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“Keep it down, folks!” Classroom Procedure for Quiet Made Into a Game

Noise Buttons

“I don’t go to your house and stand between you and your Xbox and try to teach you Science, so please don’t come into my ‘house’ and disturb what I’m doing.”

Any teacher can tell you that there are those moments in education where you’re moving right along with your curriculum, you’re in the zone, ……..and you realize that you’re talking to yourself.  I have tried many classroom procedures to quell the extra chit chat.  Over the years, I have learned that bringing in a competition of sorts, especially with tweens and teens really 1. Gets their attention, 2. helps the class to bond and, 3. uses positive peer pressure to help kids conform.

Now, I can hear the groans. Oh no, HOW could you use peer pressure? What if EVERYONE doesn’t win the game? Does EVERYONE get a reward? What about their SELF-ESTEEM? As an adult, I can tell you that I have learned just as much from my failures and losses as I have from my successes.  My soapbox for 2 minutes: Kids need to understand that there’s a lesson to be learned in not always being successful/a winner/perfect. I think the world where everyone gets a pat on the back for showing up is really setting our kids up for unreal expectations.  Let’s stop setting these kids up for disappointment.  There’s nothing wrong with not coming out on top from time to time. It’s part of being human, and, yes, people will have certain expectations of you as an adult. You can be yourself, but learn when it’s okay/not okay to buck the system. Alright, I’m done now.

Anywho, I had these bottle caps I found in an old tin from a garage sale and I kept them with the thought that one day they’d come in handy.  I saw a similar project on Pinterest where large letters spelling ‘noise’ were used to keep the class aware of the noise level. I decided to turn it into a game, given my audience. Let’s talk about what I did first, and then I’ll tell you how the game is played.

I painted the bottle caps in sets of 5. I have 7 different classes for I ended up with 7 different colored sets. (I know there are 6 sets in this picture. I remembered to take a picture only after I had already started my next step. Oops.)

Painting

Then, I used my Mod Podge and some letters I found in some old scrap book stuff to create the word ‘noise’ on each set. If you aren’t familiar with Mod Podge, you’re missing out! It’s like a glue, but less sticky, easy to work with, and dries to a nice glaze. You can get it from all local hobby stores. I placed some under the letter, and then placed two coats on top of the letter, allowing time to dry between coats.Mod Podge

Bottom Coat

Top Coat

After they dried, I placed magnets on the back with hot glue so that they would cling to my classroom white board. Here’s my finished set.

Set

To make this into a game, I created game cards, one for each class.  They were color coded to match the bottle  caps, and were 7″ x 7″.  I spaced out the blanks by 1/2″. I plan to laminate them so that dry erase markers can be used on them.

Game Cards

Here’s my finished set of cards and bottle caps, aka game pieces.

Game Set

To play the game: Each Monday, all classes start with a full set of game pieces on the whiteboard. If they get unruly, don’t pay attention, etc., a letter comes off.  This continues for the week. On Friday, the number of game pieces they still have on the board determines the number of moves they get to make on the classroom/team game cards.  These cards are posted on my bulletin board.  The goal is to fill in two complete lines on the card. Any direction, up, down, in an ‘X’.  To do this, they have a choice: Use, Block, or Split.

If they decide to ‘Use’, they will use their moves to fill in spots on their classroom/team game card. For example, on Friday, a class has three letters left and they chose to ‘Use’ these three moves. They would place three dots on their card, working toward filling in their two lines.

If they chose to ‘Block’, they can use their moves to place an ‘X’ on another class card to cover over a move that class has made. To redeem this move, the class who received the ‘X’ must use a move to get that space back.

If they chose to ‘Split’, they can use their moves to make a mark on their card and block on their opponent’s cards.  Example, they had a great week and earned all 5 moves. They place 3 dots on their own card and block two opponents.

Each week, the class elects a different Game Leader. This Game Leader listens to his classmates and make the decisions that the class, or most of it, agree upon in relation to Use, Block or Split.

