Mustang Madness

Teaching to an empty room

This quote is at the heart of the book Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. (Shoutout to Shelley Burgess for creating this beautiful graphic!)

When I read about Ryan McLane‘s Teach Like A Pirate Day, inspired by this quote, in the book he and Eric Lowe co-authored, Your School Rocks, I knew I had to figure out a way to make it happen! It quickly became one of my implementations for #DBC50Summer even though I had no idea how I was ever going to convince the teachers I serve to give up a day in their already busy calendar.

The Plan

In early August, I met with my principal and explained this day centered around celebrating a love of learning. The more we discussed it, the more her eyes lit up. (Side note: I love that she is constantly finding ways to let me lead & grow. This was just one example of that. She rocks.) We discussed that this would need to be brought to the School Improvement Team (SIT), so we made a plan for me to pitch it to them at the next meeting. Little did I know that I would be elected to serve on SIT just a few weeks later.

Every month we have a Mustang Madness Day built into our schedule. These days are usually held on dates with early release schedules or at the end of the quarter when we’d be holding our awards programs for academics and athletics. The members of SIT seemed eager to develop this idea further, so we preemptively looked for holes and concerns our teachers might have. We scheduled the first attempt at a #tlap day for the Mustang Madness day before Christmas vacation. Then… life happened.

In late November, I sent our SIT chair and principal an email asking if we were still moving forward with the date as scheduled. Getting the green light from them, I began organizing the day with as much structure as possible, as suggested by SIT.

Here’s how it went down…

Every teacher in the school shared their activity on a Google Sheet. Using that sheet, I created a form for students in each grade level to rank their interest in the activities (1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on). Here’s an example of a form.

*We decided to keep students with their grade levels to streamline the process this time.*

During media classes in early December, students completed the form. It took about 5-7 minutes in each class. Using those responses, I created schedules for every student (yes… every. student.) making sure to respect their 1st and 2nd choices in the core classes and 1st choice in their encore classes. No child ended up with anything less than their 5th or 6th choice!

On Wednesday, two days before our Mustang Madness date, I printed a copy of each teacher’s class lists for each class. Teachers still had their planning period in tact and would be going to lunch at the same time. On Thursday afternoon, I emailed every student their schedule for the day.

Let me just tell you, the hype was REAL! Kids were pumped to be at school the next day! I could hear them discussing which classes they had and trying to figure out who they would be in class with!

*When students completed the form, they did not know which teacher would be doing which activity – I wanted them to choose based on activities only to eliminate any preconceived notions about their own interest level. When they received their schedule, they only got the name of the teacher! So there will still so much suspense around what they’d be doing the next day. It was so much fun to listen to them guess which teacher was going to do which activity.*

Then… it was time.

Signs were placed at classroom doors with the name of the activity and the teacher’s name. I hung up poster-sized schedules with 1st period locations to prevent confusion among students, especially our 6th grade students. The bell rang and the excitement in the halls was palpable. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted, but in the best way! I had FUN teaching! To my knowledge, there wasn’t a single behavior issue the entire day. I asked students and teachers to complete a survey at the end of the day and responses are still coming in. This is the preliminary data.

That’s HUGE! Do you SEE that? From what I’m seeing, 62.5% of students CAME TO SCHOOL (on a snow make-up day, no less) because they were excited about Mustang Madness! Yep – that’s making kids want to tear down the walls to get INTO school, rather than to get out! In my eyes, that statistic alone makes the day a huge success.

Here’s some other feedback I received:

From students

What did you love about today?

“it was funner than school has ever been”

“having teachers i don’t normally have”

“I loved the fact that we could do what we chose and that we could choose our own schedules.”

“everythang”

What would you change?

“nothing”

“make it longer”

“If i could change anything i would make the option for the students to have more access to which students there going to be placed with in there classes because some people may have got no classes with there friends and people that may have really wanted to have this day together couldn’t so i would love to see more accessibility towards that part.”

“Today everything was fun and we don’t need to change anything today.”

From teachers

What did you enjoy about today?

“Getting to do lessons that we are really passionate about, and being able to meet new students that we normally do not see.”

“The vibe of the school is so much fun.”

“How much the students engaged in something that was an “out of the ordinary” experience.”

“Getting to have fun with the kids and see them at their best.”

What would you change?

“Not much, the schedule worked great but having a little more input or access to the sign-up process would be nice.”

