My Happy Face System

My Happy Face System

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Hello and happy Saturday. I want to take today’s post with a grain of salt, I want you to really think about your situation in terms of the students you currently have and the way they respond to your classroom management strategies.

By the title of this post you maybe thought that I’ll be talking about something I do with kindergarten, but no. Today I will tell you how I applied behaviorism at its finest with my 9th graders. I learned about behaviorism in university and I have to admit that I’ve always been fascinated by it. I think sometimes we have to appeal to the most basic stimulus-response-reward procedures in order to shape or model behavior.

I used a more sophisticated way of behaviorism with my first graders using a Loki pop funko. You can click here to read about that. The system I’l explain is way more basic but strangely, it was super effective.

When I got to the school where I had to teach high school I noticed my students refused to work unless the assignment was graded. They had no motivation other than the grade, and they didn’t even expect to do well, they just expected to pass. I needed them to work, though, I needed them to write stuff in their notebooks, to practice, I didn’t need to grade every single thing. So I started giving happy faces to students who finished their classwork and would show it to me, just like I used to do with first grade.

Now first graders were happy enough with a happy face. That was their reward. Ninth graders weren’t so nice. They even thought the idea of getting a happy face in their notebook was ridiculous, and let me tell you, it was, but it started being something to look forward to when I told them that every time they got five happy faces, I would give them an extra tenth of a point.

Let me explain that better. Our grading system was from zero to five, but you could get tenths, so you could get a 3.5, which actually was the minimum passing grade. For every five happy faces, I’d give my students 0.1 points. That’s nothing, and I was very aware that I was nothing, but I wasn’t going to give them more because I wasn’t going to reward them for doing what they were supposed to. I was giving them the illusion of a reward, though.

What started happening was that students would do their work and show it to me so that I could give them a happy face. After they got the five happy faces, they would approach me and we’d count them together. It became a thing! At the end of the year, when we were counting the final happy faces, some students asked me whether they could transfer their happy faces to someone else because they had only three and couldn’t do anything with them. I said no, obviously, but I thought it was cute.

Would I try this system again? No. I think it was an emergency situation and it required a quick fix. I only taught those students for three months, and I basically needed them to pass English at the end of the year. Something about behaviorism you have to keep in mind is that the strategies used rarely last a prolonged amount of time, so you either have to modify your plan or replace it altogether. My students responded to this strategy because it was a short-term thing, but I doubt that the hype would’ve stayed alive after a semester, even less after a full year.

What are some strategies you’ve tried to get your students to work? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

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How to Make Grammar Engaging

How to Make Grammar Engaging

100th day (1).pngHello and happy Saturday. I don’t know what a good introduction to today’s post might be because I know what the general public thinks about teaching grammar. Take a wild guess at what my ninth-graders thought about it.  I saw them struggling with the passive voice, though, and I felt that they only used “said” or “told” as introductory verbs and I knew they could do better than that, so I prepared for them the ultimate lesson on passive voice.

I used the kid’s workbook as a guide because usually language books have a grammar section at the end. Now this was a very complete chart on the different special introductory verbs they are and how to structure a sentence in the passive voice using them, but it was too much for my students. I don’t mean that they weren’t smart enough to get that, I mean that sometimes information is put for teachers to modify it in the way that best suits the students, and that’s what I did.

I’m going to go back and forth between the passive voice lesson and how that translates in general to what you can do. So, like I said, step number one is to gather the information and adapt it. Adapting can be removing some stuff you consider unnecessary, it can mean to make something more accessible to students by simplifying the language or providing examples, and it can even mean to add to what you have from other sources. I took that chart, which had three rules and about twenty special introductory verbs and I divided it into four. There was a rule that had ten verbs as an example, so two groups would work on that one.

Step two for me is to have students activate their previous knowledge so that they can make connections and come up with their own conclusions. I did this by having my students make four groups and giving each groups a chart, each with one rule for the passive voice. But the chart wasn’t complete: it only had the list of verbs and next to each verb an example of a sentence in the active voice. My students had two tasks: number one, to transform the sentences to the passive voice, and number two, to try and think what the general rule for that group of verbs was.

After that, step three is to socialize findings but also to clarify information that might not be correct. What I did with my class was draw a chart on the whiteboard and have each group of students share an example of one verb, how they used it in a sentence in the passive voice, and the rule they found. Now students had two other tasks. The first one was to make a small poster illustrating their rule, so they wrote the “formula” for the sentence in the passive voice, and an example of said sentence. Some of my students color-coded the parts of speech, which I thought was very smart. I displayed the posters on the wall. Task number two was to copy the chart I’d made in their notebook.

Now my favorite part is application, and that means that students get to use what they just learned. I have to clarify something because I think these many activities are confusing in terms of timing. I used to have blocks with my students, that means that sometimes we had one hour and a half instead of forty-five minutes of class, which is why I was able to do so many things.

