Tag Archives: motivation

Do You Bitmoji?

I use Bitmoji in approximately four ways:

1) To participate in group holiday texts with my family

2) To tell my kids goodnight if they are at their dad’s house

3) To express sarcasm, enthusiasm, or exhaustion with my colleagues (don’t we all?)

4) To get my students attention (This either makes them laugh or makes their eyes roll.)

I’ve seen a lot of teachers customize the expressions and phrases to fit their classroom.

Instead of getting out of bed and starting the laundry, I decided to do likewise.

Going for the IXL Gold

So yesterday I was sick in bed and an idea came to me as I went in and out of sleep.

I decided to create the IXL Olympic Games.

I created two podium slides for each class period for two different areas: the time students spent on IXL and the number of skills students have shown progress on in February.

The kids simply went wild for this silly idea, as you can see below.

We will wrap up the competition on February 28th. Right now, it’s anybody’s game!

Tell me about a silly spur-of-the-moment idea that was well received by your students. I’d love to hear from you.

A Mash-up: The Cube of Fate

So I first wrote about “The Cube” months ago, and then I shared Katie’s Team Challenge Cube video.

Now it is time to present to you my attempt to combine two of Katie’s ideas, the Team Challenge Cube AND the Sticks of Fate (another video you need to go watch.)

Katie gave me the go-ahead to make it my own and do what works, and for whatever reason, this mash-up works wonders in our 7th grade classrooms.

I present to you…..The Cube of Fate.

Pretty fancy, huh? Although hard to tell from the picture, it is probably a 10″ cube.

So how does it work?

  • After talking with my co-teachers, we made the following list for our classrooms. (There’s room for flexibility depending on your particular classroom.)
  1. pencil
  2. book
  3. agenda
  4. journal
  5. homework
  6. novel/book
  • Someone rolls the Cube of Fate across the floor. However, no one may ASK to roll The Cube of Fate. “No One controls fate.”
  • The cube comes to a stop, everyone cranes their necks to look, and everyone whips out the necessary item and holds it in the air.
  • We scan the room, assign points per table, row, or whole class. (We change it up as we see fit.)
  • We reiterate the importance of that item and why it is needed on that particular day.
  • We begin class.

Why use The Cube of Fate? 

  • After spending several weeks refining the process, it takes no more than 2 minutes at the start of class.
  • Students come to class prepared with all necessary materials.
  • Class starts the same way every day with an engaging, motivating activity that allows us to set the tone and begin class promptly.
  • Students are learning valuable organizational skills.

Observations We Have Made 

  • Students will quickly run back to their locker to get something they’ve forgotten.
  • Students are anxious for class to start.
  • We cannot start class without rolling the cube; students do NOT let us forget.
  • Students will check each other before class starts (call it peer pressure, call it accountability, call it cooperation, call it awesome)
  • Students will share pencils and pens if they must, just in case The Cube of Fate calls for one.
  • Students would probably be content with the ‘”team point” although we do try to tally the points and give a piece of candy from time to time to the highest scoring teams.  One class was not rewarded for over two weeks, and they never questioned when they would get their candy!


  • Both my 7th and 8th grade Resource Rooms are playing as a class.  There are only 8 students in each class, so they must earn 10 class points in order for me to bake them something. This has been a challenging goal to attain, but they were both sitting with 9 points the day before Spring Break. I see some pumpkin muffins in their near future.
  • Our 3rd period class plays by rows.  This is a class of 26.  On Fridays, the highest scoring rows get a piece of candy.
  • Our 7th period class plays by table. This class has 17 students and some tables seemed to be “stacked” with responsible students, but overall, the are buying into The Cube of Fate.  This is the class that went two weeks without being rewarded with something tangible. Stars on a piece of paper were enough. The winning table also gets the honor of being the “Kings of English.”

I hope that my colleague will vouch for the crazy success of this lopsided, hand-made cube wrapped in duct tape here in the comments, or post something on his on blog.  I feel like you have to see it to believe it.

But trust me, the concept is just crazy enough that it works. Maybe it’s the fate concept. Maybe it’s the “fairness” of fate. Maybe it’s the ridiculousness of the whole idea. Maybe it’s the way we sell it.

It works; we won’t question it.

We never question The Cube of Fate.

Up to the Peer Challenge

So Friday afternoon, around 2:35 p.m., one of my colleagues makes a comment about how I should make a bulletin board outside of my classroom because he’s gotten so many comments on his Shades of Meaning bulletin board he created.  I’m thinking it’s more for the topic that the content, but it does look pretty cool. Maybe he’ll let me post a picture of it sometime.

But anyway, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know what happened next.



This is part of my students’ work for The Giver. One of their Community Tasks was to create a Google Presentation that would clearly portray different concepts to Jonas. I chose 16 of the best slides to display.  Of course, I left the answers out, so kids (and colleagues) will have to study the board and make the connections.


Here is a  closer look at the concepts the differentiated groups had to illustrate.

Here is a closer look at the concepts the differentiated Communities had to illustrate. 

I would not say that I cave to peer pressure; I’m a pretty independent and stubborn person. However, I do fall victim to peer challenges.  He had me at “You should….”


What kind of colleague are you?

Do you share ideas with your colleagues?

Do you motivate them?

Do you encourage them?

Do you challenge them?







How Do You Recognize Good Effort?

One of my co-teachers, who I often refer to as “Follower 100,” and I have a very energetic, spirited class at the end of the day.

Which, I should add, has 32 students, 24 of which are boys….

I should also add it’s a double block…

of 8th grade Language Arts….

and it’s right after lunch.

It makes me tired just typing it.