“Do it on a full school day; may need more time with some activities”

“Let kids sign up during homeroom so we can catch the ones that are absent.”

*It is worth noting that 100% of teachers said this is something they want to do again!*

So… what’s next?

I would love to see this run like Ryan did his. Students report to first period for attendance and announcements, then disperse throughout the school for classes. I think that once a class is full, the teacher will shut their door and any remaining students who wanted that class can go to their next choice and try to attend the class they missed in the next block of time. I’m excited to see our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students mixed up within the classes. This was something our teachers were very hesitant about; I mixed grade levels in the media center with no trouble, and am hoping that will serve as a model for the next iteration. I believe that allowing free movement and not having a “schedule” ahead of time will give students the ability to have more classes with their friends. Also, if we have it on a regular school day (not an early release) students and teachers will have more time in each class.

Some of the best feedback I received from this day came from three different people.

One teacher said, “You didn’t know it, but I needed this day so bad. It reminded me why I love teaching. I had forgotten.”

One of our custodians said, “My favorite part about today was seeing teaching today. Every time I walked by <his/her> classroom, <he/she> was so excited! I’ve never seen <him/her> teach like that.”

My administration said (and this meant so much to me), “Today was the very best, smoothest last day of school before a break that I’ve ever experienced in my 17 years of education. Thank you!”

As kids were leaving the school, the halls were vibrating again. It wasn’t necessarily from excitement to leave. It was from students yelling their “see you laters” and “Merry Christmases” to new friends. I believe they will be excited to be back on January 2nd, and that they will be looking forward to our next Mustang Madness.

Enjoy a few of the pictures of our day celebrating a love of learning! This is just a sample of what our incredible teachers and students enjoyed. Thank you for this incredible idea Ryan, and for sharing it in Your School Rocks! Just another example of how #DBC50Summer is changing my world, one book and one implementation at a time.

For more on this idea of #tlap day, check out Ryan’s blog! He has so many resources and has done this many times! It’s a wealth of knowledge and he’s super helpful if you need anything that you can’t find there!

Stained Glass and Snowflakes

Stations. The best unkept secret in education.

Snowflakes are hexagonal… perhaps the best kept secret in advertising.

macro photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

During #DBC50Summer, I followed every author from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on Twitter and love being connected to them! One of the funniest authors is easily Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance. His sense of humor pulled me into his book and now I get to enjoy his wit through social media. He created a hashtag to serve as a Public Service Announcement. Snowflakes are hexagons. Really! #Snowflakesarehexagons

The poetry written to the companies along with the photos of his own version of “false advertisement” cracks me up! With those posts, do you know what he did? He made me stop and count the dang sides of every. single. snowflake. in every. single. ad. I see.

Our amazing 8th grade math teachers, Ms. Luce & Mrs. Hawks, and I had already planned to do an extension of a PBL in MinecraftEDU. The students had learned about how linear functions are used to create stained glass windows. They had a guest speaker a few weeks ago who actually showed them how she creates stained glass and students have been creating their own stained glass (by coloring) and figuring out the linear function in slope-intercept form of each line. In MinecraftEDU, students could create a stained glass of their choosing. This could be done by modifying the one they created with linear functions to be “blocky” so it could be built in the game, they could create anything from scratch, or they could look up pixel art and use stained glass blocks or wool to create it.

This gave us two stations in our classes, but we needed a third. I had just discovered that Sprite had six-pointed snowflakes on their product (thanks to Denis’s Twitter PSA) and thought students might have fun discovering which products had “the right snowflakes” on them.

Our third station was a huge hit!

First, students searched for snowflakes in advertising and shared an image they found on a Padlet. Bonus for me: I get to talk about digital citizenship next week and have students determine if this was best practice for using images! (Hint: No, no it was not.)

After finding an image, they read one of the three articles referenced in Denis’s blog post Snowflakes are Hexagons. They were to secretly tell me how many sides every snowflake has and why it has that many sides based on their research.

Upon giving me the correct answer, the students did exactly as Denis suggests in his blog… they created paper snowflakes. There were a lot of octagons, decagons, quadrilaterals, and circles, until finally someone used their resources and googled “How to make a six-sided snowflake.” HA! My principal suggested taking it up a notch further. These paper snowflakes (with the correct number of sides, of course) will be used as decorations for their Winter Dance in December.

Check out a few of their creations that I tweeted out! There are dozens and dozens of hexagonal snowflakes in our media center now!

