Exit Slip Dice Game

I’m a teaching genius. Fine, fine….not really. I’m actually just a teacher trying to keep my head abovec543072_s water with only a handful of days left in the school year! When I’m blessed with a strike of creative brilliance at this time of the year, I am doubly thankful!

The last couple of days, I’ve asked to students to write standard exit slips (okay…they weren’t necessarily standard because one was a “Tweet from Vicksburg” and one was an “Emancipation Proclamation newspaper headline.”), and I wanted to do something different today. I broke kids into small groups and provided each group with a die. Each group member had to roll the die and answer the associated question:

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 8.45.45 AM


Totally fun and totally new to my classroom! I was able to wander about the room and participate in group conversations quite easily as students were engaged in this active “game” more so than if I had each student report out their learning in a whip-around. Plus, I felt like this met the requirements of collaborative group work because each student had a role but also relied on others to complete the task! I will definitely keep this in my teacher tool bag!

An extension may be to have students write down their peers answers which would hold them accountable for listening. Students could use that information to write a paragraph summarizing the lesson (literacy connection!!!).

Games and Motivation

I was trolling the internet the other day and came across THIS article about Candy Crush. I’m new to the game, though I was immediately addicted when I started playing. I thought the article connected quite clearly to our psychology study focusing on motivation, so I decided to use it in class.

  • I showed THIS video to hook kids onto the topic.
    • After the video, I led a discussion regarding what games kids like to play and why they enjoying playing them.
  • Students then read the article either independently or with a classmate.
    • I asked them to jot down notes answering the question, “How does Candy Crush motivate players?”
  • Students shared out their notes and found things like…kids playing
    • Food is inherently motivating to humans. :-)
    • You never know when you will win.
    • You lose more often than you win.
    • The game is simple but challenging.
    • The game gets progressively harder.
    • The game only lets you play so much before forcing you to take a break. You can’t wait to come back for more!
    • Players believe they are in control of their strategy when really it is a game of luck.
  • I was able to connect these points to conditioning and motivation as students have learned in class.
  • Next, I showed students THIS video explaining why games are addicting to kids, which we discussed after viewing.
  • Finally, I asked students to email me three ways teachers could get kids addicted to school, based on what they learned throughout the lesson.
  • Examples from kids include…
    • One way you can get kids addicted to school is by having a reward process; such as having a day to have homework and tests, while another day is having fun and games to learn a new lesson.
    • The fist idea to get kids addicted to school is to reward them for the things we do or get good food during school.
    • Make it simple and to the point with no twists or turn.
    • One way you could get kids addicted to school is to do more fun things. Another way is reward kids for things. Last, schools can do more things to be associated with fun and happiness. 
    • More hands on work.

Kids were pretty clear that FUN is motivating! :-) In general, student take aways showed they understood the message about motivation. All students listed as least one way to make school addicting that was directly tied to the article/videos (some ideas were opinions instead of tied to the content). I was happy  to leave the textbooks on the shelf today, and use a relevant topic to get kids exited about the curriculum!

My Career in Data

Every year, receiving Iowa Assessment scores strikes terror into my heart. This year’s scores aren’t as awesome as I’d like them to be, but check out this graph that essentially documents my seven years of teaching*…..

MyScores07_14I’m comparing apples to oranges in this graph (different kids each year), so the graph doesn’t tell me much about individual student progress. It does tell me about the effect I’ve had on kids each year, and the upward trend in student scores is a relief to me. I’m also looking forward to doing an item analysis of the questions as that will allow me to compare students in my classroom to students throughout the state and country. I often say, “I’m not a data person” because there are so few normed assessments available for social studies. My intense desire to pour over these scores would serve as evidence that I apparently AM motivated by data though!

*The red line delineates the change from “Iowa Tests of Basic Skills” to “Iowa Assessments.”