Each day we find ourselves trying new strategies, often accidentally, to help manage and engage this class and accomplish as much as possible.

This is no easy task, as you can imagine.

With the dynamics of this class we have to strategically arrange the seating chart (not easy), plan our cooperative learning groups/islands very carefully, and offer encouragement and praise in unique ways and for some things that may seem trivial or inconsequential.

Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done…even in middle school, where there is a constant struggle to be “cool.”

And one of the best things about middle schoolers is the fact that acting goofy/immature is part of their cool factor. If you don’t spend your time with middle schoolers then you might not know that:

You can’t call them “kids or children” to their face…even though they are…because they get offended.

You hesitate to call them “young adults”…because at 13 and 14, they’ll let it go to their heads.

You can’t joke around too much, because they cross the line way too easily.

You have to joke around a little, or they think you are an “old fuddy-duddy.”

You can use words like “old fuddy-duddy” in class, because it makes them laugh.

You can put scratch and sniff stickers or any popular character sticker on their papers with no complaints. A friend of mine specifically gives “girl” stickers to the girls (like Strawberry Shortcake) and “boy” stickers to the boys (Transformers) and sometimes mixes it up…and the “kids” love it.

You can present a “King of English” award, in the form of a frog puppet, and they’ll eat it up.

Silly, but somehow distinguished.

Yes, we have resorted to this in Block 3 of Language Arts. And as dumb as it sounds, it works.

One Friday, maybe 3 weeks into the school year, Follower 100 and I, sat in her room after everyone left and were like, “Oh my….what in the world are we going to do with this crew?”

The students were not really working well in cooperative groups, but with a new block schedule, BYOT, and 84 minutes of Language Arts a day…group activities were necessary for their sanity and ours. We needed a way to keep them on-task, a way to motivate them to help those in their group who were having difficulty, and a way to have productive discussion and learning.

And the idea was born….an award, a trophy-like award, that could be presented to the best island each day.

It was worth a shot.

So I raided Tweedle Dee’s old toy box when I got home and I found a few options: a Troll doll and our obvious choice….The King of English.

On the first day of our presentation of this now coveted award, we presented it to a solid group who had probably worked the hardest of all the groups all year. They not only got the honor of holding/wearing the puppet, they also got to pick something from her candy jar.

It was a little cheesy and kind of corny, but the next day….they were all vying for the title. It is not an award that can be given every day because some days we don’t have group work.

That did not keep them from asking every day,”Is there going to be a King of English today?”

or “Look. Look. Look at us. We are all done. We should be the Kings of English. Right?”

or “Can you move So-and-So…because we are never gonna be the Kings of English if he sits here!!”

We have a few boys who have even privately pleaded for the honor, “Pleeeeeeease can we be the Kings of English today?”

We have one group of boys who constantly pushes and prompts each other so they can win.  Follower 100 had a sub two days in a row a few weeks ago and apparently I was “playing favorites” when they received it two consecutive days. I then had to point out all the reasons why other tables did NOT receive it.  I did not identify the offenders specifically, but I provided plenty of examples how NOT to win the King of English.

The day we really knew it was something special and worth continuing? The day a boy whipped out his cell phone and had a friend take a picture of him with the King of English. You can bet that probably went up on Facebook after school.

Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, or their chance to be the star in class.  For many of the students in our class, they don’t get a lot of opportunities to be the star.

If a little plush puppet works, then so be it.

In the Middle of September

By mid-September, reality sets in.

I have read many posts by fellow blogger teachers about how the honeymoon is over and life is feeling a little out of control.

I do know this panicky, stressed, overwhelming feeling will pass. It always does. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t still be teaching after 16 years.

Today was a nice break from our normal schedule as we bussed all of our middle school students down to the high school. We had a special assembly featuring motivational speaker, Bill Ballenger. He is part of a program called Break the Grey.

You can see some videos of his band and his work at their website. The assembly had a good message and there was an additional program tonight for our community.

However, the best part of my day came as I was standing at the gym doors. Our students were seated on the gym floor and the high school students were filing in. With the music and 1500+ kids, it was loud and hot.

But I got to see many former students. I have been at the middle school long enough that my first group is now in 11th grade and the only group I don’t know at the high school is the Class of 2013.

It was fun to see them – how they’ve grown – and how they’ve grown UP. At 5’2″, I felt shorter than ever. (One good thing about being at the middle school is the fact I am taller than at least half the students.)

Many of them squeal my name and run over to say hi.

Some make eye contact and quickly look away so I don’t talk to them. (I can take a hint.)

Some of my homeroom trouble-makers nudge each other and laugh (but they still say Hi).

Some smile and act all shy, but I can tell they are tickled I remembered them by name.

And one boy….well, he gave me a big, old, sweaty hug and the biggest smile ever.

Can you guess who that was?

The boy from the last day of school….that I wrote about in A Happy Ending.

It was just what I needed after what has been a very long month. On top of back-to-school fun, my friend and I have been in charge of administering a new online test (MAP) at school this week. It has been a super challenging and exhausting week full of both scheduling and technical difficulties.

There were a few times this week when I wanted to bang my head against the wall, throw a computer across the room, and just give up. Besides what was happening in the computer lab, I’ve had a sub all week and it’s been hard not being with my kids. It’s so much work preparing for a sub, especially this early on. I wish I knew them a little better so I could do a better job planning my lessons.

As for the MAP test, it’s never easy piloting something new, being the guinea pigs, and convincing people that what you are asking them to do is worth it. The good news is we have ironed out many of the kinks and the next round of testing will run a little better.

The kids saw a great motivational speaker today. Seeing former students today was motivation for me. Seeing that one particular boy reminded me that all of this work and frustration will be worth it in the end.

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