When a class fills in two lines, they get to draw a class reward. For example, a fun lab in class that other classes don’t get to do. Half a class day outside, etc. The cards are erased and the game starts again.

Now, if the class goes through all game pieces in a week, you need to slow down and evaluate what’s going on in that class because something is wrong with the precious little angels!  I have one like this every year and sometimes you have to create different procedures for them because they are just a handful (we’ve all been there).

Hope you enjoyed this post and let me know if you have any suggestions, if you try it, etc.

Thanks!

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I am a teacher

I would like to be able to say that teaching is all I ever wanted to do; that when I could first choose a path for life, I thought of the joy in instructing others.  That would be a lie.  I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, a doctor, a corporate guru, and in my younger years, Princess Leia, but never a teacher.  I work with amazing people who have been teaching for years, who knew that this was what they wanted to do.  I, for lack of a better word, stumbled into it.

I did very well in school, but I was very shy, except around my friends.  I always compared myself to the popular girls who were tall and blonde and beautiful.  I was nerdy, short, had coke bottle glasses and I always ruined the ‘curve’.  I didn’t like speaking in front of the class and I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me in any way. I honestly didn’t think much of myself except that I could master any subject, pass any test, or do anything academic with ease.  By the time I was 26, I had my Master’s degree and wanted to finish my Ph.D., joining the ranks of professors.  Life is funny though: It had other plans for me.  My Ph.D. program lost accreditation right before I was to move to attend and I was lost. Utterly, completely, totally, l-o-s-t! I laid on my couch for a week surrounded by boxes of my life and wondered what it was I was supposed to do with this messy moment.  (You’re thinking perhaps that it was then I had a revelation, an epiphany, that I was meant to help others learn.  Nice way to sum up the story, but wrong.)

I wandered from job to job to job.  I always did them very well, but something was always missing.  I didn’t feel as if I had purpose, that I helped anyone in particular, or that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.  It wasn’t until I was 32 that I came across a local program where I could achieve my teaching certificate in a year since I already had a degree.  I was working for my grandfather selling real estate (never work for family), had the time and realized I had nothing to lose.  I gained my certificate by passing the certification tests the first time, and I was set.

Granted, like any new teacher, I had delusions, ( super big ones), about how my classroom would run.  It would be like a combination of ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, where I inspired inquiring minds to ‘seize the day’! They would show up excited to be in my class, would eagerly complete all my assignments, and would leave at the end of the year, better people!  I would single-handedly save the academic world! I quickly discovered that the only thing some wanted to ‘seize’ was a nap, some only wanted to complete a text on their ‘hidden’ phones in their laps, and the only thing some couldn‘t wait to do was leave my class.  Although I won them over with my witty remarks and they all thought I was ‘so funny’, I couldn’t seem to get them to learn and love learning.  I cried a few times in the bathroom stalls and I had to ask myself if I had yet again made a mistake.

One day near the end of the year, I found a note on my desk while grading papers. I still have it and it reads:

Dear Mrs. Lap, Thank you for this year.  It has been so much fun. As I leave this school, my head will be full of memories from your class.  It was a place where I could be myself.  You helped me realize that it is better to be myself than to be something I’m not. With Love, your student.

I felt like a giant ass.  I had been so focused on “the curriculum” that I forgot the most important part: the students.  I told myself that I would never again make the worksheet more important than the kid.  I would never make the test supersede a student’s bad home life.  I would not forget what it was like to be unnoticed, overlooked, and to feel unimportant.  Once I made this the cornerstone of my teaching, everything else fell into place.  Now, granted, some days are better than others and some kids are still knot-heads. They are teenagers and they roll their eyes, but as long as they leave my classroom with whatever knowledge I can give them about science and life in general, I am fine with the mood swings and semi-drama.  It’s hard to describe unless you’ve found it yourself, but amidst it all, I know that I’m finally where I need to be.  I am a teacher.