For application, I searched for special introductory verbs, wrote them in slips of paper, put them in a bag. Each student had to draw a verb, write a sentence in the passive voice using it, and then switch verbs with a partner. For this I used new verbs, which means they were unknown to the students because I wanted to know how they used them. To finish the class, some kids shared their sentences and I wrote them on the board for everyone to see.

I think this is a simple way to teach grammar and keep students engaged while challenging them a bit. What would you do to teach a not-so-fun topic? Let me know in the comments.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

How I Keep Students Engaged: MUN

How I Keep Students Engaged: MUN

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Hello and happy Saturday. If you don’t know what MUN stands for, where have you been hiding all these years? MUN stands for Model of the United Nations and is basically a foolproof activity when you’re teaching teenagers.

When I was at school, MUN was this big thing where you had to dress up and prepare for months, and most of the people who attended ended up studying law or economics or you know, boring adult stuff. As an academic activity, MUN has everything, especially if you’re an English or a Social Studies teacher, and you don’t need a massive event; you can adapt it to your classroom in whichever way you like.

I used MUN to work with tenth graders on the subject of globalization, so what I did is I looked through all the material there is and picked the topic: “Education as a tool to prevent violent extremism.” The idea with this topic is that students would 1. Interpret the topic according the country they represented, and 2. Understand the role of globalization when talking about education and extremism. Students had the chance to ask questions related to the topic, but like I said, the idea was for them to redirect it however they saw fit. Of course, for this they had already selected their country, and the good thing is that even if you have a numerous class, each students can get a country assigned.

Time was an issue for me, so we only had time to write and read opening speeches. I gave my students guidelines, and I even found a sample speech they could use as a base for what they had to write. Like I explained in a previous post, I did give them a one-minute limit and once it was met, I would cut them off, saying “thank you, delegate.”

Now, I personally believe that you can carry out a MUN for a whole term and that you will be able to accomplish many goals through it. I have to be honest and admit that I really wasn’t focusing on the content of my students’ speeches, but rather on the use of formal language when writing, and their fluency, pronunciation and overall performance when reading the speech. That being said, this was a two-week activity. We didn’t get to carry out debates or do working papers, although I would’ve loved it and they kept asking me when that would happen.

If you’re a new teacher or you want to incorporate new classroom management strategies, MUN will also be super helpful because you have points, and motions, as well as rules of conduct within the model that you can apply to your classroom. For example, if a student (delegate) is talking with out your (the chair’s) permission, that gives them a warning. After three warnings, delegates are usually required to leave the session, but you can’t do that when you’re in class, so instead you can say that each time a student gets three strikes, you’ll lower their grade or whichever consequence you decide.

In my experience, following the MUN procedures was more useful in terms of classroom management than when we were carrying out “regular” lessons. My students used their name plates to participate and to vote, which gives them a sense of empowerment that they usually don’t get. It’s like they can decide what’s going to happen next in the agenda.

Have you done MUN in your classroom? How did you adapt it? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

What We Watched in Class

What We Watched in Class

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Hello and happy Saturday. Are you the kind of teacher who likes including movies when you’re planning a unit? If you’re not, then maybe reading this post will change your mind. Either way, these recommendations might be helpful for you at some point. What I’m going to do is list the movies and documentaries I watched with my high school students and tell you how I used them in class. All of them can be found on Netflix. Let’s get started, shall we?

Living On One Dollar

I think documentaries like this one are a great opportunity to start discussions in your classroom, so I did come up with a series of questions for my students to answer. I graded speaking through this activity. Obviously, if you have more time, or if you’re discussing social or economic issues, this is a great documentary.

The Lorax

With ninth grade we were working on social and environmental issues, and I wasn’t sure what they’d think or say about me playing The Lorax to them. Well, they loved it. I have always taught English as a Second Language, which means that my students are not all fluent in English and they still have a hard time when movies don’t have subtitles, so I feel that this was challenging enough for them, but they could still understand most of what was being said. I think that through this movie my students were able to apply the vocabulary we had already worked on while making comparisons with the real world. After watching the movie, they developed a guide that I adapted from different activities I saw on Pinterest. If your students are younger, I’m sure there’s a lot you can find that is ready to download.

Live and Let Live

I did sort of push my vegetarian agenda into my students and I’m not sorry. No, but honestly, I feel like the impact on the environment that comes from eating animals is rarely mentioned and I wanted to include it in our Social and Environmental Issues unit. For this activity they had to take notes throughout the documentary and then complete a chart with information of each of the people interviewed. I wanted them to write who the person was, what they did, why they’d become a vegan and what their thoughts on veganism were.

Health for Sale

For tenth grade our topics were Hobbies, Health, and Wellness or something like that. The documentary Health for Sale was actually suggested by another teacher who was in charge of planning for tenth grade. I watched the documentary beforehand and came up with some comprehension questions. Then, while my students watched I asked them to take notes and to pick five questions from the list of around thirty that I’d proposed and answer them. I have to check this product and see if it’s ready for TpT, and as soon as it is, I’ll let you know.

