2.03.2018

Using Building Blocks in the Secondary Classroom

Legos in the classroom


Several years ago a group of boys approached me and asked if they could recreate scenes from the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee using LEGO™building blocks for their culminating project. This option was not on my original list of projects

After determining that they were serious (and not just trying to get out of doing actual work), I caved and let them. And what I observed during the process was unexpected and simply marvelous. While I hoped The boys were constantly referring back to the novel to try to get the details correct. One argument was what color was Atticus's hair. They searched and searched until they found the passage in chapter 15 where Scout contrasts Jem's features with "...Atticus's graying black hair..." (Lee 203). Then they had the problem of not having black or gray hair. One boy suggested to just put a hat on him. "Atticus would never wear a hat!" another argued. I have to admit I enjoyed listening to them argue about these little details, referring back to the text, and deciding how to resolve these problems. (They went with blond for Atticus--see in the image above--making sure to tell me it was supposed to be gray.)

Above, Mr. Avery falling off Miss Maudie's roof in chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird.

What I realized, though, was that this was not only a lesson in finding supporting evidence from the text, but a lesson in negotiating, communicating, and compromising with one another. And let's not forget the creativity involved. A year later when I tried this with small groups, we had the dilemma of having "people" who just didn't seem to work with our novel:


The way the students adapted the figures into the story was priceless:

Student A: Mrs. Orman, where are Spongebob's legs?
Me: I have no idea. Gone, I guess.
Student B: Well, he'll have to be Dill. You know, because he's so short.
Student A: And blond.
Student B: Perfect.

* * *

Student C: Darth Vader is obviously Bob Ewell.
Student D: Obviously.
Student C: So who will Boo be? 
Student D: Are you kidding? Boo is a Ninja. He was always a Ninja. I can't believe we are having this conversation.

* * *

Student E: Why is Tom a Stormtrooper?
Student F: Because his face is black.
Student E: That is so racist.
Student F: How is that racist when it's just a fact?
Student E: Because you are white, Dude. You can't say things like that. And because we have this thing here missing an arm. That's clearly Tom. 
Student F: Now who's being racist?!
Student E: Dude, that's not racist.
Student G (from another group, yelling across the room): There's more to people than just their looks, Guys!  
Student E: Ok, well Stormtroopers are evil and Tom's the innocent one here.
Student F: What about Finn? He's good and he was a Stormtrooper. 
Student E: But Tom didn't start evil and turn good. Tom was always a good man.
Student F: Fine. Tom will be the brown robot with one arm. But what if this thing is just as bad as a Stormtrooper? We know nothing about this robot. 
Student E: He was a caring robot who lived his life helping others. I already created a whole backstory for him...

* * *
I actually prefer using figures who may not fit the mold in order to push students to think more critically and creatively about the characters.

"Boo is a Ninja. He was always a Ninja..."

PREPARING FOR THE ACTIVITY

Before trying this in class, make sure you are prepared with enough building blocks for students (this was the first challenge the group faced). One boy in the group brought in a small box that they thought would be sufficient; unfortunately, the pieces were designed to build vehicles rather than structures. The next day they brought in a five-gallon tub full, which was more than sufficient.

Below is an example of how many blocks it may take to build a simple scene outside a jail cell. Keep in mind that the structures do not have to be complete (only two sides of this jail cell are finished):

  
Here are some other examples requiring a few more blocks:




If your students cannot bring in their own building blocks, they can be purchased at your local superstore. I recommend getting a kit that has windows and doors, as those features seem to work with many scenes from different stories. If you don't want to spend a lot (because they ARE expensive!), you can often find them at garage sales or even on eBay. You can also ask your colleagues if you can borrow some--chances are many of them have some at home. 



IMPLEMENTING THE ACTIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM
You'll want to determine the skills you wish students to practice. The more you ask of them, the longer they will need to practice them. 

GROUP PROJECT
The skills I wanted students to practice with the group project (2-3 class periods) included inferring and interpreting scenes from the novel and creating a visual representation of the inferences. I also wanted them to communicate in writing a summary of the project.
  
I required the group of four boys to show me four different scenes from the book and explain (both orally and in writing) why they chose the scenes, which details they wanted to make sure they included in each, why those details were important, and the problems they encountered and how they resolved them within the group. Each member took on the responsibility for writing about one of the scenes but, for the most part, they all had a hand in building all four scenes. The group had three class periods to complete the project. 