Survivor :: Academic Review Game

I needed another game today, and luckily my creative juices were flowing because I couldn’t find anything online (I absolutely scour the internet to beg, borrow, and steal ideas!). I really like to keep my games original so that kids don’t get bored.Survivor

  • Divide students into desired number of teams (I did four today).
  • Provide each team with a personal white board and a marker.
  • Each team must send one representative to answer a question.
    • If a representative gets the question right, they earn their team one point.
    • If a representative gets the question wrong, they have to sit on the “Lost Island.”
  • The team with the most surviving members at the end of the game wins!

I got a classroom full of “thumbs up” for this game, and I thought my presentation (see HERE) was HILARIOUS!

Instructional Feedback

A recent assignment for professional development was to record ourselves teach (again?! I haven’t lost ten pounds yet!) and watch for use of purpose statements and active engagement strategies. We were asked to use the following rubric to reflect on our teaching:



You can view my teaching HERE if you’d like to grade me yourself. :-) As for my self-reflection…

  • Purpose Statement
    • The purpose for my lesson is visible and mentioned verbally.
    • It is written as an “I can” statement.
    • It is not clearly linked to the content standard.
    • It can be assessed, and what you don’t see is the exit activity where I ask students report out one way the debate over slavery intensified.
  • Active Engagement
    • There were multiple opportunities for all students to talk to each other.
    • There were multiple opportunities for students to signal their knowledge of the answers.
    • A couple of students dominated the closed questions. What other strategy could I use?

Students were SO nervous when I set up the camera! I chose 6th period because they are my most challenging class to engage in discussion and activities. In the previous period, I did a better job of explaining some of the vocabulary—abolitionist, annexation, etc.–and drawing students’ attention to the map as a clear illustration of the U.S. at this time. Sixth hour needed those extra explanations and I missed some of them! I definitely think I can continue to push for higher levels of engagement and academic performance in this class period!

Regional Super Heroes

After Chapters 12 and 13, I feel pretty good that kids have an understanding of the characteristics of the North and South before the Civil War. Historically, I’ve had them make Venn diagrams or write short essays proving their knowledge. This year, I finally struck upon something FUN…regional super heroes!

Learning Target: I can represent the North and South before the Civil War using personification.

  1. Students will engage in carousel brainstorming regarding the topics…super hero
    • Economy of the North/South
    • Society of the North/South
    • Working conditions of the North/South
    • Changes in the North/South
    • Each of these will be posted on a separate sheet of paper (eight total), and the class will be divided into eight groups with eight different colors of markers. Students will have ninety seconds at each topic to think of everything they can.
  2. I will model for students how to connect their brainstorming to their super hero. We will discuss the term “personification,” and I will assign them THIS worksheet to design their super hero.
  3. Students will work independently on the written characteristics of their super hero as well as the visual representation. (I wish you could have heard the OOOs and AHHs when I showed them THIS website!)
  4. Students will work collaboratively to write an illustrated story pitting their two super heroes against each other which will showcase their understanding of why these two regions will come into conflict.
    • Students will use PowerPoint to tell their story. I will review the elements of a plot line as well as technology tips such as inserting images and backgrounds, textboxes, and autoshapes.

I am sooooooooo excited about this project I had to share the idea immediately. Check back for examples of student work!

Review Games

I really like to keep my social studies class fun and engaging, and one way I do that is to play a lot of games. Students are much more engaged in a review GAME rather than a review LECTURE! Also, I like to play lots of DIFFERENT games so that students don’t get bored. Each of these games begins with a PowerPoint full of review questions, but the game process changes each chapter. Please beg, borrow, and steal from the list below to keep your class exciting!

