01 September 2014

How Your Classroom Is Like Fantasy Football

The wife and I sat down for a fantasy football draft with her family last night, so it got me thinking today about how the process of building and managing your team is similar to how you plan, design, and manage your classroom.

Just like the first day of school, you spend a ton of time planning for draft day. You take tips from other managers (teachers), you set the tone for your season (the school year), and just like that, its over. I had a conversation in our office a couple weeks ago about being beyond-prepared for the first day, but feeling at a loss for what to do the second day. After draft day, there's still work to do (the most important work.

Championships (and high-achieving classrooms) aren't won on draft day, but the journey is certainly begun.

Busts, sleepers, consistent, and inconsistent - the same things that frustrate you about the performance of your fantasy team leave you sleepless about your students.

Anyone else here? I'll have students that the first couple of weeks of the semester seem to really impress me and I expect big things from them. As the page on the 1st quarter turns, their performance starts to go sour, and you're lost on where things went wrong.

No, not kids with their heads down. These students are the ones that weren't as successful in someone else's class, or don't look the part, but end up having a great year in your class and become your go-to choice for performance.

"Livin' on Last Year": 
Think about the player with a huge numbers from last year that suddenly jumps up your board on draft day. It doesn't totally seem right, but you're swayed by those numbers from last year. Most of the time, this choice goes sour for me.

It doesn't matter when you need kids to factor quadratics or critique an argument that they "always get As and Bs."

"Steady Eddie":
Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Trent Dilfer. These guys don't usually blow you away with their stats, but they don't often tank, either. He's the middle rounds running back or receiver that you plan to depend on, but would be willing to trade if the deal were right.

Some of your students just get by, doing the right thing, studying as hard as they can, and doing what they can. They might not make get an A, but sometimes these guys still win Super Bowls.

The structure and rules of a league also mirror the structure of your classroom or school. Until we figure out how to individualize EVERYONE'S path in public education, there will be students who win, and some who lose in the way our schools are structured. This paradigm limits the "draft value" of some of our students while inflating others.

Draft Day Guy:
This manager comes for the party on draft night, and sets their roster the first couple weeks, but as the baseball playoffs come along or the team starts losing, this manager checks out.

Sadly, the longer the school year goes on, the harder it gets to believe in your own idealism. The cure for this in fantasy sports is to win. In the classroom, it means you have to do cool stuff in your classroom and leave room for your students to innovate. 

Waiver-wire Magician:
I've been in a couple leagues over the years in which at least one of the teams in the championship looks nothing like what that manager drafted in August. This manager consistently find gems on the waiver wire and gets big games out of that player that make a difference.

We've all known the teacher (and hopefully its also yourself) that can get the most out of anyone when few others can.

You're in for the long haul this year. You've probably already held your "draft," but you're also still figuring out what you've really got on your team. Pour over your point projections (formative assessment), set your lineups, and go win your league this year. 

26 August 2014

Create Digital Manipulatives with PicCollage App

Searching for a fun way to enrich my students who had already watched and accounted for the videos for today's lesson, I decided to have them create and use manipulatives to model the addition and subtraction of integers that I had presented in my flipping videos.

My first decision was to just have them use paper, but with other kids in the room catching up on the videos on the class iPads, that almost seemed like a PUNISHMENT. "Good job doing your homework and getting ahead. Now give me back the technology - you can cut paper squares." Not exactly the engaging environment I was hoping to create. While rethinking it during my prep, I opened my iPad just to look through my apps to see which of them might give me some of the create-a-shape-and-then-move-it-around functionality I was seeking.

I settled on the app PicCollage (iOS | Android), which I previously used last year to have students construct a Frayer Model for our exponent rules.

Here are some student examples. Taco vs. Nachos was my favorite. :)
That was "-6 + 12 =" in the blue text, in case you're thinking this kid was as lost I was first thinking when I looked at it. :)
This was is also -6 + 12
7 + (-12)
The real winner was when the creator of smileys vs slushies above used HIS OWN MODEL to help out the kid next to him who was a little confused on how to use the model. Student win!

24 August 2014

Donorschoose.org for #Ferguson

Writing from his blog on Friday, +Bill Gates announced a HUGE match offer for this weekend on the popular philanthropy site Donors Choose.
Melinda and I are big fans of DonorsChoose.org, a program that makes it easy for teachers to connect with potential donors. Teachers can post projects that need funding, and donors can search for projects by school, subject, grade, and so on. You can give to your local school, or one across the country.

To make it easy for everyone to support teachers via DonorsChoose.org, our foundation will meet donors halfway. From August 22 through August 24, nearly every project on the site will be half off. For example, if a $500 project gets $250 in donations in that time, we will match that with another $250 and fully fund the project. (We will match up to a total of $1 million.) You can search for a project now—there are thousands to choose from.
I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the Donors Choose projects in and around my school district in Ferguson to see how many classrooms we could help get over that 50% mark.