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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Back to School Activities with Grade 8

My feet are sore, I'm exhausted, and I already have a cold, but I made it through the first week back!

Tuesday was our first day back with the kids.  I am teaching Math, Science, and French to two groups of Grade 8's this year and both classes seem like great kids.  One group is much more active and energetic than the other, but the kids seem really nice and respectful towards each other and to the adults in the school, which is a huge relief!

Our school is a 6-8 Middle School, so my kids this year are the oldest.  I have been reminding them daily that they are setting the example to the 6's and 7's of how to behave at school, and they are rising to the challenge of being leaders already.

I wanted to start the year off with my homeroom group with expectations for the year.  I really like the My Job/Your Job model of establishing classroom rules and expectations.  Students write down what the teacher's job is and what the teacher's job isn't, and what their job is and isn't.

I like this model because it reminds the student's what I am expecting of them, and what they can expect of me without using the word "rules."  I'd much rather have Classroom Expectations than a list of Classroom Rules.  I think it just sounds better.

On Tuesday (our first day) I broke the students up into small groups and had them brainstorm together to fill in the four boxes, then each group shared out their ideas.

After the groups had all shared, I compiled the expectations into a chart to hang up in the class.  (I don't have a copy of it on my home computer, sorry).

There were, of course, a few silly and inappropriate suggestions - they are Grade 8's after all - but they came up with a great group of expectations that are hanging up on our wall that I can refer back to when I need to.

On Wednesday, I gave my homeroom group an art activity to show off their interests.  I asked each student to trace his or her hand on paper, then fill the hand with images, words, symbols, colours, and patterns that meant something special to them.  I made one for myself as an example to show them:

Not only did we get fantastic art to hang above our lockers in the hallway, but I was able to see their work habits - who was using class time well, who was on task, who completed the task, etc.

All but 3 students finished their hand and I love how they turned out!  I've had two teachers in our hallway comment on how beautiful they are :)

On Thursday afternoon, my partner teacher and I (she teaches them English and P.E.) brought the two classes together for a team building activity.  They put themselves into groups of 5 or 6 with a mixture of kids from both classes.  We gave each group a roll of tape, 10 elastic bands, and 2 newspapers and asked them to build the tallest free-standing structure they could.  They had 30 minutes to work and build.

It was fun to see the different strategies they came up with.

In the end, only four groups were able to complete a free-standing structure, but they all had a great time trying!

My favourite part of the activity was the debrief afterwards where each of the four "winning" teams talked about how they had to change up their strategy at some point.  They realized that if you start a challenge one way, but it isn't working, it's okay to shift perspective or strategy along the way.

It's been a busy week, but a fun week.  Now I'm off to mark math assessments before a block party this afternoon!  Happy weekend, everyone :)

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