END-OF-THE-CHAPTER or EXIT ACTIVITY: 
For a shorter activity (10-20 minutes), the skills I wanted students to practice were similar: inferring and interpreting scenes from the chapter and creating a visual representation based on the inferences. 

Students split into small groups and each group got a little pile of blocks (enough to build at least one or two walls) and two figures. I asked each group to select a scene to reenact from the chapter we had just completed reading in class. If they wanted more blocks, they had to answer a question from the novel (from any of the previous chapters) to earn more blocks or props. Some students negotiated with students from other groups to trade blocks, which was fine with me. At the end of the period, I did not allow them to save their work because I had to reuse the blocks for the next class period. I recommend taking pictures of them, though, that you can display after every class period/section has completed the exercise.

If you wish to incorporate the writing component, you could use it as a bell-ringer the following day. Ask students to reflect on the previous day's activity and write why they chose the scene, which details they made sure to include, and problems they may have faced and how their group rectified them.

CREATIVE ACTIVITIES FOR ANY BOOK
If you like this idea, I have plenty more in my pack: Creative Activities for ANY Book or Story. They are all aligned with the Common Core State Standards, so you don't have to feel guilty for incorporating more creativity into your classroom.  

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Creative-Activities-for-ANY-Novel-or-Short-Story-with-Handouts-77190


The following pictures are additional examples from To Kill a Mockingbird. Can you identify the scene?

http://www.traceeorman.com/2018/02/using-building-blocks-in-secondary.html

http://www.traceeorman.com/2018/02/using-building-blocks-in-secondary.html

http://www.traceeorman.com/2018/02/using-building-blocks-in-secondary.html


* The scene depicted is from chapter 4 when the children are acting out the "Boo Radley" game. It's a combination of when Miss Maudie sees them--the screwdriver is her hedge clippers--and when the children are acting out "Chapter XXV, Book II of One Man's Family" and Atticus sees them (Lee 53).


Work cited:
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. 1960. Hachette Book Group, 2010.

1.02.2018

Ring in the New Year with a Growth Mindset: Activities for Teenagers

New Year Growth Mindset Creative Activities 2018 www.traceeorman.com


When you return from break this year, take a moment to allow your students to reflect on the things they've already accomplished and look to what they hope to achieve the remainder of the school year. These activities can promote a growth (rather than fixed) mindset for students.

Self-reflection builds self-awareness--an integral component in developing emotional intelligence. My activities challenge students to really think deeply and stretch their minds. For example, one activity makes them come up with 20 things they do well. This is a perfect activity for developing a growth mindset. Even though coming up with 20 things is tough for a teenager, the exercise helps them not only reflect on their own skills and traits but builds self-esteem.

New Year activities that build emotional intelligence in teenagers. www.traceeorman.com

While developing a growth mindset is important, it's also essential to promote creative thinking in your classroom. Start the new year with some simple prompts that challenge your students to think differently. My activities include an acrostic poem using numbers rather than letters. That added difficulty pushes your students' critical-thinking skills.

Another activity adds a fun scavenger hunt (who doesn't like scavenger hunts?) and allows students to create their own. This can get your students moving around the room (and perhaps the school, at your discretion), promoting physical activity in the classroom while improving student performance.

I've also included a reading comprehension activity using the song lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. The creative component of that activity challenges students to write their own New Year-themed song lyrics.

Of course, I did not forget to include the old standby writing prompt, which asks students to think about how their new year resolutions (I define "resolutions" for them within the prompt).

New Year Growth Mindset Activities www.traceeorman.com

All of my activities include both traditional "print & go" pages and interactive notebook foldable activities.   

New year interactive notebook activities www.traceeorman.com


The "2018" short prompts make a great bulletin board, classroom, and/or hallway display.

New Year Activities and Bulletin Board Displays www.traceeorman.com

Administrators love to see students visually display a growth mindset and students love reading one another's goals and things they are looking forward to in the new year. I include blank ones so you can have your students decorate them with their Top 20 list if you wish.

2018 Growth Mindset Activities www.traceeorman.com

Displaying your student's work gives them a daily reminder of the things they hope to improve, achieve, and look forward to throughout the year. I usually take them down after a month or so but at the end of the year I pass them back and ask students to reflect on whether they achieved what they hoped they would. It's another way to reinforce self-reflection and build emotional intelligence.

