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Monday, May 18, 2015

Games Help People Open Up

My students are restless, are yours??  I've noticed a trend in my student write-ups and a certain day of the week. That's right people, Friday.  Most people hate Mondays, I'm starting to dread Fridays.  This past Friday I decided that we were going to end the week on a good note no matter what.  I declared it a game day.  Tabletop games that is...

I understand why families initiate a game night.  It's a way for family members to connect with one another.  I never really noticed this though because my family and I are very close.  There was no difference if we were playing a board game or anything else.  But I notice a huge difference in some of my students while playing a board game with them.  Our students want to open up to us but it's difficult when we are plowing full steam ahead with the curriculum.  Some days I don't even have a chance to ask them how their day is going.

But back to Friday.  There were two students in particular who I played a board game with that could have made this Friday miserable given the opportunity.  But instead they played a game and talked with me.  Isn't this part of our job too?  It in the Charlotte Danielson model about getting to know our students.  I always feel guilty about days like this; where I declare that I'm not going to teach any math today, I'm going to play board games with them (a.k.a get to know them).

Here is my suggestion to you.  Play a game with your students.  Not a whole class game, a board game.  Watch them open up.  Watch them trust you.  It's an amazing thing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 2015 Stitch Fix Review

I love and have a feeling that you women will too (sorry men, they only carry women's clothing...for now).  I imagine that many of you who read my blog are like me; full-time working teachers, who are moms and middle class.  I don't have time to drive to the mall and go clothes shopping, especially during the school year.  Even if I did have time, my children don't appreciate waiting outside dressing rooms patiently.  Not only that, but I seem to pick out the same items every year.  I mean really, how many black cardigans does one person need?  

Stitch fix is a company who sends you five pieces of clothing/accessories to try on in the privacy of your home, keep what you want, and send back the rest.  You are required to pay a $20 styling fee, but that fee turns into credit if you keep at least one item.  If you decide to keep all five items, you receive a 25% discount off the entire order.  Once you decide what you are keeping and sending back, you fill out a questionnaire about the items so that your next fix is even better.

I enjoy that I receive items that I wouldn't pick out for myself.  My stylist has been pushing me out of my comfort zone (in a good way) and I have been finding pieces that compliment my existing wardrobe nicely (black cardigans and all).

I thought I would share my latest fix with you all because I know some of you have been sitting on the fence about joining.  Perhaps this post may help you decide one way or the other.

I came home to see this on my front porch today.  Happy Dance!!
I must admit that I might enjoy the days leading up to the delivery of a stitch fix more than that actual day.  Anticipation is everything folks!

As soon as I opened the box and saw this dress, I knew it was a keeper.  The styling card that came with it suggested wearing it with a blazer.  Great idea!!  Yup, those are the tags hanging there.  

Kensie Carver Dress

Here is a closeup of the necklace.  I'm certain this would have overwhelmed me in a store and I would have walked right past it.  It sparkles a lot but the camera is not picking that up in the photos. This is a keeper.

Ah, the popular maxi dress. I'm not a fan.  I probably should have told my stylist this.  Anyway, I'm one of those people who likes a style long after its in style.  This dress will be going back.  That's my black lab Shadow photobombing me.
*Update*  I've been receiving a lot of comments about this dress, that I should have kept it.  First, I'm not in love.  I try to only keep clothing that I absolutely love.  Second, if I were brave enough to have my photo taken straight on, you would see how wide it makes my hips look.  Yikes.

Jakobe Chevron Print Maxi Dress

I think my facial expression says a lot here.  The detail on the shirt is interesting, but the cut makes my hips look WIDE (yes, I have a issue with hips).  The capris are nice but the fit wasn't quite right, you can see that they are a little baggy.  I will be sending back both of these items.  

Siena Capri Pant and Kahlo Embroidered Racerback Tank

If you are thinking about trying stitch fix, please consider signing up under my account, click here.  When you sign up and receive your first fix, I receive $25 credit.  I really appreciate all of you who have signed up under me already.  Thanks!  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Self Inflicted Wounds and the Salve

A few years ago I made the decision to only teach Algebra 1.  My department chair is really cool about giving us the classes that we request, so if I were to say I wanted to teach Pre-Calculus, he would make a great effort to make sure I did.  When I declared that I wanted to only teach Algebra 1, the entire department (all 6 of them) looked at me as though I had two heads.  And I get it.  Those students are challenging.  So many of them are bright, but they come to school with a lot of baggage that they can't even.  I have entitled this post "Self Inflicted Wounds" because this was a choice that I made.  Here we go....

I have been feeling sorry for myself lately.  I've even been going as far as jokingly saying that I've been studying the classifieds.  Maybe half joking.  The students are starting to get restless now that the temperatures are warmer.  They are showing up to class late, they are talking back, they are blaming me for their failures, they are answering their phones during class, they are stealing from me, and it's just one disrespectful action after the other.  And I get no break.  It's every period.  Some days I just sit there during my prep period (last period of the day) and stare at the wall wondering what to do.  How has it gotten this bad?

Then I think it's me.  When an entire class fails a test, you know it's something the teacher did or didn't do.  This is the same thing.  If its every class that's off their rocker then perhaps I am somehow the trigger.  The problem with this is I don't know what it is that I'm doing.  I would stop immediately if I knew what it was.  Any ideas????

That has been the last three weeks of my life.  Not really teaching, just working on getting along.

This past week I was only in class Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  On Thursday, I was one of the chaperones for our math field trip while we went to Six Flags Great Adventure for an egg drop contest.  Don't worry, we had plenty of time for roller coasters.  That's me in the bright yellow shirt.

Something started to happen to me while on that field trip...