TrashBall: Divide students into at least four teams. Give each team ten X’s on the white board. ballUse masking tape to mark two lines on the floor as “shooting lines” and place a clean trashcan a few feet from the lines. Pose a question to a team. A correct answer allows that team to erase two X’s from another team. The answering team also shoots a basket from either the two point line or the three point line. A made basket allows that team to erase two or three more points from any team. A team who has no X’s left may gain them back by answering questions and making baskets. The team with the most X’s wins. There was a SERIOUS sense of competition in my room as teams cheered for others when shooting and while deciding which X’s to erase. Teams even started building alliances!

swimSink or Swim: Divide the class into at least two teams. Pose a question to one team. If they get it right, they earn one point as well as the opportunity to “sink” a player on the opposite team. As the game progresses, teams continue to earn points and sink players on the opposite team, but they can also “swim” a player who has been sunk. Again, the highest scoring team wins. My favorite aspect of the game is that the kids who usually answer the questions are sunk immediately and the reluctant participators are forced to engage in the game!

Liar, Liar: Divide the class into at least two teams. Pose a question to one team. Each team member who believes they know the answer stands. The opposite team gets to pick who answers the question. If the chosen person gets the question right, the team earns the number of points equal to the number of players standing (which explains the motivation to stand even if you don’t know the answer!) Team with the most points wins…or perhaps it is the team who lies the best!

Win, Lose, or Draw: Divide the class into at least two teams. Pose a question to one team. trophyThe team earns five points for a each correct answer–that’s the “win” part. The team can then choose to draw from a deck of cards that include situations like add # points, lose # points, lose a turn, steal # points, double your score, etc. Let your imagination go crazy! Again, team with the most points wins.

Triple Play: Divide the class into at least two teams and provide each team with a white board and three “triple play” cards. Pose a question to all teams and allow them time to discuss their answer and write it on the white board. If the team feels VERY confident about their answer, they may use one of their “triple play” cards and earn three times the points. If they are wrong, they lose that many points from their total score.

baseballBaseball: Divide the class into two teams. Display a baseball field on the board. Pose a question to one team. Each correct answer advances the team one base. Build in “home run” or double/triple play questions as well (utilize true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and open-ended questions). The team with the most runs at the end wins. You could totally do this with football…I’m just not much of a football guru to compose the rules!

King/Queen of the (Insert Topic Here): Have all students stand up. Pose a multiple choice question to the class and have each student answer by raising 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers (representing A, B, C, D. You could also do this on individual white boards). When a student gets a question wrong, they are required to sit down (ask them to keep answering the questions to stay engaged). The last person left standing is the King/Queen. Put their name on the board for bragging rights.

Hot Seat: Ask a student volunteer to sit in the front of the class in the “hot seat” while you pose a multiple choice question to the entire class. seatHave all students answer the question by answering via Socrative, white boards, or by a show of hands. The student in the chair answers last. If a student gets the question right, I give them one point of extra credit. If the student gets the question right but the class gets it wrong, I give the student two points of extra credit. I like that this game forces everyone to participate but includes a little extra “show off” time for a kid who wants it.

Board Races: Divide the class into at least two teams. Have each team send a representative to the board. Pose a question to all players. First person to answer the question correctly earns their team one point. One variation on this game is to only put one marker (or piece of chalk) in the tray. When a student thinks they know the answer, they have to get ahold of the marker and write the answer. This makes it MUCH easier for me to know who had the right answer! Team with the most points wins.

tic tac toeTic Tac Toe: Divide the class into two teams. Pose a question to one team. A correct answer allows the team to place an X or O on the board in a square of their choice. Continue running the game just like normal tic tac toe. This is fun because all kids know how to play and have very strong feelings about the best strategy! Many classic games–Checkers, Connect Four, etc.–can be played in this same fashion.

Double or Nothing: Divide the class into at least two teams. Build your PowerPoint using animations so that there is a question followed “on click” by multiple choice options. Pose an open-ended question to one team. The team can answer the question, without the options, for two points. If they don’t get it, the other team may steal the question for two points or choose to have the teacher display the multiple choice options. If the team uses the multiple choice options, they only receive one point for a correct answer.

I highly recommend using a “Vanna White” for any of the games that require score keeping. My favorite games are the ones that force teams to work together and strategize in addition to recall the material. What great games do you use in your class?