You can find all of these activities in ONE download (which is updated yearly, so it's a huge bargain!) here:

2018 New Year Creative Growth Mindset Activities www.traceeorman.com

12.07.2017

Literature Inspired Ornaments

Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

I had a classroom set of very old, falling apart To Kill a Mockingbird books. They were in too poor of condition to resell or donate (many were missing pages). Some of the pages we used for a blackout poetry project. But with 100+ of these books, I wanted to find another easy way to repurpose my favorite novel. 
Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

BOOK QUOTE ORNAMENT (Glued on outside of ball)
I was inspired by images on Pinterest of so many book crafts; one that caught my eye that I knew I would be capable of making was an image of a holiday ornament made from pages of a book. I gathered up some old plastic colored balls and grabbed my Modge Podge glue and scissors and started cutting and gluing.


Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

I quickly realized that my strips were too wide. If you are gluing the pages on the outside of the ball, cut the strips into two- or three-line strips. The skinnier the quotes, the easier they are to wrap around the ball. I found wrapping them vertically rather than horizontally worked best. 

But this way does take a long time. I also found out NOT to glue your favorite quotes first, because chances are, they will be covered up. The first layer of quotes will probably not show, so feel free to glue blank pages first, then your favorite quotes after.

It took me several hours just to complete one. The more I made, though, the faster I became. Picking out the quotes probably took the longest.
Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

They were pretty but needed a little sparkle. I purchased some Diamond Dust, clear glitter, and clear "vase filler" baubles that looked like little ice pebbles and figured I would experiment with each and see what I liked best.
Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

Make sure to let the ornaments dry completely overnight or for at least 12 hours before adding any embellishments.

I found my favorite look was to glue the ice pebbles near the top, then sprinkle the diamond dust on top and down the sides. I didn't want too much because I wanted to be able to read the quotes through the dust and glitter. 
Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

You can experiment with the amount of bling you wish to add. 



Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

BOOK QUOTE ORNAMENT (Filled clear balls or other shapes)
I really love the look of the glued strips on the balls, but not the amount of time they took. So I purchased some clear balls and present shapes and decided to fill them instead. (This ornament is FAST and so easy!)


Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

I took the quotes and wrapped them around my pinky, then stuck them in the balls. Most of them retained their shapes. I experimented with wrapping them around skinnier objects like a colored pencil or just rolling them into a spiral helped keep their curls better.  
Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

While just the book quotes looked nice, they tended to just roll up together into one big curl. So I realized I needed another element inside the shapes to keep them from doing that.

I added a mixture of the diamond dust, clear glitter, silver glitter, and some of the little ice pebbles. This worked well. Adding another paper element that wasn't rolled into a curl, however, worked the best. I had some crinkles--I don't know what you call these things, but they are like shredded paper folded in zig zags--left over from a gift, so I added some of those, and they worked. They kept the quote strips apart and added some color, too.


Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

There are so many possibilities you can try with this type of ornament. As long as it fits in the ball, you could add charms, beads, and anything that fits inside relating to the novel.


Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

I hope you enjoy this little craft and are able to repurpose your own old novel sets into beautiful ornaments.

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.  

Literature-Inspired Ornaments  www.traceeorman.com

12.02.2017

Celebrate the Holidays in Your Classroom

Celebrate the Holidays in Your Classroom  www.traceeorman.com



Thanks so much for visiting my blog for Day 12 of the 12 Days of December Holiday Blog Hop


Day 12 Bloggers  www.traceeorman.com

Incorporating comfort and joy into your classroom during the holiday season can be as easy as a lesson relating to the holidays or announcing a contest or challenge to your fellow staff members.

REGIFTING: YAY OR NAY?
Regifting: most of us are guilty of regifting something at least once in our lives. What do your students think about regifting? You can have some engaging arguments in your classroom on the topic.


Regifting Nonfiction Argument Analysis Mini Unit www.traceeorman.com

My nonfiction argument lesson on regifting contains "pro" and "con" articles on regifting. Students read both sides, analyze both arguments, then decide which side of the debate they fall. It also includes a role-play activity, an infographic assignment where students collect their own data and create an infographic based on their findings, and a writing component in which students form their own arguments on regifting using the data and research they collected.

HOLIDAY COLORING PAGES
Coloring and doodling aren't just for children. CNN reported last year that coloring can "...reduce anxiety, create focus or bring about mindfulness." We all know students (and teachers) who can benefit from less tension and improved concentration and mindset. 


Christmas and Holiday Coloring Pages  www.traceeorman.com

My Christmas and Holiday coloring pages are geared toward teens and are perfect for decorating your classroom for the holidays. The winter-themed pages can be used for the entire season.