I had the opportunity to talk to other teachers.  Strange how we work in the same building with these people everyday but we never get a chance to talk to them.  What I learned while talking to them is how much they enjoy their students.  But hearing this didn't make me jealous, it reminded me of all the good times that I did have with my students this past year.  It also made me realize that the students that were on this trip are great students but just 3 years ago they were the Freshmen who were driving me crazy in Algebra 1.  And I realized that my students and I are just going through a funk.  And chances are, I will come out of this funk thinking, "That wasn't so bad."  

That was Thursday.  On Friday I attended a Keystone Technology Innovator Conference at the IU.  

The day started with Scott Snyder and Brandon Lutz doing their amazing presentation called 60 in 60.  They quickly go over 60 apps/websites in 60 minutes.  I just barely typed fast enough to take notes on the ones I wanted to explore more.  Then I realized that if I want to use these apps I'm going to have to spend a lot of my 'home' time to figure them out.  This is time that I don't have.  That's when I emailed my principal and asked for a sub so I could play.  He offered me a half-day sub which is perfect.  Thanks Mr. L!!

The rest of the day went smoothly.  I had the chance to network with other teachers and listen to other presentations that I will have to write about later.  

When I was feeling like quitting, something came along and gave me hope (Thursday) and inspiration (Friday).  

Networking selfie:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Kickstarter Campaign - Bounty Hunter: Rise Up & Run

I am so excited/nervous/scared.  We just went live with our kickstarted campaign last night.  And I keep going back and forth between "What if we don't get fully funded?" and "What if we get fully funded?"

For those of you who might not know, I create games for my classroom.  It's my passion.  When I notice that my students are struggling with a concept, I try to brainstorm ideas for a game to help them.

I want all teachers to have access to these games without having to go through the hassle of printing, cutting, laminating, etc.  And not to mention teaching the rules to the students and then checking their work as they play.  Sometimes it's just not worth it.  But digital games are different.  Teachers won't have to cut and paste anything, just give a website and a code.  Done.

Unfortunately, game programmers and artists don't come free and we needed to have a kickstarted campaign.  We realized that just to get started we need about $2000 for all the business paperwork and the necessary computer equipment to complete the game.

Check out our campaign and if you find yourself moved please blog, tweet, and Facebook about it.  I would forever be grateful for your support.

Click here to see our kickstarted campaign.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dressing Like a Professional - With Help

I have recently been introduced to the company Stitch Fix.  Have you heard of them?  It's a company where a personal stylist will send you 5 items (clothing and/or accessories) and you decide what you want to keep.  The catch?  You pay $20, then that $20 is credited to your account.  So, you get your money back anyway.  If you decide to keep all 5 items, they apply a 25% discount.

I have received 2 fixes so far and LOVE both.  I find that when I go clothing shopping, I end up buying basically the same thing all the time.  Stitch fix takes me out of my comfort zone and I am finding all sorts of clothing styles that I love.  My students have noticed a change in me as well.  They asked me if I bought a whole new wardrobe, that I've been looking very stylish lately.  Actually, I have kept a total of 5 items from Stitch Fix, but have been more adventurous with the clothing I already own.

Anyway, I wanted to share this with all of you incase you were interested in joining.  Click here to sign up, even if you're not ready to start just yet.  You can always schedule a delivery later.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Make Bounty Hunter So Special?

I'm in the process of writing "the story" for our Kickstarter campaign for Bounty Hunter.  In this story I have to convince people, mostly teachers, to use our game in their classrooms.  For a while I was stuck.  I was having trouble describing the feeling that a player gets while playing the game.  In my mind that feeling was what makes the game so unique.

And then it hit me.  It's the feedback!

The feedback that players get in Bounty Hunter is very personal.  An answer is not right or wrong, it either fits with their plan or it doesn't.

Let's think about a typical review game that we might play in our classrooms.  I play review games where I will give the students a question and they have to answer it correctly.  If they do, their team gets points, or gets to move their pawn, or something.  For example, here is a question I would give:

Determine the slope of this line:

If the student gives me a correct answer of -3/2, I'll give their team 10 points.  But what about the feedback for an incorrect answer?  I know that some students will listen to my explanation, but others will tune me out.  They may not even know that I'm talking, they are getting ready for the next question.  In this case, the feedback that is given may or may not reach the student.

I'd like to show you a move in Bounty Hunter:

For this game, let's suppose we are the yellow jewel thief.  We want to land on the pink gem and we want to avoid the red bounty hunter.  If we create a slope of -2/1 our jewel thief will land on the pink gem (yay!).  However, if we accidentally create a slope of 2/1 we would land on the bounty hunter and be captured (no!).  You can imagine that a player's reaction might be more intense in this game compared to the other review games I play in my class.  

The Quality and Importance of the Feedback Matters. 

In Bounty Hunter, there is no right or wrong slope.  But the move you make may not be what you wanted it to be.  That is an important difference from my typical review game where there is only one correct answer.  

Once game play starts, the players start to develop a plan.  It's personal, and they created it.  If they do something mathematically that doesn't fit with their plan, they're going to want to know why.  This makes the feedback important to the player.  In the example above, if we create that accidental slope of 2/1 and expect our jewel thief to move down and right, but see him move down and left,  then we are going to want answers.  We might even yell out.  

On the other hand, it's very satisfying to see your character move as you expected.  There is more than one reward to creating the slope you expected:  The player will see what they anticipated (reward) and the player lands on the pink gem (reward).  

So, What Makes Bounty Hunter So Special?  The feedback that the students receive from the game is personal, important, and nonjudgmental.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kickstarter Campaign for Bounty Hunter

This is getting real folks.  Last week, we recorded the audio for our Kickstarter video.  Now, Micah is busy editing.  My job is to connect with people on social media.  Want to help me do my job?  Follow us on twitter.  @SirIsaacNewbton