

Step 5: Research

Have students research all possible solutions the problem as well as any STEM information related to the problem. 

1. Are there any solutions to the problem that already exist? If so, how you can you enhance those solutions?

2. What problems may arise with your solution?

3. Can your solution be done so that it solves the problem for all individuals affected?

Step 6: Plan It Out

This is where the scientific method or engineering process should begin.  Students should go through the typical method and determine a way to test their solution to determine if it will actually work.  This will allow students the opportunity to go back to the drawing board to perfect their process. 

Guiding Questions

1. What are you trying to test? 

2. What is your hypothesis?

3. What materials will you need for this experiment?

4. What steps will you take to test your hypothesis?

5. What conclusions arose after your experiment?

Once students have completed this final step, then they can begin to compile a presentation where they are truly the experts on their topic and are providing a way to intersect STEM and Social Change.  

More information on this topic is soon to come! Join our mailing list for a copy of the PDF copy of the student and teacher guide for creating innovative STEM and Social Change projects. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Effective Strategies to Get the MOST Out of Class Time

It is a tale as old as time.  You write the perfect lesson, make the necessary copies, prepare for a good class and things go awry.  You fail to have enough time to finish the lesson.  You are rushing to cover all of the content you had prepared and get caught up having to do basic logistical things like assigning homework, collecting homework, and ensuring students are prepared to start the lesson. 

What if I told you there is a way to ensure that time is not wasted and you can effectively ensure students handle logistical things prior to the lesson beginning? 

1. Take 5 

A lot of the distractions and disruptive behaviors that occur in class happen within the first five minutes of class.  I have introduced Take 5 into my classroom to curb those distractions.  Every day, there is a list of items for students to complete at the beginning of class within 5 minutes.  The goal is to ensure that students have handled all logistical things and are ready to sit down and begin the lesson when the five minutes has ended.  It also helps to ensure students are being proactive in the assigned tasks, rather than chatting or waiting until the last minute to submit homework, sharpen pencils, etc.  The Take 5 list should always include: sharpening pencils, turning in homework, and gathering any papers/binders needed to start the lesson.   It is also important to ensure students write down the homework for the day.  They are writing it down with the intent for you to complete the lesson for the day. 

Example of what Take 5 looks like in my classroom

Example of what Take 5 looks like in my classroom

2. Agenda

This item may seem obvious, but I have been into countless classrooms that have no agenda posted.  There is a spot on my board for the agenda each day because I teach Geometry all day long.  If you teach multiple different classes a day, you can easily add different agendas to powerpoint presentations that are posted with the Take 5 at the beginning of class.  A daily agenda has many benefits. It allows students to know the schedule for the class, which eliminates questions like "What are we doing today?" It also teaches students time management because it forces the teacher to adhere to the designated times for each component of the lesson for the day.  It is important to review the agenda (after reviewing your daily objective) so that students have an idea of what to expect during class.  When you are writing your agenda, you should make sure to break down each component of class into small chunks of time (no more than 20 minutes).  Students can be easily distracted in class because they feel as if the class is dragging along with no end in sight.  Breaking down your lesson into smaller chunks of time helps give the illusion that we are moving through the lesson at a fairly quick pace.  

The daily agenda should have times listed in minutes

The daily agenda should have times listed in minutes

3. Timer

In order to ensure you are keeping track of time on your agenda, get a timer! My Time Timer was one of the best investments I could have ever made.  A timer helps to keep you on task, but it also allows students to know how much time they are allotted before moving on to the next activity.  A timer helps teach time management.  When I added a timer to my classroom (in addition to my agenda) it helped cut down wasted time and I was able to complete some of the times on my agenda before the time was up.  This allotted me more time for student questions or discussion.  

The Time Timer in my classroom.  Order your own Time Timer  here !

The Time Timer in my classroom.  Order your own Time Timer here!

4. Homework Folders/Bin

Always have a place where students can easily turn in their homework each day.  Students should not have to guess where it must be submitted.  A homework bin/folder during Take 5 helps prevent any loss of class time.  Students are responsible for turning in their work in the first five minutes of class.  To help distinguish between my different periods, I have my folders color coded. Students know which folder to put their homework in based on the color and label. 

Order your own hanging file folders here!

Order your own hanging file folders here!

5. What Did I Miss? Binder 2.0

When I first came across the "What Did I Miss" binder, I thought it was the perfect way to ensure students obtain any missing homework or worksheets needed when absent.  I noticed the issue of students obtaining missing homework, but needing to get the notes from the lesson from their peers.  I decided to add another component to the binder.  For every lesson, I attach a copy of my handwritten notes for the day.  Students who are absent are allowed to take those notes and copy them down on their own and put them back into the binder.  This saves the headache of students have to borrow notes from another student who may need them for the current lesson.  It also eliminates students asking for any missed work or notes when they immediately know to check the binder.