Monday, December 10, 2012

Keep It Fresh

Merry 10 days until Christmas Break!  I'm currently in countdown mode, and so are my students.  That much is obvious when you watch them try to sit still in class.  It seems like the world's most impossible task these days.  I can't complain too much since I'm the same way, though.  I made all my copies for the entire month of December the week after Thanksgiving.  Can you say antsy?  Anyway, despite the antsy behavior, my students this year have miraculously managed to avoid the "second quarter slump," a term I coined last year when I realized all my students decided to give up on being productive students who turn their work in from Thanksgiving to the end of the semester.  This group of kids has managed to turn everything in (mostly) on time, and they have done it (mostly) with smiles on their faces.  Thankfully, we're currently studying Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, the only novel in our current curriculum that I also taught last year.  It's been a huge relief to be able to finally pull something out of a filing cabinet that I worked really hard on last year and actually put it to use again.

I did add one new assignment this December that I had never done before, though, and I must say that I think it's my new favorite.  This year, I volunteered to pilot a "bring your own device" policy in my classroom.  I haven't had much of a chance to put it to use quite yet because I also have a classroom set of iPads.  This means that there's no point in kids bringing their own devices for most class activities.  (Sidenote to teachers reading this: I realize that I am totally blessed by the educational technology gods to have all these resources.  I swear I'm not bragging).  Anyway, I finally decided to use my BYOD privileges this month for an extra credit project using the social network Instagram.

Each week, my students post pictures of English/language arts related things from the real world.  Last week, they had to find a grammar or spelling error, and they did a great job! They even caught my spelling mistake when I sent a homework reminder text home one day.  It really seemed to alert them to the grammar around them.  This week, starting today, they can turn in a picture of a simile, metaphor, pun, or oxymoron.  So far, I have received some super cheesy puns, and it has absolutely made my week.  Every time I check my phone, I seem to have a new notification about a picture someone has posted.

Probably my favorite part of this project is how excited my kids have been about it.  When I accidentally misspelled a word in their homework reminder text, a student posted it to Instagram almost immediately after the text was sent.  Then, three students commented on the picture using our vocabulary words of the week!  I love when I can trick my students into being English nerds.  It's my favorite. Anyway, the lesson I learned in all this is to keep it fresh.  I was so excited to keep my lessons and handouts from last year to teach A Christmas Carol this month, but I ended up being way more excited to do something new and fun.  What a great reminder of why I love being a middle school teacher. And now, let the Christmas countdown continue...