Monday, September 19, 2016

Dren Quiz #2 (Days 23-24)

This is a two-day post, with today a Coding Monday and tomorrow a scheduled Dren Quiz for all three grades, with most students working on the 2's. But several issues continue to surround my classes, both in academics and in behavior.

In particular, before the Dren Quiz tomorrow, the sixth graders will be working on Learning Module 2, "Show Me the Numbers." As I wrote earlier, I originally wanted to skip the project for sixth graders, but I can't because the projects are the cornerstone of the curriculum.

Not only that, but I'm required to submit photos of the projects directly to Illinois State. For the first project, I thought that the mousetrap cars were worthy enough of a photo that I took pictures -- and even posted them to the blog. On the other hand, I didn't think that I needed to take photos of just some Hot Wheels. But now I know of my obligation to take photos -- and in fact, the Tuesday project may extend into Wednesday if I'm unable to get good enough pictures on Tuesday.

Now in order to protect student privacy, I won't post photos with students' faces on the blog. Again, with the mousetrap cars, I took photos of the finished product after school, so there were no students in the pictures. With this project though, all the action is with students present, so it might be impossible to avoid identifiable student photos. I'll submit photos with students' faces to Illinois State, but not to this blog.

If I do find any photos I can post on the blog, I might actually go back and edit my blog post of Sunday, September 18th to include the pictures. I figure that readers of the "A Day in the Life" project may appreciate the photos.

Meanwhile, my seventh and eighth graders will get a different activity before the Dren Quiz -- one where we discuss the issue of fairness. Again, as I mentioned in that weekend post, my goal this year is to become the ideal classroom manager -- one in whose classroom behavior issues are settled with lots and lots of warnings but seldom anything beyond.

Sometimes it appears that students don't want to behave in my classroom because they perceive me to be an unfair teacher. Tomorrow's activity gives the students an opportunity to address the ways in which I am unfair. I'll pass out sheets of paper, and students can anonymously tell me what they think I can do to become a fairer teacher.

One fear I have is that I'm not treating the genders equally -- especially with the eighth graders. This class consists of 14 students, nine of whom are female. The top student in the class is a girl, and most of the male students are in the middle, but there are many girls struggling near the bottom. I want to make sure that the girls aren't having trouble because of some subconscious bias on my part.

If the students reveal to me that sexism is a problem in my class, it may be a good time to bring out Danica McKellar's books and remind them that girls can be great at math and science too. (This is not the same as bringing up Mark Bauerlein's book about our generation, since the focus is on what students can do, not what they can't.)

After the survey, I then reveal my own proposed fairness plan. As I've said before, under my plan, the students will earn minutes for good behavior -- and these minutes can be used for the next Illinois State project. I could tell my students my plan -- or better yet, I can sing it:


A minute for the warm-up,
If everyone will try it.
A minute for the call-up,
If everyone is quiet.
Show me the numbers!
No food, another minute.
And after P.E.,
No phones, two more minutes.
Show me the numbers!
Show me the minutes!
Show me the numbers!
Show me the minutes!

A demerit when you chase,
Someone 'round the class.
A demerit when you scream,
When you're a pain in the back.
Show me the numbers!
Demerit for your phone.
Demerit if you disrupt,
Three and then phone home.
Show me the numbers!
But don't show me demerits!
Show me the numbers!
But don't show me demerits!

Oh yes -- I know that no one actually calls them "demerits" any more, but it sounds better in song. In practice, I'll probably say "three strikes." Notice that "Show Me the Numbers" is actually the name of the current module, but the song has nothing to do with the project.

In my post over the weekend, I wrote that I wanted to focus more on positive interactions with my students rather than negative interactions. I did talk with those two misbehaving sixth graders during coding class today -- reminding the girl that if she succeed in Foldable note taking, she can do better in the class overall, and telling the boy how to pass his 10's Dren Quiz. But I'm not sure how effective my pep talks were -- after school I saw those same two students in the office. Apparently they had gotten into another heated argument and started attack each other during the after school program.

By the way, what was I doing in the office after school anyway? I was picking up more Illinois State texts, of course. I've mentioned before that I'm short a few texts for my sixth and seventh graders -- but instead of delivering the missing texts, Illinois State sent us a whole new set of books. These are labeled "Student Journals," but they look hardly any different from the traditional texts!

My next post will be Wednesday.

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