The Magic Pill 

This documentary was proposed by me for tenth grade, and more that talking about a specific kind of diet, I wanted my students to see how what you eat can affect your brain and your health so much, but also how some disorders like those from the autistic spectrum can be “treated” using natural methods. I wanted to work on listening skills because after the Health for Sale activity I realized that my students were lacking comprehension, so I wanted to take a step back. The idea with this was for my students to watch the documentary and answer a series of brief questions as they watched, so it was more like a guided note-taking activity. I will put this activity on TpT, but I don’t have a definitive date yet, so be patient on that one.

 

Which movies/documentaries would you play or have you played in class? Let me know in the comments.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

 

 

My Happy/Sad Faces Activity

My Happy/Sad Faces Activity

Hello and happy Saturday. I’m in that weird mood in which I basically want to share all about my new job, and I swear there’s a post coming up specifically about how I got it and how I’ve felt about it.

Today I want to talk to you about an activity I did on my first day, which wasn’t the first day of class. My students had had a different teacher for almost the entire school year, but she quit and I came along to replace her. I feel that this is a very difficult position to be in, especially when teaching high school, which is what I came to teach because students will compare you to the person who was before you, they will want things done a certain way, but they will also take the opportunity to try and change the things they don’t.

Because I was literally thrown into class without having done any planning, I decided we should do, for that first class, a sort of introductory activity. I needed to learn my students’ names, of course, but I also wanted to know how things had worked before. I specifically wanted to know the things they did and liked, or the things they wished we could do in class, as well as those things they didn’t like.

I gave each student a piece of paper and told them two draw a happy face and a sad face, and told them what I just explained about what I wanted to know. Now, and I think this is something important that all teachers need to know: I didn’t make any promises I didn’t know I could keep. I couldn’t tell them we would be done using the reading platform because that was something that belonged to the curriculum and I couldn’t just remove it.

What the activity gave them, however, was a possibility to let me know about their learning styles, about the objectives and expectations they had regarding English class, as well as the things they didn’t really like about it. That activity helped me shape my classes in a way that was more comfortable for my students, and that could explore that variety of styles.

In the comments below tell me one thing you liked and one thing you didn’t from one of your classes in high school.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

Equity Sticks

Equity Sticks

 

Hello and happy Saturday. Yes, today I bring you an actual teaching-related post. Crazy, huh? Even crazier is the fact that I actually used this technique I’m going to show you with my students. And it worked!

I’m talking about using equity sticks for class participation. What I used for this were popsicle sticks, a cup, and markers.

Stay tuned for a post in which I explain you all about this new job of mine, but meanwhile I’ll tell you that I started working when the school year was already underway, so I didn’t have much time to do any get to know me activities or stuff that teachers usually do at the beginning of the year. However, I think giving each student their own stick to label is an awesome idea for those activities at the beginning. I did this with high school students, so it took about five minutes.

I had four different grades, so I assigned a color to each class not to get confused, and I kept the sticks tied with a rubber band and inside the same cup. In each class, I’d take off the rubber band, put only the sticks belonging to the group I was with inside the cup with the colored tip facing down, and I’d take one stick each time I asked a question so that the student whose name I’d called would give me an answer. After this, I’d turn the stick so that the colored part was facing up.

Using this technique made participation mandatory, but in a fun way. I dread those times when a teacher asks for volunteers and no one raises their hands. In an odd way, using equity sticks made students want to participate more, even if I wasn’t calling them, so I think it’s also a good way to break the ice and get students involved in the class. Some of my students even asked me whether they could draw someone’s name out of the cup.

This is really nothing fancy or expensive, but it was a nice addition to my classes, which obviously became part of the routine. My classes didn’t have those awkward moments of silence after a question because whoever got called was expected to answer.

In the comments below let me know about the participation techniques you use in the classroom.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Hello and happy Saturday. Have you run out of ideas of stuff to do with your students during the holidays? Well, let me share something I did with my kinder boys last year. Yes, we built a snowman, and yes, we sang the song, and yes, they loved it. Let’s get started, shall we?

I used this Build a Snowman worksheet from education.com . I like it because students have to color, cut, and paste, and multi-step activities are always my favorite because they keep students engaged and focused, but changing tasks every once in a while.

 

 

And because it was the holidays, I let them use markers. Wild, I know.

After coloring, they cut all the parts and glued them to their snowman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The snowman was then glued to a blue paper that said “Do you want to build a snowman?” It’s super cliché, but I thought it was a cute and easy idea.

This was my kinder boys’ Christmas card, which it’s cool because it’s different to the typical holiday cards kids make.

I wrote the message in pencil, and then they traced it with black markers. After they were done with the glue, they could decorate the rest of the paper.

Do you know of a movie or story-inspired activity to do with students during the holidays? Tell me about it in the comments!

Happy Saturday!

Love, Miss Camila