How's your smoke detector?

At church today there was a marriage therapist speaking about relationships and one of the analogies she made really stuck with me. She described our emotions like a smoke detector. A smoke detector blares it’s alarm full blast if it detects smoke. It doesn’t matter if your house is on fire or you burned your toast. At the first sign of trouble the warning signs start sounding to let you know to get ready for a possible disaster.
Our brains are designed like this as well. We are made with a built in fight or flight response. As soon as we sense danger our natural instinct to protect ourselves kicks in. Our brains draw all the energy from the outer reaches of our thought processes to be used for basic protective functions.
This is probably one of my biggest weaknesses. My smoke detector often runs unchecked. As soon as I sense something isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, my alarms start blaring and I ratchet up to 11. I’m in full on attack mode before I process the threat. Sometimes it’s a decision I disagree with at work or something someone says that gets under my skin. I don’t always take the time to assess if my house is on fire or if my toast just got burned.
Our students get this way too. They don’t always know how to deal with complex emotions, so when trouble arises, they automatically shift into defense mode. When they reach that point their brains are no longer primed to hear what you have to say or learn new material. They need to de-escalate to process.  They also don’t always come to us with the skills needed to assess what an appropriate response should be.
Knowing this about myself and my students, this week I’m going to ask myself one question. Is my house on fire or did I just burn some toast…translation: is this problem worth getting upset about or is it something I should just move past? Hopefully I can teach my students some of these same skills.

Noun, Verb, and Adjective Review

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Other days everything fits together like a puzzle. Last Thursday I had one of those days where everything went better than planned.
The lesson was a review of nouns, verbs and adjectives. We’ve gone over it several times in class, but the kids were still having trouble sorting out which is which. To review I gave them a list of 8 nouns, 8 verbs and 8 adjectives mixed up. For this activity there were several steps:

  1. Each group (4-5 students) had to sort the nouns, verbs and adjectives into columns. There were a couple of tricky words in there like “is”
  2. When groups were finished they had to create the two most interesting sentences using only those 24 words. To add a challenge to the task, groups rolled a dice. Whatever number they rolled was multiplied by 2. That number was the number of additional words they could write into their sentences. For example, if a student rolled a 3, then they could write in 6 additional words into their sentences.
  3. I set a timer for 10 minutes. Groups who finished their sorting the quickest got more time for their sentences.
  4. When the timer went off I collected all of the sentences. The following hour I had my students vote on their favorite sentences. My class is gamified, so each table group is a team continuously trying to earn points to improve in the overall standings. The winning group received bonus points for their team.
  5. Then I took the winner from each hour, and they voted on a grand champion. The champion team scored even more points.

The sentences ended up being silly, but the kids were engaged the entire time. They were reviewing the strategy and enjoyed the chance element of the dice roll.
Hopefully I can have more moments like this in class.