 

Then, this morning, this kid blew me away!

The MinecraftEDU station turned out pretty fantastic, too! I am currently working to upload the file on my YouTube channel and will embed here when finished, but for now, check out this link to a walkthrough on my Google Drive. (There is no sound.) I was so impressed with what they built in the 25-30 minutes they had available to create. Several came before and after school as well as during their lunch to finish their stained glass pixel art and more have asked to return this week. Students showed one another how to “light up” their windows using glowstone, so when the world turns to night it glows in the most beautiful colors!

I am so proud of the students I serve, and the teachers were blown away by both their stained glass creations and their unique snowflakes. This was one of those times that we got it right. Thank you, Denis for inspiring a way to make learning relevant for our students! This definitely serves as one implementation (I’m sure there will be many more to come) for my #DBC50Summer post on Instant Relevance! I am honored that our 8th grade math teachers trusted me to help create this PBL extension and spur-of-the-moment lesson on snowflakes. I’m looking forward to more lessons like this!

#DBCBookBlogs: Make Learning Magical

Several years ago, there was a night of games at a conference. This was the first time I ever spoke to Tisha Richmond. Fast forward to last April and I knew I’d met a new best friend.

She was playing Code Names with her class! That is one of my (and my students’) favorite games to play!

I had no idea who this Tisha Richmond lady was, but I already adored her. Who can resist another tabletop gamer AND her Twitter handle sounded way cool – @tishrich.

So when I found out she was releasing a book with THE Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc I was so excited (as evidenced by the sheer number of exclamation points in the above tweet, ha)!

The day it was available on Amazon, it was purchased, and on Sept 18, it arrived!

Finally – I get to share my thoughts about Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond, book 57 (and the most recent release) in the amazing line of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books.

MLMagical

Stop right now and go get your copy. Seriously. This was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down. It is a book from which I had SO much I wanted to do that I had to wait and get my sleep on before I could make a decision about my implementation plan (Spoiler alert: I still couldn’t make a decision).

There are so many practical ideas within Tisha’s book and every single one seems feasible in any classroom. Tisha was a culinary arts teacher who has now transitioned to a new role as her district’s tech integration specialist. She shares how she gamified her classroom and how she gave her students an authentic audience. In her class it wasn’t just about spending time in the kitchen, it was also about spending time with one another and students putting their own spin on culinary creations.

Her acronym (because, hello… it is a DBC book after all… we know how much we love those acronyms) It’s magical… no, really… it’s MAGICAL.

  • Memorable Beginnings

  • Authenticity and Agency

  • Gamified Experiences

  • Innovation

  • Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity

  • Authentic Audience

  • Legacy

See… MAGICAL.

Memorable Beginnings

Tisha advocates for leaving the syllabus, handbook, rules and procedures until AFTER getting to know our students. I love this! After all, I teach kids. I need to know those kids and they need to know me before any true learning connections can happen. Learning certainly isn’t magical if students don’t feel comfortable in their own environment.

From this section, I choose to implement the decor. She speaks to using all senses to engage students. These include using music to engage the ears, aromas to engage the nose, visually pleasing colors with the psychology of colors to engage the eyes. As I seek to be more magical in my lessons, I will consider what students are seeing, smelling, and hearing.

Authenticity and Agency

This entire section – the whole thing – spoke to me at the core. Having an attitude of gratitude, giving students voice, and sharing our failures are keys to a magical environment. I am implementing the #GratitudeSnaps co-created by Tisha and Tara Martin (author of Be REAL) and sharing one thing I am thankful for each day for the next three weeks.

Gamified Experiences

If you loved Michael Matera‘s eXPlore Like a Pirate, you will certainly love this part of the book! In fact, Michael wrote the foreword for Make Learning Magical! I personally love the mini-games that Tisha shares.

Last spring I was awarded a local mini-grant to purchase tabletop games for use in the classroom. I am so pumped to be using these games in connection to curriculum across grade levels. The game club that I have the pleasure of facilitating is every Friday afternoon and we are enjoying spending time together. I will be implementing these games into classrooms and blogging about them as the implementation for this section (and the main implementation of this book).

*Think of the other implementations as “side quests“.

Innovation

Tisha reminds us of George Couros‘s The Innovator’s Mindset in which George explores the idea of innovating inside our boxes. This means to use what we have and innovate with that.

