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: The Princes of Serendip

Do you remember your first car? I remember mine, clearly.

Two-toned – dark blue and gray. 1990. Lexus ES250. Power windows. Sunroof. Decent sound system. While this may sound like luxury to some, looking back I can assure you it was not. I went to school with kids from very wealthy families. There were brand new sports cars, new Jeeps, BMWs, Explorers, etc. in our the spaces of our senior parking lot. My car could be heard from miles away, and the rust was showing and paint was chipping off. The fabric of the interior was hanging from the roof of the car. But to this 16 year old, the windows, sunroof, and sound system worked and it had the “L” on the front grill, so it was better than walking.

Why do I start this blog talking about my first car? Because my mom bought the car for me to drive and made me pay every cent of the car back to her. I remember being so angry. She made me pay for the car and pay for the gas to drive it. (She did pay the insurance.) Very few of my friends were made to pay for their car; their parents paid for it and gifted it to them. Not me. Nope. I got a job at a clothing chain and worked to pay for the car and my gas. Mom always told me that I would appreciate the car more if I worked to pay for it.

Allyson Apsey brings us the 58th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of awesome. (At this point, can we really call it anything other than that? I mean, really?) If you’ll remember correctly, Allyson also brought us book 46 as well, The Path to Serendipity. Her newest book, just released a couple of days ago, shares a powerful message in picture book format. Yep – DBC now has TWO children’s books! The Princes of Serendip joins the family and shows us the importance of pride, kindness, and gratitude. The illustrations are absolutely stunning! The illustrator for this book is Molly Blaisdell, and she did a terrific job with the artistry of the princes and their lessons learned.

princesofserendip

Allyson newest book is her own version of the 16th century Persian tale The Three Princes of Serendip. In the original tale (as much as my limited research could bring up), the King questions his three sons about their readiness to take over the role of king and is proud of their answers. He decides they have completed their formal education and sends them out into the village to discover what life is like there to polish their education through real world experiences. The three princes decide to tell the emperor that they saw a camel on the road based on clues from their trip along the road, even though they did not. They are accused to stealing the camel and are sent to jail. Someone finds the camel, and they are released. When questioned about how they knew about the camel so well without ever seeing it, they share their keen observation skills and the emperor is so impressed that he asks them to stay at his guests.

There are several variations of the story as it has been passed down through generations. Find more information here and here. These could easily be adapted to be more appropriate for younger students, if desired.

Allyson’s tale is about the princes discovery of pride, kindness, and gratitude. It is heartwarming and the perfect social-emotional learning book for any home, classroom, or school! Much like with Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky, I immediately started thinking of ways to use this book in a classroom setting. It opens up so many conversation possibilities as a read aloud option!

  • Why do you believe the King was disgusted with his sons?
  • How would you feel as the King?
  • Why do you believe the author chose those three virtues for the princes to discover?
  • Which of these virtues do you believe is the most important?
  • What other virtue would you have them discover?
  • Create a parable (short story) that teaches the princes about the virtue you chose.
  • How would this story be different if it was set in today’s time?

Some terrific opportunities present themselves to create authentic learning and self-reflection from this children’s book as well.

  • Think of someone (or a people, charity, etc) less fortunate than you. Research the day-to-day problems they must overcome, and create a way to help solve their problems.
  • What unfamiliar words do you see? How can we use the context around them to infer their meaning?
  • Serendipity is defined in this book – why do you believe the author shares the origin of the word?
  • What did formal education look like for princes and/or princesses of the medieval times? Compare this to the story.
  • Compare the original tale (or a modified version of the original for younger students, if desired) to Allyson’s story.
  • How do the pictures enhance the story?
  • Illustrate your version of a modern-day Princes of Serendip.
  • Writing prompt: Do you believe Americans are spoiled? (Reference the USA Today article on the Ryder Cup in Paris, Oct 2, 2018)
  • Do you believe you are like the princes? Why or why not?
  • How do the princes change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story?

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I am certain you have many amazing ideas for incorporating this story into your classroom, home, or school! Please share those awesome ideas on the flipgrid that Andrea Paulakovich and I co-pilot.

Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #PrincesOfSerendip. The most precious video can be found on Facebook and YouTube of Allyson opening the Amazon package of her book for the first time. It is moving to see an author touch a book they have worked so hard to create, and see and hear the pride as they hold the finished product in their hands. Check out the video below (or click here if you have problems viewing)!

This is the perfect book to purchase your child’s teacher and/or librarian in this holiday season! Here is the Amazon link to purchase The Princes of Serendip.

My girls’ reactions after asking me to read it for a second time, scooting closer and closer as I read each page:

My 5 year old: “My favorite part of the book was when the kids worked hard to cheer up their dad when he was sad. Kindness is my favorite and it means to be really nice to another human. It was really sad that the girl got burned. I don’t like fire.”

My 9 year old: “My favorite part of the book was the whole entire thing. I loved it. Kindness is my favorite because there is kindness inside of us and we can be kind to others. I like that they stop ordering their servants around at the end. I love the illustrations.”

So how will I implement this book? The problem of the Princes of Serendip is that everything was handed to them. They were spoiled. I will allow my students to fail and experience defeat. I will encourage them to get back up and try again every single time. It is only through reflecting on our failures that we learn life lessons. When the students I serve are working through a tough BreakoutEDU game, I watch the frustration on their faces. I see them get agitated as they work through the problems; I see them put down a clue, and eventually pick it back up again. I smile at them as they whine and complain that it’s too hard. Then, we celebrate together as they unlock the locks one by one. The pride in themselves is so evident as I hear squealing and laughter throughout the media center. This is part of my why. Allowing students to fail in a controlled, safe environment and encouraging them to persevere and get back up again, determined to succeed, gives them the resilience to get back up again when the stakes are higher.

I’m so excited to see where the DBC, Inc line goes next! Definitely go to the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website and sign up for their newsletter, if you’ve not already! From the November eNewsletter, it appears that 2/3 of the Start. Right. Now. crew is coming out with a second book titled Stop. Right. Now. I’m intrigued by what Jimmy Casas and Jeff Zoul have in story for us and can’t wait for it to come out! Several books are being transformed into audiobooks in the near future, so watch for those! If you’ve subscribed to their newsletter, you will also receive #SundaySeven which is super cool!

Finally, my mom was right. I do appreciate things more if I work hard for them. (Don’t tell her I said that though.)