When I started the process of National Geographic educator certification, I was only thinking about the obvious resources… the magazine, the documentaries, the photos… I never knew their MapMaker kits existed! Thank you so much Abra Koch for this inspiration…
But it wasn’t just finding the maps! Abra told me she does “map talks” or “map stories”…. why have I never thought of that!? It is such a great idea!!!
This week, in conjunction with my Arctic Crime Unit, I have used a street map to “map storytell” the backstory of Mrs Claus’s disappearance and the North Polar Region table top map from the MapMaker kits. Both led to a lot of aha moments and a great visual of where things are happening!
Try bringing maps into your stories! I think you’ll love it!
Before I tell you about Fast Friday, you need to know a couple of things about my practice! About 10 years ago I gave up homework. I have no right to judge anyone else’s practice so please don’t think that I am… I did it because it was right for me and the students in my room. Those who excelled did the work, those who didn’t, copied… and that was getting us nowhere. Instead, I began to kick out the parts of my curriculum that wasted my precious class time and began to use those moments to get more input into my students. Now they go home and listen to our song of the week or watch our class snapchat for stories (with Spanish captions) but they have no requirement to take my class home with them. Its just what works for me… So it may not surprise you that I also accept late work. If I am really going to make my grade a reflection of what my students can do in the language, it isn’t about what day they turned the work in it was about how well they were able to do it.
Anyway… about those FAST Fridays (Fostering Academic Success Today)… I am sure that at your school you have a group of bubble students. These kids who aren’t the hard cases, determined not to do any work… the ones who just didn’t feel like charging their iPad last night so they didn’t hand in todays assignment because hey, a D is passing… Our superintendent (you should all have a sup’t like ours… he is a forward thinker with an amazing school culture) wanted to try something to reach those kids. The bubbles. So he proposed that we try an hour early release for every student with all grades of C or higher and then use that hour at the end of the day to work in small groups with students to complete missing work, retake tests, get extra help… For me, it was a GREAT idea. I know that for teachers who are firm believers in homework as a responsibility builder this has to be a difficult adjustment but as I mentioned, I am about what they can really do in the language not about what they do behavior wise! I LOVE IT!
We have now had 2 FAST Fridays… My homeroom group (we do grade check in all homerooms once per week) had two bubble students last year. Boys who were PLENTY smart enough but just didn’t put that extra effort into keeping their work turned in. Guess what… they started the year with some Ds and as we came up to our first FAST Friday, both kicked in gear and got their grades up to Cs! They didn’t fall below the line between the Fridays either! I have given a thousand hoorays and high fives because I KNEW they could do this and they’re proving it to me and themselves too!
On the other side of the coin I had some students who needed to stay yesterday for FAST Friday number 2. These were kids who did not turn in work (although we do it together in class) but I allowed them a second chance, a chance to interact with that material that I considered important enough to assign in the first place! We spent the entire hour speaking Spanish, catching up on those assignments, and re-visiting those cultural topics. You know what happened? All 4 students left the room with work turned in and grades back up above the bubble line… and each one learned something from the work they were handing in. If I had said no to retakes, no to second chances, it would have been a lost teachable moment.
I don’t know if your school has ever considered something like this but I give it a hearty two thumbs up! What a positive way to show our students that we care enough about what is going on with their grades to help them dig out of the hole they have gotten into!