It is in this section that Tisha shares her biggest mic drop moment (in my opinion). This is where I feel like she’s come off of the book’s pages and is talking to me face-to-face in my living room, and I bet you’ll feel the same way!

“I’ve had moments of irrational fear and doubt when I’ve strongly considered going back to comfortable and easy; however, the fire inside me is too strong. I know that I can never go back to comfortable and easy, because in the discomfort and challenge is where I’ve experienced such growth. In the fear, I’ve discovered things about myself I hadn’t realized and become even more certain of what I believe and hold dear to my heart.”

~Tisha Richmond, Make Learning Magical

Here I am getting goosebumps again just reading that part of Tisha’s heart in word form. This reminds me so much of Shawn Mendes’s song “It Isn’t In My Blood.” We hear this  phrase repeated time and time again – it’s like an anthem.

Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t
It isn’t in my blood

Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity

So much is covered in this section that is pure gold! From considering the introvert to giving more opportunities for making in the classroom, from creating buzz for lessons (think Teach Like A Pirate hooks) to sketchnoting and being a connected educator, there is so much in this one short section. Tisha is really bringing the heat, so to speak.

My implementation (which scares the socks off of me) is to be more intentional in sketchnoting. Being a connected educator has given me opportunities to learn from Carrie Baughcum, Sylvia Duckworth, Julie Woodard, Monica Spillman, and more. If you’re not following these rockstars, I’d suggest taking a moment to rectify the situation before moving forward.

Authentic Audience

Giving students an authentic audience is so important. It is well known that students will do bare minimum in most cases when their teachers are the sole audience. They will put in a little more work when their peers become part of the audience. But when we allow students to publish their work to the world, it gets real… really real.

My implementation is to pull in more audiences for the students and teachers I serve.

Legacy

When is the last time you ran into one of your own former teachers? As an educator, did you take the time to speak with your former teacher and share their impact? I hope so. I was in JROTC throughout my entire high school career. For a reason I will never understand, my Sergeant saw leadership potential in me and within just days promoted me to Colorguard Commander. At the first home football game of my freshman year, I carried the American Flag onto the field flanked by two riflemen and the state colors. I was shaking like a leaf, but I did my job. We marched on the field, we presented the colors, we ordered the colors, and we marched back off in perfect unison. Until that moment, I’d never experienced leadership to that degree. He deeply impacted me through that quick decision to give me a promotion and declare that I would command cadets that were much more experienced than I was.

Be sure to thank your former teachers, if at all possible, who impacted you in a positive way. My first year students are now in their early to mid twenties. I am blessed to watch them get married, start families, and begin their careers through social media. The thought of leaving my own legacy in children is both terrifying and empowering. We should never take it lightly.

Tisha’s book is further proof that the DBC, Inc line of educational books is only getting stronger and stronger. Who would have ever thought that 6 years ago at the release of Teach Like A Pirate, some edgy book with a pirate map on the cover self-published from a kitchen table, would have the legacy that it is leaving on education around the globe. It’s powerful, and truly – it’s mind-blowing.

To follow along with Make Learning Magical conversations, follow Tisha Richmond and add the hashtag #MLMagical to your tweetdeck columns. Go spend some time on Tisha’s website and blog found here. You will also see a section for recipes along the top (or click here). <Tisha, I need lessons, ma’am! Just saying… I struggle with boiling water, no lie.> Tisha has also done podcasts and videos! Check out this one with Jeff Utecht of Shifting Our Schools, this one with StoriesInEdu, or this Recap of #MasteryChat! As if all of that isn’t enough, Make Learning Magical comes with its own slice of magic… Ann Brucker of BreakoutEDU created an epic #BreakoutEDU game to partner with the book! Whaaat? I know, right?! So awesome! I want to do a book study, just so I can set the game up for others to play! This is an incredible partnership and I really hope to see more of this in the future!

The flipgrid is available for you to reflect, share your own thoughts and implementations from Make Learning Magical! A special thank you to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to co-pilot this incredible global collaboration spaces for all of the DBC books!

The next book to be released is yet to be seen publicly…. ooooh, wait a minute… just double-checked Twitter to see this post…

Allyson Apsey (author of The Path to Serendipity has released the Amazon link to her first picture book (and the second children’s book in the DBC, Inc line) titled The Princes of Serendip! This book will begin shipping soon! Go grab a copy of Make Learning Magical AND The Princes of Serendip now! Book 58 is coming soon!