ELECTIVES Day 10 : Cycling Club Bingo!

Our school schedules electives on Friday mornings, taking the mantra of "fun Friday" up about fifty notches, and inciting all sorts of jubilation at the end of the week. Our electives this quarter include basketball, coding, girls-only sports, hip hop dance, swing dance, instrumental woodworking, judo, leadership, Minecraft, painting and artist studies, soccer, strategy games, opt-in study hall, and wildlife drawing.

Yes, those were alphabetical, because that's how the spreadsheet lists them. Shout-out to GoogleSheets.

My illustrious electives this semester are Cycling Club and Drama! Oh, I am stoked.
The first day in Cycling Club always includes a game of bingo, where students get to know one another, I get to know their level of riding ability and experience, and the whole room is up and moving.

More on Cycling Club to come on these Fridays, because it is one of my very favorite things.
- JMF (the teacher)


Day 9 : Pascal Party

Back to Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math! I love it, I am inspired, and I was the kid who was always great at formulas but laaaaaame at real-world application and any sort of joy.

(I graduated high school in 2006, so you can do the math.)

Jo Boaler's activities are helping me dig out of my NCLB-inspired pit of correctness, fear of experimentation, intense drive for praise and achievement through the letters on my report card, and holy, fearful reverence for math as a collection of truths that were untouchable and unfriendly to visitors.

Rant over. We also watched Cristobal Vila's epic Numbers in Nature (two times, at students' request) to get our brains thinking about where else math shows up in non-NCLB-mandated places. Now rant over.

Check out these Pascal's triangles. I will post more extra-fun colorful ones next week.


- JMF (the teacher)


Day 8 : Yea or Nay? (or Yay?)

We have started a research project - a great resource from TeachersPayTeachers seller Room 213 - that focuses on the question of electronic devices in class. Students did a great job creating a pros and cons list already, and in Station 5 were brainstorming what questions could be included on a survey or questionnaire to test students' attitudes about electronic devices in class.

More to come later as they keep researching... I was anticipating full support of devices in class, but our pros/cons chart showed me that students are wrestling with the question as well. I am excited to see what they find!

- JMF (the teacher)


Day 7 : Google Chrome the Colorful Beach Ball

Digital natives and digital immigrants alike all have to speak the language, and today we broke down some of the 'grammar' of using Google Chrome (which a student described as a colorful beach ball) and keyboard shortcuts, among a few other concepts.

I am learning to navigate the widespread ability in my classroom when it comes to technology... for some it is intuitive, and for others it is maddeningly frustrating. If anybody knows how to teach intuition and experimentation with clicking on whatever looks helpful, please do let me know! My comment of, "Well, find a clickable link that looks like it might be what you're looking for..." isn't that substantial, but is exactly the way I interact with technology and learn to move forward.

(Ignore the Bookmarks Bar that looks like worms in a race.... sigh.)

- JMF (the teacher)


Day 6 : Four Fours and Mind Blown

These snapshots are inspired by Jo Boaler's first day of the Week of Inspirational Math. She presents math as accessible, discovery-oriented, and exciting - even to those who are ready to view math negatively.

The Four Fours activity asks students to discover how one can combine four fours (surprise) and any mathematical symbols (+, -, /, x, exponents, parentheses, factorials, etc) to reach the whole integers listed on the chart. Nearly everybody loved it, and each student could gain a small victory when he or she reached a number.

This student used five fours, didn't follow PEMDAS, and discovered her mistake afterward... but was so excited I couldn't help but share it. She was discovering patterns and her own ability to manipulate numbers to reach a desired end. Pretty big deal.

Here's the correct way if you REALLY want to know.

(4-4) + 4 x (4 / 4)
0 + 4 x 1
0 + 4

(3-3) + 3 x (3 / 3)
0 + 3 x 1
0 + 3

- JMF (the teacher)


Day 5 : R E S P E C T

Today, dear readers, you get many many snapshots. Our respect agreement has been agreed upon!
All is well at the end of our first week, and we will be revisiting these photos when any of us start veering away from our commitment.

All photos here are Kepler Neighborhood School students, and you will be hearing their thoughts in the near future. All parents/guardians have signed photo releases for Kepler-related media.

- JMF (the teacher)



Day 4 : Reds and Greens

Both snapshots today show pieces of the students' rough draft of our respect agreement (which will be finalized and signed tomorrow), as well as what they identified as the easiest commitment (in green) and the most difficult commitment (in red).

We are aware that by committing to the respect agreement, we give our best effort and word that we will try our utmost to follow the rules we collaboratively created - teachers and staff included. Knowing what sounds most difficult for my students allows me to anticipate problems, redirect them to the agreement, and offer support in the looooooong journey of figuring out how to relate to other people well.

Bonus... my favorite dead flowers and wicker bookshelf. Enjoy.

- JMF (the teacher)


Day 3 : "Like wifi, but not in a good way."

Snapshot 1 is my rough diagram of the escalating cycle of violence, in which every blow (physical or emotional) is met with another, bigger blow... and eventually the two people or communities in conflict are separated so far that it becomes very difficult to reconcile. My classroom "clicked" with the cycle, and committed to catching conflicts before they get out of control.

The best descriptor of the diagram: "Like wifi, but not in a good way."

Snapshot 2 is the placeholder poster for our respect agreement, going up and being officially signed on Friday. Our school relies heavily on the work of Ron and Roxanne Claassen in restorative discipline, and the conversations in my class show clearly that kids are ready for an alternative to punitive discipline and zero tolerance.

- JMF (the teacher)


Day 2 : Fireplaces and #coffeegoals

Snapshot 1 is what SSR looks like... fake fireplaces and lamps provide light and some almost-real coziness. Combined with pillows (which are reserved for the SSR segment of the day), we are able to end the day with quiet reflection and a sense of calm. Yes, I love it. Probably more than anybody else in my room.

Snapshot 2 is my personal goal board, used as an example for the students, and as a method of accountability for me. Two have to do with coffee - more black, less money. We all know the struggle.

Please note: I am aware that not all Amish are technology-free, but "Amish days" is such a catchy title.

- JMF (the teacher)


Day 1 : The Beginning!

Day 1 successfully completed!

Here's a snapshot of an idea borrowed from my 3rd grade teaching colleagues... asking students to finish the sentences with their expectations.

A good student...
A good teacher...
I love learning...
I want our class to feel like...
This year, I would really like to...
School is important because...

My personal favorite: "School is important because without it, kids would turn into monsters."

Also - a snapshot of a Home Depot 77 cent apron used as a mobile cubby. Props to the hard-working, innovative girls who figured out how to tie it on correctly. I could not even get close. : )

- JMF (the teacher)


The Classroom

Behold, the 2015-2016 classroom is becoming a reality!

The people : Kepler Neighborhood School 7th graders
The purpose : to learn, collaborate, create, and become better humans

The theory : flexible seating, small group instruction, student-directed
The challenge : small space, big ideas

Your thoughts? Please share.
- JMF (the teacher)