Monthly Archives: October 2011

Letting go . . .

Remember my great game on experiment … well in week 2 I introduced the students to the skill development component. This component is built on some practices they were familiar with from primary school.

Rocket Writing.

I gave them a stimulus statement (thanks to Maiden Gully PS for my initial prompt) and then set the timer. We wrote for 10 minutes. The first goal on their game board was to achieve 5 cm of writing … well, the lowest score was 4.5cm! The top three students achieved 25-27 cm!! The students modified their game boards to allow for future growth!! No-one complained about it, some may even have a story starter they can use to beat a level. They were surprised to see me writing as well, “Are you doing this too, Miss?” … but I have always enjoyed writing and it was nice to share that experience with the students. I read when they do, so it’s nice to write with them too!

Spelling.

I asked the students to be responsible for creating their own spelling lists. I am no longer correcting spelling, I highlight incorrect spelling. I also provided some ‘standard’ lists of words grade 6, 7 & 8 students ‘should’ know. The students themselves noticed we have a list of commonly misspelled words in our school diary and some have used that as their source. I asked them to work in pairs and test each other. They bring me their results to enter on to our leaderboard. We discussed the consequences of cheating and who was really losing if they did this. We also agreed to random spelling tests (like random breath tests) where I could ask them to spell any word from their list at any time.

I have noticed that some students have started to underline the words they aren’t sure of in their writing. When I read it, if I highlight it, it confirms their suspicion and they go and check it. I also had a student ask me if they could do more than one spelling test a week. Great question … it made me stop and think … why not? what would be the benefit of limiting or not limiting? … we talked about it and decided they must do at least one spelling test but if they want to do more it’s up to them.

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About 20% of the class have already successfully completed one of the four level one tasks and are already well on the way with their next piece of work.  It’s early days yet, we still have 6 weeks to go, but I am happy with the level of responsibility and ownership the students are taking. I’m very happy with the ideas and discussion being generated.

We are also balancing our Humanities research in this time aswell. I asked the question “How can you survive in a rainforest?” Most students are working in teams to prepare a presentation … some are making a Powerpoint, some movies, some picture story books and some are going to Wow! me again with minecraft (is there nothing that program can’t do??)

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Game ON!

We are about to head into the final term (home straight) for the year. The year 8 team have been working on what we call a parallel curriculum for English and Humanities which also allowed us to integrate SparkL (a project based learning approach to literacy) and Live4life (a local shire initiative dealing with mental health). This term we are embracing the idea of differentiated curriculum … all four of us will still be working towards the same goals and outcomes but each of us is taking a different approach and even varying topics covered in our class groups.

I have blogged about my use of games in the classroom and the more I read the more I am convinced to keep doing this. In my classroom this term I wanted to have a writing workshop theme for the English component and Rainforests for  the Humanities component. As a team we are still trying to incorporate opportunities for PBL and students managing personal learning. So …

… I had this crazy idea! Why not create a game that incorporated all of this.

Write Step! game board

Write Step! is the product I have developed.

It has four pathways (named for the functions of writing I wish to promote: creative, instructional, informative and persuasive). Each pathway has five levels and students will need to develop skills in order to progress through the levels.

Skill development is recorded separately and I have leaderboards for various skills as well as pathway progression. So we have competition with self and competition with class built-in.

There is no set goal level to achieve … that will be determined by the students. Students can work in teams or by themselves.

Leaderboard

We have nine sessions together each week: I have structured the game so that all sessions build skills. We will still continue with our reading programme (FAB – friends and books) but this can be a stimulus for writing for Write Step! We will have master classes (so I can do some explicit teaching in relation to grammar, punctuation, form and function). I plan to set up stimulus for writing using our Ultranet space, classroom displays, games played on wii / netbooks / ds. (Building on the experiences we have been using in our classroom all year.) Students must book a teacher conference (another practice we have been fostering) at least once a fortnight which may be used to present work to “beat the boss” and progress to the next level, discuss problems, nut out creative ideas for new writing tasks.

The students won’t actually know exactly what they need to do to beat each level (that’s part of the learning) and potentially anything they write could be submitted in an attempt to “beat the boss”.

I’m really excited by this concept. When I finally stopped to take a breath and asked myself that important question “Would you want to be a student in this classroom?”, the answer was a resounding “YES!”

I’m now just nervous about how my students will react! Have I over planned? Have I made it too busy? Am I going to overwhelm them? I guess I’ll find out … term four here we come!