Christmas and Winter Themed Doodle and Coloring Pages
Students who like to doodle will love the doodle pages included.


DOOR DECORATING CONTEST
Last year when some teachers at my high school decided to have a holiday door decorating contest, little did we know how much joy it would bring to not only the students but the entire staff.

The guidelines were very simple: decorate your door for the holidays and complete it within a week. You could do it yourself or have your students help you during our common 8th period study hall.

Since there weren't any stipulations, pretty much anything holiday-related was acceptable. Some teachers used their content area for inspiration, like my fellow English teacher's "Winter PoeTree," complete with poems written by students:


Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com

Or by our P.E. teachers on the locker room doors:

Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com 
Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com

And by one of our math teachers:


Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com

Others made their doors warm and cozy with fireplaces:
Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
Our computers/business teacher's door.

Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
One of our science teacher's door. Names on the stockings are students from Physics class.


While others used iconic holiday characters like the Grinch, Snoopy, and Olaf:

Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
A math teacher's door.
Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
The special education room.

Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
Another math teacher's door.

Even our principal and office staff got in on the fun:

Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
Our principal's office door.
The student office workers and secretaries made the "Nice" list;
our principal and athletic director made the "Naughty" list.


Classroom Door Decorating Contest for the Holidays  www.traceeorman.com
The door to the main office.
For my door, I decided to go with one of my favorite holiday movies as inspiration: A Christmas Story. I debated on whether the leg lamp would be appropriate but thought I would take my chances. I decided I wanted the outside of the box on the outside of my door and the lamp on the inside of my door: 
 

I used large rolls of printed paper in woodgrain patterns for the box and the window frame and stars for the sky. (Most of the supplies I used were leftover from Homecoming float-building and Prom decorating supplies or Christmas decorations I happened to have.)   

Our school has an excellent color photocopier with an enlargement feature that will print a giant image on several pieces of 11x14 in. paper (you just need to piece them together). I used this feature to print the leg lamp and the larger images of the characters. I made two copies of the lampshade so I could tape battery-operated fairy lights under the top layer of the lampshade. To add another three-dimensional feature, I taped real black fringe to the bottom of the top layer lamp shade. 

Then things got a little out of control...

    
 Once I started decorating around the door, I just couldn't stop. And there were so many parts of the movie I wanted to include! So I added the Bumpus dogs, Scut Farkus, the famous "You'll shoot your eye out" quote, Ralphie in his cowboy outfit, his C+ essay, the Little Orphan Annie Decoder and Ovaltine message, Ralphie in his pink bunny gift, Randy's zeppelin, the Old Man's bowling ball, the Red Ryder BB gun, the Old Man's "Fra-Gee-Lay" quote, Ralphie's mom correcting him, Ralphie dropping the lugnuts and saying "Oh Fudge," LifeBuoy soap, Randy in his snow suit "I can't move my arms," the triple-dog dare, Flick's tongue on the pole, and Scut and Grover Dill. (The "retweets" comment was because a student had recently said he would tackle a Christmas tree if his tweet got 150 retweets.)


Here's a video of my "A Christmas Story" door:


The total cost of this door was less than $3 (the black fringe was the only thing I purchased) because I was able to repurpose leftover decorating supplies and use holiday decorations I already had on hand. Of course, being able to use our school's photocopier helped keep costs down.  

I'll post pictures from this year's door decorating contest in a separate blog, so make sure to follow me to get updates. This year's theme is any holiday song; I'll be helping my husband with his social-studies classroom door. 

GIVEAWAY
Bringing comfort and joy into your classroom doesn't have to be complicated, of course. A simple string of lights, playing of a holiday song as students walk in the classroom, or wearing an "ugly" holiday sweater can be enough to bring a smile to your students' faces.

Make sure you check out Hello Teacher Lady and Write On with Miss G's blog posts, as well!

Thanks so much for stopping by AND don't forget to ENTER to win the final prize: a $200 Amazon Gift Card! You can enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or by clicking here:  12 Days of December



I hope you obtained many great ideas from my fellow bloggers for bringing comfort and joy into your classroom!

Celebrate the Holidays in your Classroom  www.traceeorman.com

In case you missed any, you can find all the blog posts here:


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I teach high school English in Illinois; enjoy family time, baseball, collecting PEZ dispensers, and talking about anything related to my favorite books. They include The Hunger Games trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Chaos Walking trilogy, and anything written by Amy Tan.

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